Michael O'Moore Creagh

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Michael O'Moore Creagh
Born 16 May 1892
Died 1970 (aged 77 or 78)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Major General
Commands held 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars
7th Armoured Division
3 Armored Group
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Relations General Sir O'Moore Creagh (father)

Major General Sir Michael O'Moore Creagh KBE, MC (16 May 1892 – 1970) was a British soldier who served in both the First and Second World Wars. He commanded the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, between 1939 and 1941.

Early life[edit]

Creagh was born on 16 May 1892 to O'Moore Creagh, a Victoria Cross recipient and officer in the British Indian Army, and his second wife Elizabeth (née Reade). Educated at Wellington College, he entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and was then commissioned into the 7th Queen's Own Hussars in 1911.[1]

First World War[edit]

By the end of the First World War, Creagh had served as an aide de camp to the divisional commander Home Forces (1914–15), as a staff captain in France (1917–18) and a brigade major (1918–19).

Creagh stayed in the British Army after the war and commanded 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars from 1934 to 1938.

Second World War[edit]

On 4 December 1939, Creagh took over the 7th Armoured Division[2] stationed on the Egyptian frontier, from Major General Percy Hobart who was retired by General Archibald Wavell. In February 1940 the formation was renamed 7th Armoured Division and Creagh's tenure of command of this division was the longest of any of its general officers commanding.

Sidi Barrani[edit]

Creagh led the division through its earliest triumphs against the Italians after they entered the war on 10 June 1940.[2] Under General Mario Berti the Italians invaded Egypt and advanced 60 miles to Sidi Barrani where they halted. It was here that Creagh's 7th Armoured Division fought its first major battle in the Operation Compass counterattack on 8 December, joining with 4th Indian Division in the Western Desert Force (WDF) to mount the attack. As a result the Italians were driven back quickly into Cyrenaica, the eastern province of their colonial territory, Libya.

Bardia and Tobruk[edit]

The small port of Bardia fell to advancing British, Australian and Indian forces in the WDF under the command of General Sir Richard O'Connor, followed as the new year of 1941 came in, by Tobruk as the Italians retreated along the Via Balbia, the metallised coastal road that led back to Benghazi and Tripoli. This was the top half of a semicircle, the bottom straight line of the semicircle was formed by rough rock-strewn desert, unpromising territory for armoured and mechanised military units like 7th Armoured Division.

Beda Fomm[edit]

Creagh's division was to travel via Mechili, Msus and Antelat (the bottom of the semicircle), while the Australian 6th Division chased the retreating Italian Tenth Army along the coast road round the Jebel Akhdar mountains to the north (the curve of the semicircle). The poor terrain was hard going for the tanks, and Creagh took the bold decision to send a flying column - christened "Combe Force" - south-west across the virtually unmapped Libyan Desert. Combe Force, under its namesake Lieutenant Colonel John Combe of the 11th Hussars, consisted of 11th Hussars, a squadron of King's Dragoon Guards, 2nd Battalion The Rifle Brigade, an RAF armoured car squadron, anti-tank guns from 3rd Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery and C Battery, 4th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery. The force totalled about 2,000 men. On 5 February, Combe Force succeeded in cutting off the Italians at Sidi Saleh and Beda Fomm. The small force held the Italians long enough to be joined by the armour of 4 Brigade on 6 February. The bulk of the Tenth Army surrendered the next day as a result of this successful blockade of their path.[2]

On 3 September 1941 Creagh was relieved as commander of the division by Major General William Gott following the costly failure of Operation Battleaxe. Creagh commanded 3 Armoured Group from 1941 and Hampshire and Dorset District from 1942 before retiring in 1944.[3]

In retirement he worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.[1]

References[edit]

  • Joslen, Lt Col J. F., Orders of Battle, Second World War 1939-1945
  • Mead, Richard, Churchill's Lions. A Biographical Guide to the Key British Generals of World War II
  • Smart, Nick, Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War
  • Verney, Maj Gen G. L., The Desert Rats. The 7th Armoured Division in World War II
Military offices
Preceded by
Percy Hobart
GOC 7th Armoured Division
December 1939–September 1941
Succeeded by
William Gott