A Journey Down the Nile



General Sir Archibald Percival Wavell

General Sir Archibald P. Wavell

General Sir Archibald P. Wavell

Wavell was one of the most respected British commanders of World War II. His main contribution to the war effort was in fighting in Egypt 1940-41 when with limited resources he was able to push the Italians back.
Wavell became Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East in July 1939 and his main duty was to build defenses in the Middle East and North Africa. His command extended over the Eastern Mediterranean. On 13 September 1940 the Italian Tenth Army advanced into Egypt and were 60 miles inside the border by 18 September. On 9 December Wavell's Desert Force began to drive them back, although they were outnumbered by the Italians. The 6th Australian Division captured Benghazi on 6 February and the Allies controlled Cyrenaica. This was the Allies' only victory in the Middle East until Alamein.
In February 1941 Wavell launched a series of offensives to drive the Italians out of East Africa and after heavy fighting the Italians surrendered Addis Ababa on 6 April. In February Wavell had had to send a large part of his troops to Greece and kept one infantry division and one armoured division to protect Cyrenaica. This was a risk because his forces were not well-equipped and when General Rommel's Afrika Korps arrived in North Africa they could outmaneuver the British. On 11 April the Axis forces had reached the Egyptian border.
In November 1941 Churchill had become impatient at Wavell's reluctance tot ake the offensive and he transferred him to the position of Commander-in-Chief India. When Japan entered the war, Wavell was appointed Allied Supreme Commander but he had insufficient air cover to present the Japanese from overrunning Malaya and the Dutch East Indies and in February 1942 Wavell resigned his command. He returned to India where he marshaled his resources to prepare an offensive on Burma. In December 1942 his troops advanced in the Arakan but they made no breakthrough, especially since Wavell insisted on frontal assaults. In January 1943 Wavell was made Field Marshal and in June became Viceroy of India. Churchill did not appreciate Wavell's gifts as military commander and thus gave him a political appointment, which meant he played no further part in military planning.

Field Marshal, Rt Hon Earl, Sir Archibald Percival, Lord Wavell (GCB, GCSI, GCIE, CMG, KCB, CB, MC.).

He was born on 5 May 1883 in Colchester, Essex, the son of Major-General A.G. Wavell CBE.

He married Engenie Marie CI (awarded in 1943), the only child of Colonel Owen Quirk CB DSO, in 1915 and reered one son, heir Viscount Keren MC, and three daughters.

Wavell was educated at Winchester College, the Royal Military College at Standhurst and then the Staff College.

Appointed to 42nd Highland Regiment (The Black Watch) in 1901 and served in the South African Boer War, medal with four clasps. Indian Frontier in 1908, medal with clasp. In the Great World War of 1914-1918, serving in France 1914-1916, wounded and awarded the Military Cross (MC). Military Attache with Russian Army in the Caucasua, October 1916 - June 1917, bestowed with Orders of St. Vladimir and St. Stanislas. Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel 1917 with Egyptian Expeditionary Force, 1917-1920. Brigadier-General General Staff (BGGS) XX Corps 1918-1919, BGGS of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force 1919-1920, CMG in 1919, Military Cross and promoted Colonel 1921. Commander, 6th Infantry Brigade, Aldershot, 1930-1934. Appointed Aide De Camp (ADC) to the King 1932-1933. Major-General 1933. Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) created 1935. Commander, 2nd Division, Aldershot, 1935-1937. Commanded British troops in Palestine and Transjordan 1937-1938. Lieutenant-General 1938. General Officer Commander-in-Chief Southern Command 1938-1939. Knight Commander of the Bath (KCB) created 1939. Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, 1939-1941. General 1940. Knight Grand Cross of Bath (GCB) created 1941. Commander-in-Chief, India, 1941-1943. Supreme Commander, South West Pacific, ABDA Command, January - March 1942. ADC to the King 1941-1943. Privy Councilor 1943. Field-Marshal 1943. Viceroy and Governor-General of India, 1943-1947. GCSI created 1943. GCIE created 1943. Viscount Wavell of Cyrenaica and of Winchester, 1943. Chancellor Aberdeen University since 1945. Honourary Colonel of the 42nd/73rd Royal Highlanders Regiment 1946. Viscount Keren of Eritea and Winchester, 1947. 1st Earl created 1947. High Steward of Colchester since 1947. Constable of the Tower of London since 1948. Lord Lieutenant of the County of London, 1949. Governor of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stafford-on-Avon, since 1949.

Other accolades include, LL.D. (St. Andrews), D.C.L. (Oxford), LL.D. (Cambridge, Aberdeen and London), Commander Legion of Honour, Order of the Nile, Order of El Nahda, Order of George (Greece) and the Greek Military Cross, Virtnti Militari (Poland), Seal of Solomon (Ethiopia), Czechoslovakian Military Cross, Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands), Ch.C. Legion of Merit (USA), Star of Nepal, Cloud and Banner (China).

Publications written, The Palestine Campaigns 1928, Allenby 1940, Generals and Generalship 1941, Allenby in Egypt 1943, Other Men's Flowers (Anthology) 1944, Speaking Generally 1946 and The Good Soldier 1947. Recreations, golf and shooting.

He died on 24 May 1950.


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