Alfred Reade Godwin-Austen
|Sir Alfred Reade Godwin-Austen|
|Born||17 April 1889|
|Died||20 March 1963(aged 73)|
|Years of service||1909–1947|
|Unit||South Wales Borderers|
|Commands held||2nd Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (1936–37)
14th Infantry Brigade (1938–39)
8th Division (1939–40)
British forces British Somaliland (1940)
2nd (later 12th) (African) Division (1940–41)
XIII Corps (1941–42)
|Awards||Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Mentioned in dispatches (3)
|Other work||Colonel, The South Wales Borderers, (1950–54)|
He was a great-grandson of Major General Sir Henry Godwin (1784–1853), who commanded the British and Indian forces in the Second Anglo-Burmese War. His uncle was Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen, who gave his name to the second highest mountain in the Karakoram range; this mountain is now better known by the more neutral title: K2.
On the outbreak of the Second World War Godwin-Austen had just been promoted major general to command 8th Infantry Division, responsible for internal security in the British Mandate of Palestine. After the division was disbanded in February 1940 he was nominated in July to command 2nd (African) Division which was forming in Kenya.
Before taking up his command, however, he was sent in mid-August 1940 after the Italian Invasion of British Somaliland to take command of the British forces there. His withdrawal at the decisive Battle of Tug Argan was fatal to his attempt to defend the territory, but it allowed almost the entire Commonwealth contingent to withdraw to Berbera and evacuate by sea to Aden. Commonwealth losses in the short campaign are estimated to have been exceedingly light, about 260 (38 killed, 102 wounded and 120 missing).
The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, stung by the loss to British prestige, criticized General Archibald Wavell concerning the loss of British Somaliland. It was Wavell's Middle East Command that was responsible for the loss of the colony. Because of the low casualty rate, Churchill fretted that the British had abandoned the colony without enough of a fight. He demanded the suspension of Godwin-Austen and the convening of a court of inquiry.
In response to this criticism, Wavell claimed that Somaliland was a textbook withdrawal in the face of superior numbers. He pointed out to Churchill that "A bloody butcher's bill is not the sign of a good tactician". According to Churchill's staff, Wavell's retort moved Churchill to greater fury than they had ever seen before. Wavell refused to accede to Churchill's demand and Godwin-Austen moved on to take command of his division in Kenya on 12 September. However, Churchill was to retain his grudge towards him.
During the East African Campaign he led the 2nd (African) Division (renamed 12th (African) Division) as part of East Africa Force, commanded by Lieutenant General Alan Cunningham, in its advance from Kenya into Italian East Africa. His division advanced into Italian Somaliland on 11 February and by late February had scored an emphatic victory over Italian forces at Gelib. Once Mogadishu had been taken, Cunningham swung his force inland across the Ogaden desert and into Ethiopia, entering the capital, Addis Ababa on 6 April.
At the end of the campaign he was promoted to his last fighting command, leading the Western Desert Force (which became XIII Corps) in the Western Desert Campaign in North Africa. During Operation Crusader he was vociferous in his opposition to the suggestion of Alan Cunningham, by now commanding Eighth Army and so once more his direct superior, that they should abandon the offensive after the setback of Rommel's "dash to the wire". The C-in-C Middle East, by then Claude Auchinleck, chose to continue the offensive and Operation Crusader went on to relieve the siege of Tobruk and push the Axis forces back to El Agheila while Cunningham was relieved of his command.
When Rommel counterattacked in January 1942 the Allies were forced to retreat in some confusion. Godwin-Austen, seeing that one of his divisions, Indian 4th Infantry Division was under threat, after consulting with Cunningham's successor, Neil Ritchie, ordered them to withdraw. However, Ritchie changed his mind and issued a countermand directly to the division's commander Francis Tuker. Feeling that Ritchie had by this action displayed a lack of confidence in him, he tendered his resignation to Auchinleck, which was reluctantly accepted. Tuker was later to write
His going was the latest of many misjudgments which had started to shake confidence in the leadership. We lost the wrong man.
In spite of support from the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Alan Brooke, and Sir James Grigg, the Secretary of State for War, Churchill was adamant that Godwin-Austen should not receive a new posting.[nb 1] Churchill relented in November after the intervention of the South African Field Marshal Jan Smuts and Godwin-Austen was appointed Director of Tactical Investigation at the War Office. He subsequently became Vice Quartermaster-General at the War Office and, as the war ended, the Quartermaster-General and then Principal Administrative Officer in India, reporting to the C-in-C Claude Auchinleck.
He was knighted in 1946 and retired in 1947 having achieved the rank of general.
- Commissioned The South Wales Borderers – 1909
- Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry – 1936 – 1937
- Head British Military Mission, Egypt – 1937 – 1938
- Commanding Officer, 14th Infantry Brigade, British Mandate of Palestine – 1938 – 1939
- General Officer Commanding, 8th Division, Middle East – 1939 – 1940
- General Officer Commanding, British Somaliland – 1940
- General Officer Commanding, 2nd (African) Division, East Africa – 1940
- General Officer Commanding, 12th (African) Division, Ethiopia – 1940 – 1941
- General Officer Commanding, 12th (African) Division, East Africa – 1941
- General Officer Commanding, XIII Corps, North Africa – 1941 – 1942
- Commandant of Staff College, Camberley – 1942
- Director of Tactical Investigation, War Office – 1942 – 1943
- Vice Quartermaster-General, War Office – 1943 – 1945
- Quartermaster-General, India – 1945
- Principal Administrative Officer, Indian Command – 1945 – 1946
- Retired – 5 March 1947
Footnotes and citations
- Alanbrooke in his diary entry of 11 May 1942 wrote: "...Grigg and I tackled PM again about Cunningham and Godwin-Austen, but without any luck!...the moment their names are mentioned one might imagine they are criminals of the worst order." A further attempt and refusal is mentioned in the entry of 18 May
- The London Gazette: . 1946-06-18. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- The London Gazette: . 1941-05-30. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- The London Gazette: . 1916-06-02. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- The London Gazette: . 1940-07-23. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- The London Gazette: . 1941-02-07. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- The London Gazette: . 1942-12-11. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- The London Gazette: . 1950-02-03. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- The London Gazette: . 1954-04-16. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- 'Godwin-Austen, General Sir Alfred Reade (born 17 April 1889, died 20 March 1963)' in Who Was Who 1961–1970 (London: A. & C. Black, 1979 reprint, ISBN 0-7136-2008-0)
- Mead (2007), p. 168
- Mockler, Anthony. Haile Selassie's War: The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935–1941, p. 251.
- Mead (2007), p.169
- Mead (2007), p. 170
- Mead (2007), p. 171
- Tuker, Francis (1963). Approach to Battle. London: Cassell., p. 81
- Alanbrooke War Diaries, 11 May 1942
- The London Gazette: . 1947-03-04. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- Alanbrooke, Field Marshal Lord (2001). Danchev, Alex; Todman, Daniel, eds. War Diaries 1939–1945. Phoenix Press. ISBN 1-84212-526-5.
- Ammentorp, Steen. "Generals of World War II". Retrieved 2007-07-30.
- Mackenzie, Compton (1951). Eastern Epic: September 1939 – March 1943 Defence. I. London: Chatto & Windus. OCLC 1412578.
- Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. pp. 168–171. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0.
- "Orders of Battle.com". Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- "GODWIN-AUSTEN, General Sir Alfred Reade", in Who Was Who (Online ed.). A & C Black. 2007.
|General Officer Commanding the 8th Division
August 1939 – February 1940
|GOC XIII Corps
September 1941 – April 1942