John Crocker

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For other people named John Crocker, see John Crocker (disambiguation).
John Crocker
John Crocker.JPG
Crocker in France, August 1944, as I Corps commander.
Birth name John Tredinnick Crocker
Nickname(s) Honest John
Born 4 January 1896 (1896-01-04)
Lewisham
Died 9 March 1963 (1963-03-10) (aged 67)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svgBritish Army
Years of service 1915–1953
Rank General
Commands held 3rd Armoured Brigade
6th Armoured Division
XI Corps
IX Corps
I Corps
Southern Command
Middle East Command
Battles/wars

First World War
Second World War

Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Other work Vice-Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex

General Sir John Tredinnick Crocker GCB, KBE, DSO, MC (4 January 1896 – 9 March 1963) was a British Army officer and corps commander during the Second World War.

Early life[edit]

As related in Delaney's book 'Corps Commanders';

The son of Mary (Tredinnick) and Isaac Crocker, a secretary with the Champion Reef Gold Mining Company, John Crocker was born on 3 January 1896, one of five siblings who lived in a modest Exbury Road dwelling in Catford, Lewisham. Owing to a respiratory ailment, young John was too sickly to attend public school, so his mother, who had been widowed with five children since John was only four years old, somehow managed to send him instead to a retired parson for instruction. The parson was a voracious reader whose disciplined self-study and rectitude rubbed off on his pupil, as did a certain piety. Crocker remained a deeply religious man his entire life. Under the tutelage of his parson instructor, he also learned to think before speaking, to choose his words carefully, and never to lie. His tutor liked things done properly, something Crocker would always demand of his own charges. One subordinate would later comment that he possessed "a most penetrative insight into character and behaviour. Anyone who tried to hoodwink him was on a forlorn and dangerous path." Odd as it may have been, his unorthodox education served him well in his military career.

First World War[edit]

Upon the outbreak of the First World War Crocker enlisted as a private in the Artists' Rifles, a training corps for officers, before joining the Machine Gun Corps (MGC) as an officer. He had a distinguished career in the war and won both the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross with 174th Machine Gun Company of 59th Division in France.

Between the wars[edit]

After the armistice, Crocker left the army to train as a solicitor. However, he did not enjoy his new profession and decided to return to soldiering. After a short period as an infantry officer in the Middlesex Regiment, Crocker specialised in the then new field of armoured warfare and joined the Royal Tank Corps in 1923. He held a number of both field and staff posts including Brigade Major to Percy Hobart and GSO1 to Alan Brooke when the latter was commanding the Mobile Division. By the time the Second World War began he was GSO1 Staff Officer in Southern Command.

Second World War[edit]

In April 1940 he was appointed to command of 3rd Armoured Brigade in the 1st Armoured Division in France. Crocker's brigade, like much of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), was virtually destroyed in the Battle of France in 1940. Landed at Cherbourg as the rest of the BEF retreated to Dunkirk, 1st Armoured Division unsuccessfully attacked the German bridgeheads over the River Somme before returning to Cherbourg where the remnants (including the brigade's last 13 tanks) were evacuated.

Back in Britain, Crocker was given command of the new 6th Armoured Division in September 1940, of XI Corps in East Anglia in March 1942 and then of IX Corps in September 1942,[1] before again being sent overseas in 1943, this time to Tunisia. Crocker showed impatience at Fondouk Pass on 8 April 1943 when his attempt to push 6th Armoured and 34th US Infantry Division though a gap ran onto hastily-prepared German defences. He was wounded in a training accident, during a demonstration of a PIAT anti-tank weapon, shortly before the final battle for Tunis and saw no further action in North Africa. He did, however, create something of a controversy when he criticised the performance of American troops to the press.

On his return to service in August 1943 he was given command of I Corps, part of Miles Dempsey's Second Army, training for Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of France. Despite Crocker's background in armoured warfare, I Corps was predominantly an infantry formation, but General (later Field Marshal) Montgomery, commanding 21st Army Group, had confidence in his organisational skills and assigned I Corps the difficult task of capturing Caen. On D-Day Crocker had a larger task than any other corps commander: he had to control two landing beaches (Juno and Sword) and an airborne assault. The fact that in spite of inevitable mishaps the landings went so well was a testimony to Crocker's planning.

However, Caen did not fall on D-Day as planned, and Crocker's corps took part in the bloody two-month Battle for Caen, including Operation Charnwood. Coming under command of Lieutenant-General Harry Crerar's First Canadian Army in August 1944, I Corps drove to the Seine and then took part in the unglamorous mopping up operations along the French and Belgian coastline. When the final German surrender came in May 1945, I Corps was still on the south bank of the River Maas facing the German 25th Army. Crocker's only son Wilfrid Crocker, a tank officer in the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, was killed on 20 October 1944 fighting in the Netherlands.[2]

Later life[edit]

In 1945 he became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Command,[3] then in 1947 he moved on to be Commander in Chief Middle East Land Forces[3] and in 1950 his career culminating in him becoming Adjutant-General to the Forces, before retiring in 1953. In 1948 Montgomery recommended Crocker to be his successor as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, but the prime minister, Clement Attlee, appointed the better-known Sir William Slim. Crocker's most important postwar contribution was to write the training manuals that laid down the British Army's doctrine of armoured warfare through the years of the Cold War.[4]

After retiring he became Vice-Chairman of the Imperial War Graves Commission and Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Corps Commanders: Five British and Canadian Generals at War, 1939–45, Douglas E. Delaney. ISBN 978-0774820905
  • Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War, Nick Smart. ISBN 1-84415-049-6.
  • Crusade in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower. ISBN 0-8018-5668-X
  • D-Day 1944, Ken Ford. ISBN 1-84176-368-3.
  • Delany, Douglas (Autumn 2007). "A Quiet Man of Influence: General Sir John Crocker". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research 85: 185–207. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
New Post
GOC 6th Armoured Division
September 1940 – October 1941
Succeeded by
Herbert Lumsden
Preceded by
Noel Irwin
GOC XI Corps
March 1942 – September 1942
Succeeded by
Gerard Bucknall
Preceded by
Francis Nosworthy
GOC IX Corps
September 1942 – May 1943
Succeeded by
Brian Horrocks
Preceded by
Gerard Bucknall
GOC I Corps
1943–1945
Succeeded by
Sir Sidney Kirkman
Preceded by
Sir Sidney Kirkman
GOC-in-C Southern Command
1945–1947
Succeeded by
Sir John Harding
Preceded by
Sir Miles Dempsey
C-in-C Middle East Land Forces
1947–1950
Succeeded by
Sir Brian Robertson
Preceded by
Sir James Steele
Adjutant General
1950–1953
Succeeded by
Sir Cameron Nicholson
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Frederick Handley Page
Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex
1961–1963
Succeeded by
Gerard Bucknall