Born in Toxteth Park, Liverpool and a graduate of Sandhurst, Surrey, Maxwell served in Egypt during the British occupation, participating in the Battle at Omdurman during the reconquest of the Sudan, and in South Africa during the Boer War. In World War I Maxwell returned to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal. He had previous knowledge of Ireland as he had served at army headquarters at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, from 1902-1904.
He arrived in Dublin on Friday, April 28, 1916 after receiving orders from the British Minister for War Lord Kitchener to quell the Rising and pacify Ireland — operating under martial law, the rule of the solder. By then, much of O’Connell Street was in flames. The first proclamation issued by Maxwell on taking over command in Ireland was: “Most rigorous measures will be taken by me to stop the loss of life and damage to property which certain misguided persons are causing by their armed resistance to the law.”
But he then added: “If necessary, I shall not hesitate to destroy all buildings within any area occupied by rebels, and I warn all person within the area now surrounded by His Majesty’s troops, forthwith to leave such areas..” Maxwell would only accept unconditional surrender from the rebels and blamed political weakness for the situation in the first place.
He was “left to his own discretion” by his prime minister, Herbert Asquith, in ordering the executions at Kilmainham and gained infamy from his grave mishandling of the shootings. Maxwell returned to England later in 1916. After being stationed in Egypt, he retired in 1922 and died in 1929.