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Master-General of the Ordnance

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Office of the Master-General of the Ordnance
Ministry of Defence
Member ofBoard of Ordnance, Army Board
Reports toSecretary of State for Defence
NominatorSecretary of State for Defence
AppointerPrime Minister
Subject to formal approval by the Queen-in-Council
Term lengthNot fixed (usually for life)
Inaugural holderNicholas Merbury

The Master-General of the Ordnance (MGO) was a very senior British military position from 1415 to 2013 (except 1855-1895 and 1939-1958) with some changes to the name, usually held by a serving general. The Master-General of the Ordnance was responsible for all British artillery, engineers, fortifications, military supplies, transport, field hospitals and much else, and was not subordinate to the commander-in chief of the British military. In March 2013 the holder was titled as "Director Land Capability and Transformation", but still sat on the Army Board as Master-General of the Ordnance; in September 2013 the post was eliminated.


The Office of Armoury split away from the Privy Wardrobe of the Tower (of London) in the early 15th century. The Master of the Ordnance came into being in 1415 with the appointment of Nicholas Merbury by Henry V. The Office of Ordnance was created by Henry VIII in 1544 and became the Board of Ordnance in 1597. Its head was the Master-General of the Ordnance; his subordinates included the Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance and the Surveyor-General of the Ordnance.[1] Before the establishment of a standing army or navy, the Ordnance Office was the only permanent military department in England. In 1764 it established the British standard ordnance weights and measurements for the artillery, one of the earliest standards in the world.

The position of Master-General was frequently a cabinet-level one, especially in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when it was normally a political appointment. In 1855 the post was discontinued and certain of the ceremonial aspects of the post were subsequently vested in the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces.[2] In 1904 the post was re-established, and until 1938 the Master-General of the Ordnance was the Fourth Military Member of the Army Board.[3]

In 1913 the control of military aviation was separated from the responsibilities of the Master-General of the Ordnance. A new Department of Military Aeronautics was established and Brigadier-General Henderson was appointed the first director.[4]

In March 2013 the holder was titled as "Director Land Capability and Transformation" but still sat on the army board as Master-General of the Ordnance.[5] In September 2013 the post was abolished.[6]

Masters of the Ordnance 1415–1544

Masters-General of the Ordnance, 1544–1855

Source: Institute of Historical Research

William Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley
Sir John Duncombe
Thomas Chicheley
Sir John Chicheley
Sir William Hickman, Bt.
Sir Christopher Musgrave, Bt


The post did not exist for the period 1855 to 1894.

Inspector General of the Ordnance 1895 to 1899

In 1895 the post was revived, but re-styled Inspector-General.

  • Lieutenant-General Sir Edwin Markham, April 1895-December 1898

Director-General of the Ordnance 1899 to 1904


  • General Sir Henry Brackenbury, February 1899-February 1904

Master-General of the Ordnance 1904 to 1938

Holders of the post have included:[12]


The post was abolished by Leslie Hore-Belisha, the Secretary of State for War, as he perceived it to be a block on production, transferring tank development responsibility to the Director General of Munitions Development. It was not reinstated until 1959.

Master-General of the Ordnance 1960 to 2013

Post holders official dual title was: Director Land Capability and Transformation and Master-General of the Ordnance


  1. ^ "Board of Ordnance". Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  2. ^ "No. 22509". The London Gazette. 10 May 1861. p. 2003.
  3. ^ The Army in 1906: A Policy and a Vindication By Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster, Page 481 Bibliobazaar, 2008, ISBN 978-0-559-66499-1
  4. ^ Joubert de la Ferté, Philip (1955). The Third Service. London: Thames and Hudson. p. 15.
  5. ^ "Head Office and Corporate Services senior, as of March 2013". Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  6. ^ "Head Office and Corporate Services senior, as of September 2013". Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  7. ^ Corps History - Part 2 Archived 4 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine Website of the Royal Engineers' Museum
  8. ^ a b Skentlebery, Norman (1975). Arrows to atom bombs: a history of the Ordnance Board. London: Ordnance Board.
  9. ^ Goodman, Anthony. The Wars of the Roses: Military Activity and English Society, 1452-97. p. 172.
  10. ^ Mackie, Colin. "SENIOR ARMY APPOINTMENTS from1860" (PDF). gulabin. Colin Mackie, February 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  11. ^ Mackie, Colin. "SENIOR ARMY APPOINTMENTS from1860" (PDF). gulabin. Colin Mackie, February 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Army Commands" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2015.

This page was last edited on 11 December 2020, at 22:30
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