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Sir William Canning Bullen was a British military officer who served as Commander of the Commonwealth Forces in Antarctica between 1911 and 1919; Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces on the continent during World War I (alongside Russian general Sergei Gavrilov until 1917 and American general Quentin E. Cleaver after 1918); and as Governor of New Swabia between 1916 and 1924, first under the military administration, and later as Resident. He has frequently been called one of the most accomplished and capable generals in Antarctic history.
Born in British-controlled India, Bullen's military career took him around Asia in the 1880s before he was assigned to British Antarctica in 1890, during the Kilaiye War. He became enamoured with the continent, and requested a permanent position in the British Antarctic colonies, which he was granted in the form of a post in rural Grahamland, where indigenous uprisings were still problematic. Bullen rose swiftly through the ranks, and by the turn of the century he held a high position in the British Army's Antarctic headquarters in Cookstown, Eduarda.
A dispute with the high command over the Army's handling of the Berkner Land War led to Bullen's reassignment to rural Inner Antarctica, widely considered the most untamed region in all of British Antarctica. He made General in 1907, and returned to Cookstown, where he was made the Commander of all Commonwealth Forces in Antarctica four years later, after the retirement of Thomas Chauncer. In 1914, the advent of World War I made Bullen, along with Russian general Sergei Gavrilov, one of the Supreme Allied Commanders on the continent.
Bullen and Gavrilov's intense rivalry and mutual distrust created political infighting among the Allied commanders, giving the New Swabians a slight head-start on war preparations; though when they were finally able to organize themselves they proved to be a formidable force. In 1916, New Swabia capitulated, and Bullen took charge of it's occupation (much to Gavrilov's chagrin). Following the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the region became a British Mandate, and Bullen resigned his Command to continue his administration until 1924, when he retired.
Early life and career
Bullen was born on the 8th of November, 1864, in Calcutta, India; which was then under British control. His father, Stewart Bullen (who claimed descent from the family of Anne Boleyn), was also an officer in the British Army, and was stationed in India at the time. Bullen grew up among the British community of Calcutta, and was privately home-educated by various tutors. He was surrounded by military figures and knew from a young age that he intended to follow his father into the service. In 1883, he left India for England, where he attended Sandhurst Military Academy; completing the 44-week course the following year.
In 1884, Bullen – now a fully-commissioned Captain – returned to India to serve in the Madras Army, one of the three Presidency armies which formed the British military presence in India. When the Panjdeh Incident almost sparked a violent conclusion to the Great Game in 1885, Bullen was supportive of an all-out war against Russia, though the incident was eventually resolved diplomatically.
Coming to Antarctica
Upon the outbreak of the Kilaiye War in 1890, Bullen saw his opportunity, and requested a transfer to Eduarda to serve in the war. Thanks to his experience in commanding sepoys (indigenous troops) in India, he was welcomed by the British Military in Antarctica, as they had recently gained a large number of Mustak troops following a treaty with the Tyotiak nation; and they needed experienced British officers to lead them.
Bullen was given command of a company of Mustaks, and, though he was unfamiliar with the terrain, proved to be an effective officer throughout the war.