General Sir Bernard Charles Tolver Paget, GCB, DSO, MC (15 September 1887 – 16 February 1961) was a senior British Army officer during the Second World War. He commanded the 21st Army Group from June to December 1943 and was Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) Middle East Command from January 1944 to October 1946. He was the senior serving general in the British Army.
Early life and First World War
Paget was born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, the son of the Right Reverend Francis Paget, second son of Sir James Paget, 1st Baronet, and was educated at Shrewsbury School from 1901-1906 and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst from 1906–1907. Paget was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Oxfordshire Light Infantry on 13 November 1907 which became the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1908 Paget was posted on 15 December 1907 to the 2nd Battalion The Oxfordshire Light Infantry (52nd) at Tidworth, Wiltshire. On 5 February 1908 he transferred to the 1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry (43rd) at Lucknow, India. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1910.
On the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 he was appointed adjutant of the new 5th (Service) Battalion stationed at Aldershot, composed mainly of volunteers for Kitchener's Army, with which he went to the Western Front on 20 May 1915. He was promoted to captain on 10 June 1915. The battalion was serving as part of the 42nd Brigade, itself part of the 14th (Light) Division. On 25 September 1915, Paget and his battalion took part in the Battle of Loos; he was one of only two officers in the battalion to survive the battle. On 30 September 1915 he took over temporary command of 5th (Service) Battalion. He left the battalion to become Brigade Major 42nd Infantry Brigade on 20 November 2015. Paget was awarded the Military Cross in November 1915, and the Distinguished Service Order in January 1918. He was four times mentioned in despatches and wounded five times during the war. Following being wounded on 26 March 1918 Paget was evacuated to the UK where he became an instructor at the Staff College in Cambridge and remained in that post till the end of the war.
Between the wars
The war came to an end in November 1918 and, during the interwar period, he remained in the British Army. Having been made brevet major in 1917, he was promoted to major in 1924 and brevet lieutenant colonel the following year. Paget was promoted to colonel in 1929 and became Commander of the depot at Cowley Barracks, Oxford in 1930. He initiated the founding of the regimental Chapel at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford in 1930. He was Chief Instructor at the Staff College, at Quetta, British India (now the Command and Staff College, Pakistan), from 1932–1934. Paget commanded the 4th Quetta Infantry Brigade from 1936–1937. He was promoted to major general in December 1937 and was Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley between 1938 and 1939.
Second World War
In late November 1939, nearly three months after the outbreak of the Second World War, Paget took over as General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 18th Infantry Division, a recently raised Territorial Army (TA) formation, relinquishing command in mid-May 1940. In the acting rank of lieutenant general he commanded British forces in the withdrawal at Åndalsnes in Norway in 1940 during the Norwegian Campaign, and was subsequently appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath. He was promoted to lieutenant general and made General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) South-Eastern Command in 1941. He was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the New Year's Honours' List at the end of the year. He went on to be GOC of GHQ Home Forces in the acting rank of general in December 1941. The rank of general was made permanent in July 1943. Paget commanded the 21st Army Group in the United Kingdom from June to December 1943 prior to General Sir Bernard Montgomery taking over. In January 1944 he became Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) Middle East Command until October 1946, when he retired from the army. He was appointed as Extra Aide-de-Camp to King George VI in October 1944. Paget had been the longest serving Commander-in-Chief during the Second World War and became the senior General in the British Army. In December 1944 he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by the Polish government-in-exile. In 1946 he was advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.
His final act of World War II took place between May and July 1945 during the Levant Crisis - Paget under orders from Churchill invaded Syria from Transjordan to curb French actions there which he achieved at no cost. His forces escorted French troops to their barracks and the violence ceased.
After the war Paget was Colonel of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry from October 1946 to September 1955 In May 1954, he presented new Queen's Colours to the regiment at Osnabrück. On 8 May 1955, he handed over the old Queen's Colours to the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral for safekeeping in a ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. He took his last salute from his regiment as Colonel Commandant at the parade to commemorate the bicentenary of the 52nd on 14 October 1955 at Osnabrück, West Germany. He was Colonel of the Intelligence Corps and Colonel of the Reconnaissance Regiment. He was Principal of Ashridge College of Citizenship from 1946 to 1949. He was a Governor of Radley College, Eastbourne College, St Edwards and Welbeck College. Paget was President of the Army Benevolent Fund. He was Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea from 1949 to 1956. He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire in 1960. He retired to Petersfield, Hampshire in 1957. Paget was installed as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath at a service in Westminster Abbey on 27 October 1960 and his Banner was hung in the Henry VII Chapel.
He married Winifred Nora Paget on 7 February 1918 with whom he was to have two sons. His younger son, Lieutenant Tony Paget, died on 5 March 1945 from wounds received while serving with the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (the 43rd) during the Battle of the Reichswald. He received the Distinguished Service Order for his gallantry during the battle.
His eldest son Sir Julian Paget, 4th Baronet, CVO was commissioned into the Coldstream Guards and served in NW Europe during the Second World War. He commanded a battalion of the Coldstream Guards before he retired from the Army in 1969. He became a military historian and author of many books. He was a Gentleman Usher to the Queen from 1971 to 1991. He inherited the title of 4th Baronet in 1972. He died on 25 September 2016. 
General Sir Bernard Paget died on 16 February 1961.
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- Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: a biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0.
- Smart, Nick (2005). Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Barnesley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 1844150496.
- Paget, Julian (2008) The Crusading General: The Life of General Sir Bernard Paget GCB DSO MC. Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 978 18441 58102.
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