George Giffard

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For those of a similar name, see George Gifford (disambiguation).
George Giffard
Born 27 September 1886
Englefield Green, Surrey
Died 17 November 1964 (aged 78)
Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1905 - 1946
Rank General
Commands held 2nd Bn Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment
British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan
West Africa Command
Eastern Army in India
11th Army Group
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Relations Susan Lawrence (aunt)

General Sir George James Giffard GCB DSO (1886–1964) was a British military officer, who had a distinguished career in command of African troops in the Great War, rising to command an Army Group in South East Asia in the Second World War.

Early career[edit]

After attending Rugby School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment in 1906.[1] In 1913, while serving with its 1st Battalion, he saw action in East Africa. He transferred into a unit of the King's African Rifles.[1]

He saw active served in the First World War, his unit serving in the East Africa campaign against the German forces under Lettow-Vorbeck. He rose to command a column of two battalions of the KAR, "Gifcol". Although Lettow-Vorbeck's forces were never rounded up, Gifcol was nevertheless the most effective unit involved in the efforts to pursue and capture them. Giffard was wounded, was awarded the DSO, and was mentioned in despatches four times.[1]

After the war, Giffard attended the Staff College, Camberley from 1919 to 1920. On graduating, he joined the Royal West African Frontier Force.[1] In 1927 he participated in the Shanghai Expeditionary Force as the Second-in-Command of the 1st Battalion the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment. The following year, he was appointed an Instructor at the Staff College, Camberley, and then in 1931 became Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment at Aldershot.[1] In 1933 he became a General Staff Officer, Grade 1 (GSO1) (effectively the Chief of Staff) of the British 2nd Infantry Division.

Giffard returned to West Africa in 1936, when he was appointed Inspector-General of the West African Frontier Force.[1] He was appointed Inspector-General of African Colonial Forces in 1938.

Second World War[edit]

Giffard began the Second World War as Military Secretary at the War Office, and then, from 1940, was General Officer Commanding British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan.[1]

In 1941 he became Commander-in-Chief of the West Africa Command. While the Mediterranean was barred to British shipping by German and Italian naval and air force units, West Africa was an important link in Allied lines of communication to the Middle East and the Far East. In addition to organising the logistic infrastructure, Giffard's major achievement was the reorganisation of the units of the Royal West African Frontier Force into two field infantry divisions, capable of serving as independent forces in rough terrain. Initially, this was in response to a potential threat from Vichy French forces in Senegal and Niger. Later, these two divisions, 81st (West Africa) Division and 82nd (West Africa) Division served with distinction in the Burma Campaign.[1]

He was made General Officer Commanding Eastern Army in India in May 1943.[1] This army faced the Japanese army which had occupied Burma. Several sources, notably Field Marshal William "Bill" Slim, testified to his contribution to the improvement in morale and effectiveness in Eastern Army during this period.

In October 1943 he was appointed Commander in Chief of 11th Army Group in India and Burma, [1] effectively being commander in chief of land forces in the South East Asia Command. His period of command here was less happy. He was temperamentally the opposite of the publicity-hungry Commander in Chief, Admiral Louis Mountbatten, and the two men often clashed.[2] He and the United States General Joseph Stilwell also disliked each other. Stilwell, as commander of the Northern Combat Area Command, refused to take Giffard's orders, claiming that he could not submit American forces to British control, and as Deputy Supreme Commander to Mountbatten he was in any case Giffard's superior. The resulting command arrangement was an awkward compromise.[3]

In March 1944, relations between Mountbatten and Giffard broke during a crisis at the start of the Battle of Imphal. Mountbatten acted decisively to obtain transport aircraft from the United States Army Air Force to fly reinforcements and supplies to the isolated Allied troops at Imphal. His Chief of Staff, General Henry Pownall, wrote that Giffard had shown no initiative at all.[4] Giffard was notified of his dismissal in May, but was asked to remain in post until his successor, General Oliver Leese, could relieve him. As a result, he remained until October.[5]

Other appointments[edit]

In 1945, he was made Colonel of the Queen's Royal Regiment.[1] He was also Colonel Commandant of the Royal West African Frontier Force and of the King's African Rifles.[1] Giffard was also Aide-de-Camp General to the King from 1943 to 1946.[1] He retired in 1946.[1]

His legacy in Britain's West African possessions was the pride the people felt in the contribution and fighting record of the two West African divisions which he formed, and which fought on an equal basis with British and Indian divisions. This contributed to the growth of national feeling, which in turn played its part in the achievement of independence in those countries.

He was a nephew of the Labour politician Susan Lawrence.

Honours and awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment
  2. ^ McLynn, pp.196, 211
  3. ^ Slim pp.206-208
  4. ^ Allen, p.243
  5. ^ McLynn, pp.381-382

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Douglas Brownrigg
Military Secretary
1939–1940
Succeeded by
Arthur Floyer-Acland
Preceded by
Michael Barker
General Officer Commanding
British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan

February 1940–June 1940
Succeeded by
Philip Neame
Preceded by
New Post
GOC West Africa Command
1940–1943
Succeeded by
Francis Nosworthy
Preceded by
Noel Irwin
GOC-in-C, Eastern Army, India
May 1943–October 1943
Succeeded by
Sir Mosley Mayne
Preceded by
New Post
GOC-in-C, 11th Army Group
November 1943–November 1944
Succeeded by
Oliver Leese
(As GOC Allied Land Forces South East Asia)