, BRITISH ARTILLERY IN WORLD WAR 2
Updated 1 April 2011
In 1943 the Royal Artillery reached its peak strength, almost 700,000 men, and close to one million probably served during World War 2. Perhaps another 100,000 served in the other Commonwealth artilleries. This page gives brief summaries of a few , mostly British, who were particularly distinguished.
AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS
Sir Arthur Roden Cutler VC, AK, KCMG, KCVO, CBE. 1916 - 2002
Roden Cutler joined the Sydney University Regiment, a militia unit, in 1936. In 1939 he transferred to artillery, joined the Second Australian Imperial Force and was gazetted lieutenant in 2/5 Field Regiment RAA sailing with the regiment to the Middle East from Sydney in October 1940. 2/5 Field Regiment was part of 7th Division and in mid 1941 moved into the French colony of Syria, which was under Vichy control.
Roden Cutler, a forward observer in 9 Battery, was awarded the VC for actions in the heavy fighting against French forces around Merdjayoun and Damour (now in Lebanon ) in the period 19 June – 6 July 1941. Losing a leg he was evacuated to Australia .
After the war he joined the Australian foreign service and served in several countries as Australian ambassador and high commissioner. Retiring in 1966 he became the Governor of New South Wales for 15 years.
Major (acting Major-General) John Charles Campbell VC, DSO, MC. 1894 - 1941
General Campbell commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery from RMA Woolwich in July 1915, he was in France a week later. He was wounded twice and awarded the MC. Between the wars he showed himself as one of the best horsemen of his generation.
Brigadier Jock Campbell was the commander of the Support Group of 7th Armoured Division. His VC was awarded for his actions on 21-22 November 1941 during the 'Crusader' battles around Sidi Rezegh, approximately 50 miles SE of Tobruk, most notably leading an attack by the remnant tanks of 6 RTR standing up in his staff car.
Appointed GOC 7th Armoured Division he was killed in a traffic accident a few weeks later in December 1941.
Second Lieutenant George Ward Gunn, VC, MC. 1912 - 1941
2nd Lieutenant Ward Gunn was a troop commander in J Battery, 3 RHA, an anti-tank regiment. On 21 November 1941 he (as layer), his BC and a sergeant used one of the battery’s few remaining portee 2-pdrs to finally stop the German tank attack at Sidi Rezegh. He was killed in the action.
Colonel Patrick Anthony Porteous VC. 1918 - 2000
Colonel Pat Porteous was commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1937. He was evacuated from Dunkirk with 6 AA Regiment RA.
Lieutenant (temp Major) Pat Porteous was in Lord Lovat's No 4 Commando. On 19 August 1942 the Commando was responsible for securing the German coast battery on the West side of Dieppe and was the only unit to capture its objective. The Commando was divided into two groups commanded by the CO and 2IC with Major Porteous responsible for liaison between the two. The officers in the 2IC's group were killed, Major Porteous, although wounded, rallied the group under heavy fire, led a bayonet charge, captured the position and was again seriously wounded.
He remained with No 4 Commando, landing with them on D-Day. He retired from the Army in 1970, the last WW2 officer VC holder to do so.
Honorary Captain Umrao Singh VC. 1920 - 2005
Havildar (Sergeant) Singh was a No 1 and Section Commander in 33 Indian Mountain Bty, 30 Indian Mountain Regiment, 26th Indian Division in the Kaladan Valley of SW Burma. On 15/16 December 1944 his 3.7-inch Howitzer battery was engaged for nearly 2 hours by Japanese light guns then attacked by two infantry companies.
Several attacks were made on his section, which skillfully defended itself with small arms. Eventually his detachment was reduced to 2 men and himself, he was suffering several head wounds from grenades and they were almost out of ammunition. He took a handspike and attacked the Japanese before being overwhelmed. A subsequent counter-attack found him severely wounded with 10 dead Japanese around him.
General Sir Ronald Forbes Adam, Bt, GCB, DSO, OBE, LLD. 1885 - 1982
General Adam was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1905. At the outbreak of WW1 he was serving in India with N (The Eagle Troop) Battery RHA. He reached the Western Front in 1915, by 1918 he was a major and an artillery staff officer in Italy . Between 1923 and 1936 he was twice an instructor at Staff College and held various staff appointments in the War Office. In 1936 he became CRA 1 Infantry Division. The following year he was promoted to major-general, became Commandant at Staff College, Camberley, and had inherited his father’s baronetcy. He then became Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff.
In 1939 he was appointed GOC III Corps in the BEF and after the campaign in France became GOC-in-C Northern Command. In 1941 he became Adjutant-General, and held the position until 1946 when he retired.
As Adjutant-General he made an immense contribution to the war effort. His policies ensured the best use of available manpower, which meant overriding some regimental traditions. Perhaps more significantly they nurtured and maintained morale in a mass citizen army. Some of his policies, such as officer selection methods were radical by British military standards, and most heretically he was accused of seeking a Corps of Infantry.
After WW2 his interest in education led him to many positions including Chairman and Director-General of the British Council and Executive Board member and Chairman of UNESCO.
Field-Marshal The Viscount Alanbrooke of Brookeborough KG, GCB, OM , GCVO, DSO, DCL, LLD. 1883 – 1963
Field Marshal Brooke was born in France and commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1902. He went to France in 1914 with N (The Eagle Troop) Battery RHA as part of the Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade. He was successively adjutant of a RHA Brigade, Brigade Major RA of 18th Infantry Division, GSO 2 RA Canadian Corps and (as brevet Lt Col) GSO 1 RA 1st Army. He was awarded the DSO, French and Belgian Croix de Guerre, and mentioned in dispatches six times.
Between the wars he attended the first post-war course at the Staff College and was subsequently an instructor, and was a student at the Imperial Defence College, and Commandant of the School of Artillery . After Commanding 8th Infantry Brigade in Plymouth he became Inspector Royal Artillery, then Inspector of Military Training followed by GOC of the new ‘Mobile Division’. He then became GOC Anti-Aircraft Command. By 1939 he was Commander-in-Chief Southern Command and hence GOC of the shadow II Corps.
As GOC II Corps in France he conducted its successful withdrawal filling the BEF’s left flank after Belgium surrendered. He was then sent to command the British forces south of Somme, extricating 150,000 men after the collapse of the French Army. Returning to UK he was promoted general and made Commander-in-Chief Home Forces with overall responsibility for readying the ground forces for a German invasion. In December 1941 he was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff, a post he held for four and half years.
As CIGS he was professional head of the British Army, chairman of the Chiefs of Staff and main military advisor to the Prime Minster. He was notable for his personality, strategic insight, professional knowledge, skill and determination. It is thought that Churchill never decided against his advice.
He was promoted to Field-Marshal in January 1944 and in 1945 became Baron Alanbrooke of Brookeborough in the County of Fermanagh, subsequently raised to viscount. In 1946 he was appointed Master Gunner St James’s Park, until 1956.
BRITISH MILITARY LEADERS
Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Walter Alfrey, KBE, CB, DSO, MC, DL, JP. 1895 - 1964
General Alfrey was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in August 1914 and served on the Western Front, earning a MC and Bar and being wounded twice. Between the wars in served In India, Egypt, earned a DSO in Kurdistan, spent 3 years at the School of Equitation and went to Staff College, Camberley as an instructor without having been there as a student.
In 1939 he went to France as GSO 1 in HQ 2nd Infantry Division and then became CCRA II Corps. After Dunkirk he was promoted major-general and appointed GOC 43rd Infantry Division. In March 1942 he handed the division over to another gunner and was appointed GOC V Corps. He commanded the corps throughout the campaign in Tunisia. In 1944 he was appointed GOC British Troops, Egypt until 1948 when he retired.
General Sir Sidney Chevalier Kirkman GCB, KBE, MC. 1895 – 1982
General Kirkman was commissioned in the Royal Artillery in 1915. He spent the war at regimental duty on the Western Front and in Italy, being wounded three times, mentioned in dispatches twice and awarded the MC. He was a battery commander at the end of the war and was again one in 1939.
However, his promotion was rapid. He became CRA 56th Infantry Division in UK, then CCRA XII Corps and in 1942 BRA South Eastern Command. When General Montgomery took command of 8th Army he called for Brigadier Kirkman as his BRA and a return to effective artillery techniques applied to the circumstances.
In 1943 he was promoted to major-general and appointed GOC 50th Infantry Division leading it during the invasion of Sicily. He was then promoted to command XIII Corps leading it through Cassino and the Gothic Line. However, in early 1944 he was invalided to UK. After recovering he became GOC-in-C Southern Command, and in 1945 received the German surrender of the Channel islands.
After WW2 he was GOC I Corps in Germany, Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff and Quartermaster-General, retiring in 1950. After various senior public sector tasks he became an extremely effective Director-General of Civil Defence in 1954, finally retiring in 1960.
Lieutenant-General Sir Wilfrid Gordon Lindsell GBE, KCB, DSO, MC. 1884 – 1973
General Lindsell was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1903. He served in Malta before accompanying his CRA as his ADC when he became Governor-General of Tasmania and then Western Australia . On the outbreak of war he returned home and served on the Western Front as a Staff Captain RA, Brigade Major RA and GSO 2 RA. He was four times mentioned in dispatches, and awarded the MC, DSO and OBE.
In 1919 he attended the first post-war course at Staff College, and was then appointed a Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General in the War Office before spending four years as an instructor at the School of Military Administration. While there he wrote the first edition of the textbook Military Organisation and Administration that lasted through 29 editions into the 1960s. After this he was appointed instructor in military administration at the Staff College followed by a GSO 1 post at the War Office. In 1933 he became a brigadier and Commandant of the Senior Officers School, then Deputy Military Secretary before becoming CRA 4th Division.
In 1939 he was the major-general in charge of administration at HQ Southern Command, and was appointed the BEF’s Quartermaster-General on mobilisation. After Dunkirk he became Quartermaster-General Home Forces, then Senior Military Advisor to the Ministry of Supply before becoming Lieutenant-General in Charge of Administration in GHQ Middle East. At the end of 1943 he moved east to become Principal Administrative Officer in GHQ India. Here he played the most significant roll in mobilising Indian resources, establishing production capabilities and building the foundations for the Indian defence industry. He retired from the Army in 1945.
General Sir Robert Eric Carden Mansergh GCB, KBE, MC. 1900 - 1970
General Mansergh was born in Capetown and commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1920. He served in UK and India, and 1931 – 35 was in Iraq, he was awarded the MC during the Kurdistan campaign. Returning to UK he was instructor then adjutant at RMA Woolwich until 1940.
During the next 6 years he went from major to major-general serving in Eritrea, Abyssinia, the Western Desert, Arakan, Assam, Burma and Java. He became CRA 5th Indian Division in 1942, then in 1944 a short period commanding a brigade in that division before becoming GOC 11th East African Division for a short period and returning 5th Indian Division as its GOC. In 1946 he took this division to Java and was subsequently appointed GOC XI Indian Corps and Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Netherlands East Indies.
After the war be held a series of senior national and NATO appointments, including Military Secretary to the Secretary of State for War, Commander in Chief Hong Kong, Deputy then Commander in Chief Allied Forces Northern Europe, and finally Commander-in-Chief UK Land Forces before retiring in 1959. In 1960 he was appointed Master Gunner St James’s Park, until his death.
Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Edgeworth Morgan KCB. 1894 – 1967
General Morgan was commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1913. He served on the Western Front, was twice mentioned in dispatches and after being seriously wounded returned to duty as a staff officer in the Canadian Corps.
Between the wars he served at regimental duty and after attending the Indian Staff College was a staff officer in GHQ India and the War Office. In 1938 he was a brevet Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed GSO 1 of 3rd Infantry Division serving with it (under Maj Gen BL Montgomery) in France. In operations before Dunkirk he commanded the Support Group of 1st Armoured Division. Returning to UK he successively GOC of the Devon & Cornwall Division, 55th Infantry Division and I Corps.
In 1943 he was appointed Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (designate). His main task was to plan the allied invasion of Northern France. The following year he became Deputy Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force.
In 1945 he was appointed to the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration as Chief of Operations in Germany, after causing a furore by speaking publicly of secret Jewish organisation furthering mass migration to Palestine and some months later about the USSR using UNRRA for its agents to ferment trouble among displaced people. After this he retired from the Army but in 1951 was appointed Controller of Atomic Energy. His foreign decorations were the US Legion of Merit and Distinguished Service medal and a officer of the French Legion of Honour.
General Sir Cameron Graham Gordon Nicholson GCB, KBE, DSO, MC. 1898 - 1979
General Nicholson was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery from RMA Woolwich in July 1915. He served on the Western Front in RFA and commanded a RHA battery. He was wounded and awarded the MC and bar.
Between the wars he served in India, Iraq, Palestine and Egypt. In UK he was an instructor at RMA Woolwich, attended Staff College, served as a Brigade Major RA and an instructor at Staff College.
At the start of WW2 he was GSO 1 of 45th Infantry Division, but in 1940 joined Sickle Force (Norway) as GSO 1 and then the same appointment in 18th Division. Promoted to brigadier he became Deputy Chief of General Staff in HQ Home Forces and in 1941 briefly commanding 127th Infantry Brigade before coming CRA 42nd Armd Division then Deputy Commander of 6th Armoured Division. In this role he commanded the ad hoc force that stopped the Germans exploiting their success against US force at Kasserine in Tunisia, for this he was awarded the US Legion of Merit and Silver Star. He then became Brigadier General Staff in HQ 1st Army. When this HQ returned to UK he became GOC 44th Indian Division, briefly commanded 21st Indian Infantry Division in Burma then in 1944 GOC 2nd Infantry Division in that theatre.
After the war he held senior positions including Director of Artillery, GOC-in-C West Africa, then of Western Command in UK and followed by Middle East Land Forces. His final post was Adjutant Genera, he retired in 1956 and was appointed Master Gunner St James’s Park until his death.
Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Royds Pownall KCB, KBE, DSO, MC. 1887 – 1961
Lieutenant-General Pownall was commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1906 and served in UK and India before 1914. He served on the Western Front throughout WW1 becoming Brigade Major of 17th Infantry Division, twice mentioned in dispatches and awarded the MC and DSO.
Between the wars he attended Staff College and Imperial Defence College and in India in 1931 received a bar to his DSO for operations on the NW Frontier. From 1933 he held a series of posts with the Committee of Imperial Defence eventually becoming Deputy Secretary. He was also Brigade Major School of Artillery, an instructor at Staff College and Commandant of the School of Artillery after which in 1938 he was promoted to major-general and went to the War Office as Director of Military Operations and Intelligence.
At the outbreak of war he was promoted to Lieutenant-General and appointed the BEF’s Chief of the General Staff. Returning to UK he held several appointments including Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff. He was then temporarily appointed Commander-in-Chief of Far East Forces before becoming Chief of Staff in the short lived South West Pacific Command. This was followed appointments as GOC Ceylon, Commander-in-Chief Persia Iraq Command and finally Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Command. He retired from the Army in 1945.
Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund Charles Anton Schreiber KCB, DSO, DL. 1890 - 1972
General Schreiber was commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1909. He served on the Western Front for most of the War, was awarded the DSO, four times mentioned in dispatches and was wounded.
Between the wars he served in UK and India at regimental duty and as a staff officer. He was both a student and an instructor at Staff College. In 1938 he became BRA Southern Command, then in 1939 CCRA of II Corps. In 1940 he was appointed GOC 61st Infantry Division then, after the fall of France, GOC 45th Infantry Division. In 1941 he became GOC V Corps. In 1942 he was appointed to command 1st Army for the invasion of North Africa. However, he became ill and was not passed as fit for active service. Instead he became GOC-in-C Western and then South Eastern Commands in UK and finally Commander-in-Chief of Malta. He retired in 1947.
General Sir Gwilym Ivor Thomas GCB, KBE, DSO, MC. 1893 – 1972
General Thomas was commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1912. He served on the Western Front being wounded twice, and awarded the DSO, two MCs and was mentioned in dispatches.
Between the wars he attended both Army and Royal Naval Staff Colleges and was a Brigade Major RA of 1st Infantry Division. At the beginning of the war he was Deputy Director of Recruiting and Organisation and then Director of Organisation at the War Office before being appointed CRA 2nd Infantry Division then CCRA I Corps.
In early 1942 he was appointed GOC 43rd Infantry Division and commanded it for the remainder of the war. In the breakout from Normandy his division covered 90 miles in 6 days and bridged the Seine to allow the armoured divisions to advance across Northern France. During Operation CLIPPER in late 1944 the attack at Bauchem was a model for the effective use of artillery.
After the war he was appointed GOC I Corps then Administrator of the Polish Forces in UK, GOC-in-C Anti-Aircraft Command. In 1950 he became Quartermaster-General and retired from the Army in 1952.
BRITISH ARTILLERY COMMANDERS
Major-General Meade Edward Dennis CB, CBE, DSO, MC. 1893 - 1965
General Dennis was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1913. He served in the BEF, was wounded and awarded the MC.
Between the wars he served in UK, Egypt and Sudan, including attachment to the Egyptian Army and in 1st RHA. He was one of the first battery commanders in A Field Brigade Indian Artillery when in formed in 1935. He was also a formidable horseman, well known on National Hunt Courses and as a polo player.
At the outbreak of WW2 he was in Persia and became CRA of 6th Indian Division in 1941. In 1942 he was appointed CCRA of XXX Corps, part of 8th Army in North Africa. He remained in this position through N Africa, including El Alamein where he was responsible for planning major elements of the fireplan, and Sicily, returning with the corps to UK. In early 1944 he was appointed BRA of 21st Army Group and in 1944 promoted to major general as MGRA 21st Army Group, he remained in this position until the end of the war. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and made an officer of the Legion of Honour and by France.
After the war he became MGRA India and retired in 1947.
Major-General Alan Hugh Hornby CB, CBE, MC. 1896 - 1958
General Hornby was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery from RMA Woolwich in July 1914. He served on the Western Front, was mentioned in dispatches and awarded a MC. Between the wars he served in Iraq, was an instructor at RMC Sandhurst and attended Staff College.
Aft the outbreak of war he was commanding 51 Field Regiment and after serving in Norway in 1940 he was appointed Deputy Director of the newly formed Combined Operations before being sent to the Middle East and Central Mediterranean Forces where he remained for the rest of the war. In these theatres he was CRA 46th Infantry Division in 1941, CCRA XIII Corps in 1942 and BRA 8th Army in 1943 for the assault on Sicily. In 1944 he was promoted to major-general and appointed MGRA 15th Army Group and subsequently MGRA Allied Forces HQ. He retired from the army in 1948.
Lieutenant-General Sir Otto Marling Lund KCB, DSO. 1891 - 1956
General Lund was commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1911. He served throughout the war being mentioned in dispatches four times and awarded the DSO. In 1919 he was appointed ADC to General Lord Rawlinson.
He attended the Staff College in 1926 from where he was appointed Brigade Major 2nd Infantry Brigade and then returned to the Staff College as an instructor. After this he became Military Assistant to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff before attending the Imperial Defence College and commanding 10 Field Brigade RA. By 1939 he was Deputy Director of Military Operations at the War Office. In June 1949 he accompanied Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden and Generals Dill, Ismay and Spears to see the French Prime Minister in the final attempt to salvage France from defeat.
In the summer of 1940 he was appointed MGRA Home Forces. The Royal Artillery, being an equipment intensive arm, suffered more than any other from the losses in France. Furthermore UK was facing invasion and the defence needed firepower. The task involved reforming, forming, equipping and training over 200 regiments, not forgetting artillery HQs and expanding the coast defences and assuring the artillery aspects of counter-invasion plans. After this formidable task he became MGRA 21st Army Group then in early 1944 he went to the War Office as Director Royal Artillery. In 1946 he became GOC in C Anti Aircraft Command.
He retired in 1948, after managing the demobilisation and run-down of AA Command. In 1950 he became Commissioner-in-Chief of the St John Ambulance Brigade.
Major-General Hetman Jack Parham CB, CBE, DSO. 1895 - 1974
Major-General Parham was commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in November 1914. After a year on the Western front he went to Salonika where he remained for the rest of the war being mentioned in dispatches and awarded the French Croix de Guerre.
Between the wars he served at regimental duty in UK and India. In 1934 he purchased an Autogiro and learnt to fly and was an early member of the RA Flying Club, recognising the need for artillery light observation aircraft with communications to the guns.
In January 1940 he took command of 10 Field Regiment in France, under his command this regiment trained to fight as a regiment and unlike most properly practised its communications. During the campaign that followed his regiment engaged in what is almost certainly the first successful multi-battery engagement of an opportunity target, a German tank unit refuelling in a wood.
Back in UK he found that the notion of ‘company groups’, each with an artillery troop, was gaining popularity. He knew this was doctrinally wrong and understood the importance of concentrating artillery fire and the possibilities for rapid concentrations on large targets. As CRA 38th Infantry Division he developed the gunnery procedures for concentrating massed fire under the control of one observer. This culminated in a demonstration to senior officers at Larkhill in early 1942. These procedures became official later that year. He was also a leading proponent for the introduction of Air Observation Posts despite the entrenched opposition of the RAF.
In August 1942 he became BRA 1st Army preparing for service in North Africa, unlike 8th Army 1st was fully trained in the new artillery procedures. As BRA he also insisted that the first of the new Air OP squadrons accompanied the Army. As BRA he saw his innovations of concentrated fire and Air OPs put into practice. When the North African Campaign ended he became BRA of 2nd Army and remained in that position until the end of the war in Europe. He was then selected as BRA for the Far East theatre but the war ended before he arrived. He was then promoted to major-general and given command of 3 AA Group in UK until he retired in 1949.
Major-General Stuart Blundell Rawlins CB, CBE, DSO, MC. 1897 - 1955
General Rawlins was commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1916. By 1918 he was twice awarded the MC and had been wounded. Between the wars he served in Malta, UK, India and in Africa with the King’s African Rifles. He was a junior staff officer in the War Office and attended Staff College. At the outbreak of war he was Staff Officer RA in Aldershot Command.
He went to France as GSO 2 RA I Corps, then after returning to UK he went to West Africa as a GSO 1 before returning to UK to command a regiment, but was soon promoted to become CRA 3rd Infantry Division. In 1943 he became CCRA XII Corps preparing for the invasion of Europe, with particularly emphasis on corps concentrating the fire of the corps’s divisional artilleries, AGRAs, super-heavy and HAA guns. This included studying the effects of the concentrated fire on dummy targets.
In early 1944 he was appointed CCRA of XXX Corps, an assault corps on 6 June. During the fighting in France he directed his corps artillery against planned and opportunity targets. For the latter he was sometime his own Representative, ordering fire from the air, tank or armoured car or from a motor-cycle to which a radio had been fitted. During the Ardennes offensive he became temporary GOC of 43rd Infantry Division but returned to CCRA to help plan the Operation VERITABLE offensive into the Reichswald with thirteen divisions and over 1000 guns under command.
After the war he was GOC 49th Infantry Division before commanding the British Military Mission to Greece. Following this he was appointed Director Royal Artillery, then commander of the British Training Team in Iraq before retiring in 1951.
Brigadier Godfrey de Vere Welchman CBE DSO 1894 - 1966
Brigadier Welchman was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 1914. He served in France, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia. Between the wars he postings included instructor at the School of Artillery and Assistant Superintendent at the Shoeburyness Experimental Establishment.
In 1939 he was commanding 28 Field Regiment in India, taking his regiment to East Africa as part of 5th Indian Division, supporting 10 Indian Brigade, commanded by Brigadier WE Slim, both he and Slim were lightly wounded in the same Italian air attack. He rejoined his regiment in time for the Keren battle. He returned to India and became CRA of 17th Indian Division in India and Burma and then CCRA of Slim's 1st Burma Corps and then BRA 14th Army, where he remained for the rest of the war.
After the war he was BRA Western Command retired in 1948.
Major-General Sir Colin McVean Gubbins KCMG DSO MC. 1896 – 1976
General Gubbins was born in Tokyo and commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery from RMA Woolwich in July 1914, going almost immediately to the Western Front. By 1917 he was an acting major, had been wounded and awarded a MC. In 1919 he went to Murmansk, in Russia, on General Ironside’s staff where his experience of the Russian revolution made a deep impression and he learned Russian.
Between the wars he was a Brigade Major RA in Ireland, which created his interest in irregular warfare, served in India, attended Staff College leading to various appointments. He wrote two important publications ‘The Art of Guerilla Warfare’ and ‘The Partisan Leader’s Handbook’. By 1939 he was a brevet Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed GSO 2 in GS(R) branch (later MI(R)) of the War Office. This branch was studying irregular warfare and the use of resistance forces in occupied Europe.
Just before the outbreak of war in 1939 he became GSO 1 in the British Military Mission to Poland. He and a group of MI(R) specialists travelled to Poland avoiding Germany and arrived just before Britain declared war. He recognised the novelty of German Blitzkrieg tactics but the report he drafted was ignored by the War Office. After the fall of Poland he was promoted Colonel and became head of mission to the Polish and Czech forces in France and maintaining contact with Polish and Czech resistance forces in Eastern Europe under MI(R) auspices. In 1940 he moved to Norway to command the Independent Companies (forerunners of the Commandos), also under MI(R) auspices. For this he was awarded the DSO.
Returning the UK after the fall of France he became responsible for forming and training the Auxiliary Units. These small teams were the nucleus of a mainly civilian guerrilla force to operate after a German invasion. In November 1940 he became a brigadier and seconded to the new Ministry of Economic Warfare, in the organisation that became the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Here he was responsible for training and operations and maintaining contact with the Polish and Czech secret armies. In 1943 he was promoted to Major Gen and became executive head of SOE.
SOE operated in all theatres and local resistance forces had various political agendas apart from defeating axis forces. The implications affected many parts of the UK government, allies and governments in exile, leading to many difficulties. He attributed these to the failure to study the lessons of the Russian Revolution, Sein Fein in Ireland , the Palestinian Rising and the Spanish Civil War. However, under General Gubbins’ leadership SOE achieved many notable successes and he was decorated by 14 foreign governments. He retired from the army in 1946, worked in industry for many years and was co-founder of the Special Forces Club in London .
Major-General Orde Charles Wingate DSO. 1903 - 1944
Major-General Wingate was born in India and commissioned into the Royal Artillery from RMA Woolwich in 19 July 1923 and posted to a Royal Garrison Artillery unit at Larkhill where he became a bold horseman. In 1927 he attended the School of Oriental Studies at London University and became an Arabic linguist, from there he applied for and was sent to the Sudan Defence Force. Returning to England he was posted as adjutant to the Territorial Army unit in Yorkshire.
In 1936 he was posted to Palestine as a junior intelligence staff officer. Unlike most British officers he supported the Zionists. The outbreak of Arab terrorism in 1937 led to direct action when he established the Jewish Special Night Squads, which had a significant influence on the ethos of the Israeli Defence Force when it was formed a decade later. He strongly supported formation of a Jewish Army in Palestine. He returned to London in 1939 as the Brigade Major on an anti-aircraft brigade, and through various connections made himself known to Winston Churchill.
After the fall of France he participated in forming the Auxiliary Units before being sent to Cairo with the Special Operations Executive. Promoted to local Colonel he commanded the Combined British and Ethiopian Force which returned Emperor Haille Selassi to his throne.
He returned to London at the end of 1941 and in the New Year was sent to India then on to Burma to the Bush Warfare School and took overall command of irregular operations. It was here that he developed his concept of penetration operations. In 1943 he led 77 Brigade on the first Chindit operation into Burma. On his return to India he planned the second Chindit operation with six specially trained brigades. He was killed in an air crash shortly before it started.
Wingate was an unusual man, a non-conformist and an innovator with a formidably strong personality.
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