Surgeon William George Birrell was the son of James Birrell JP of Uttershill Penicuik. He was educated at the Academy and graduated at the University of Edinburgh.
30 July 1881 Surgeon–Captain.
Malta 5 Aug 1882 Arrived from England.
Malta 20 Apr 1883 To England by exchange.
1885 Served in the Sudan.
9 Oct 1886 On duty at Mhow Station Hospital in the Bombay Command. Detailed for service in Burma.
1886–87 Served in Burma.
Apr 1888 Surgeon W G Birrell, serving in the Bombay command, having returned from field service in Burma, was posted to general duty in the Presidency District.
30 July 1893 Surgeon-Major.
1898 Served in the Nile Campaign.
30 July 1901 Lieutenant Colonel RAMC.
15 Mar 1911 Colonel L/RAMC.
1914 Served in the Great War.
1 Mar 1915 Surgeon General. Director Medical Services Mediterranean Expeditionary Force during the earlier operations in Gallipoli. On his return to England he was appointed Deputy Director Medical Services of the Southern Command. Remained in post until his retirement through ill health a few months prior to his death.
23 Oct 1918 Died suddenly through illness contracted on service. His obituary appeared in the Corps News Section of the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps September 1918.
OBITUARY: The announcement of the sudden death of Major.Gen. W. G. Birrell through illness contracted on service is full of sadness to many of those who knew him throughout the thirty-seven years he spent on the active list. A sturdy Scot, his compact figure, fair complexion and kindly blue eye will remain in memory.
In private life his love of Scotland, of his rod and his gun were perhaps his outstanding characteristics. Always able and clear-headed, no officer had a higher sense of duty-for no labour deterred him, no rebuff dismayed him, if thereby he could carry through what he believed to be right and best for the well-being of the Army and for the care of the sick and wounded.
Born in 1859, Gen. Birrell was educated at the Academy and graduated at the University of Edinburgh. He joined the Service in 1881, served in the Sudan in 1885, again in Burma in 1886-7, in the Nile Campaign in 1898, and in the present War occupied the position of Director of Medical Services of the Mediterranean Force during the earlier operations in Gallipoli.
On his return to England he was appointed Deputy Director Medical Services of the Southern Command, an office of much labour and great difficulty in which he earned the just praise of his Commander-in-Chief. He continued to occupy this appointment until compelled to retire by ill-health a few months ago, and it cannot be doubted that his premature death was due to his self-sacrificing exertions.
His sturdy character, his strong opinions and his innate reticence sometimes obscured his worth and did not always find favour; so he left the Service, to which he had devoted his whole strength and his working life, without any of those honorific distinctions that a more facile disposition would most certainly have made his. But his memory will not suffer on that account in the hearts and minds of those who knew aright this loyal officer and kindly Scottish gentleman.1