Sir Ellis Hume-Williams, K.C and Mr Henry St. John Field appeared for the plaintiff, Dorothy Dennistoun; and Sir Edward Marshall Hall, K.C, Mr Norman Birkett, K C, and Mr. A. H. Davis for the defendant., Colonel Dennistoun. See Appendix 2 for brief biographical details on the Judge ( Mr Justice McCardie ) and the legal representatives.


Sir Ellis Hume-Williams, opening the case said the statement of defence to the action had been amended no fewer than six times, the alterations in each case being made in different colours on the papers. Indeed it was an interesting artistic document varying from red to green, to violet, blue and yellow.

JUDGE:- What one might call a new impressionist school.

SIR ELLIS HUME-WILLIAMS:- The defendant ( Ian Dennistoun ) appears to have exhausted all the colours of the spectrum.


Hume-Williams went on to say that the case involved telling a rather painful and dramatic story. It meant going into the personal life of Ian and Dorothy Dennistoun, and the giving of great detail of the circumstances in which their divorce took place.

Ian Dennistoun married Dorothy Dennistoun ( nee Webster ) on 22 November 1910. He was then serving in the Grenadier Guards to which regiment he belonged until he retired on half-pay in 1920. A marriage settlement was entered into in which each party brought a fairly substantial sum. Dorothy brought about £10,000, and Ian’s father, a man of very considerable means, allowed the young couple £800 a year and paid the rent of their flat. Unfortunately, in December 1912, Ian’s father’s business failed, and he was unable any more to pay the £800 a year. As a result, the young couple become very "hard up." Dorothy, as a girl and subsequently, had a great friend who became a very distinguished General in the British Army – one of the most distinguished Generals which the Great War produced. His name often appeared in the correspondence and as frequent allusions would have to be made to him in the course of the case, he (Counsel) suggested that the officer should be called "General X."  JUDGE:- Is he dead?

SIR ELLIS HUME WILLIAMS:- Yes. Had he been alive he would have had no interest in the results of this case.

JUDGE:- As the case proceeds we shall see whether his name should be disclosed.

Hume-Williams said that Dorothy applied to "General X." to see whether he could give some help to her husband, and in February 1913, the General procured for him a post as secretary to Sir William Manning, the Governor of Jamaica.  In the following month Ian, who was then a Captain, and his wife, who had done their utmost to raise money, let their flat. The first thing that occurred to them was that if they let the flat with all the furniture in it probably someone would get judgment and seize the furniture. Accordingly a short agreement was prepared and sent out to them in Jamaica in which Ian assigned the furniture to the wife. Writing to his wife from Blenheim Barracks Aldershot, Ian wrote:  

"Darling – I must make all the furniture over to you so that it cannot be touched. Me knows Brownie no sell it but me wants to sell my watch. Please. Goodnight precious. I know how hard it is for you; it is much more for me as I have lived on nothing before. All my love, precious. It is the greatest thing to know that that Brownie will not fail me".

Hume-Williams explained that "Brownie" was Ian’s pet name of Dorothy.

[ whilst Dorothy called Ian, "Tiger"] . Counsel went on to say that Mrs. Dennistoun’s mother had remarried, her new husband, being Sir John Miller 33, a man of considerable means. Miller was in South Africa when the agreement was signed, and as the result of negotiations he ultimately agreed to advance £1,000 to his stepdaughter, Dorothy. Out of that sum she paid her husband’s debts, which included mess bills and the accounts of trades people and tailors. In October 1914, Ian and Dorothy Dennistoun returned to England from Jamaica and through the influence of "General X" the Colonel received a staff appointment, while his wife became a nurse in the St. John’s Ambulance. In 1918, Ian was made a Colonel and given an appointment at Gibraltar. He was there three months and his wife joined him. In April of that year she returned to London and took a little flat at Queensgate and the Colonel stayed there when he came to town. In the autumn of 1916 Colonel Dennistoun was given an appointment in France, and ultimately he became a member of the Supreme War Council. He remained in France until long after the end of the war. By this time the relations between Colonel and Mrs. Dennistoun had become very strained and there was apparently not much affection remaining, although there was certainly on the part of the wife a most extra ordinary affection and kindness towards her husband lasting until shortly before this action was started.