Eric Cole

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Eric Stuart Cole
Born 10 February 1906
Died 19 December 1992 (aged 86)
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1925–61
Rank Major-General
Unit Royal Corps of Signals
Battles/wars Second World War
*Battle of France
*Invasion of Normandy
Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB), 1960
Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), 1945
Mention in Despatches, 1940
Other work Radio manufacture

Major-General Eric Stuart Cole, CB, CBE (10 February 1906 – 19 December 1992) was a senior British Army officer and telecommunications expert. He saw active service in the Second World War, with his most important contribution being the planning of communications for the invasion of Normandy. He continued his army career after the war, ultimately holding the post of director of telecommunications at the War Office.

He was also a cricketer[1] of county-standard, who played for Kent during the 1938 English cricket season. A right-handed batsman and right-arm medium pace bowler, he played ten first-class matches in all,[2] and also represented the Egypt national cricket team.[3]

Personal life and army career[edit]

Born in Malta in 1906,[2] where his father was then stationed as bandmaster of the Royal Sussex Regiment, Cole was educated at Dover Grammar School and Sandhurst.[4] On graduation from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1925, he was a commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Royal Signal Corps on 3 September,[5] and posted to Egypt, his early career also included time in Palestine, and he was promoted to lieutenant on 3 September 1927.[4][6]

During these first postings he joined a group exploring the deserts of the Middle East. In 1934 he designed a transceiver that enabled an expedition consisting of two cars taking a 1500-mile trip across the Western Desert and Libyan Sand Sea to remain in daily contact with their base at Abbassia. The techniques developed during this and similar expeditions would later be taken up by British Forces in the North African Campaign, particularly by the Long Range Desert Group and helped to give them an edge over their Axis counterparts.[4]

He took and passed the examinations for promotion to captain in October 1934,[7] but was not actually promoted until 3 September 1936.[8] In 1938 he was Montgomery's chief signal officer in 88th Division Signals, operating against Arab terrorists in northern Palestine.[4]

On 1 March 1939 he was appointed adjutant[9] of 1st Division's Signals.[4] The unit was part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France on the outbreak of the Second World War. Shortly before the main German offensive he became acting deputy chief signal officer to I Corps (and an acting major). During the evacuation from Dunkirk he commanded the signals party which remained with the Corps HQ until it was finally evacuated, managing to keep communications open most of the time, despite only having one wireless detachment, five despatch riders and two linemen; he was wounded on the evacuation beach. The Corps chief signal officer recommended him for a decoration, initially the Military Cross, which was then downgraded to an MBE, but in the end Cole only received a Mention in Despatches.[4][10][11]

On Cole's return to the United Kingdom he was soon involved in planning the communications for various amphibious operations proposed by Churchill, mostly cancelled before they got off the drawing board. In July 1941 he was appointed chief signal officer for Force 110, an amphibious force intended to carry out raids and landings across an area from the Azores to Sicily, and designed some of the special comms equipment used by the amphibious and airborne forces. He married an artist, Doris Hartley, in 1941. Given this experience of amphibious operations, he was an obvious choice for the new Combined Operations department when it was set up in January 1942.[4] He was promoted major on 3 September 1942.[12] In this capacity he was involved in planning the communications for the proposed invasion of Normandy. He took part in the invasion as chief signals officer of I Corps, and was sent forward on D+7 to take over signals in 6th Airborne Division, and stayed with that division during the remainder of the Battle of Normandy. On 28 September 1944, he moved to the role of deputy chief signals officer (British) at Allied Forces Headquarters, initially under the command of Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, and from December 1944, Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1945 for services during the Italian Campaign. By this time he held the war substantive rank of lieutenant-colonel, a temporary colonelcy and was an acting brigadier. In April 1945 he was posted to Athens as part of the British Land Forces Greece, supporting Greek Government forces during the Greek Civil War.[4][13][14]

In 1946 Cole was appointed chairman of the Joint Communications Board,[4] and his wartime substantive rank of lieutenant-colonel was confirmed.[15] He was promoted substantive colonel in 1948 (with seniority backdated to 1947),[16] and spent two years in Washington, D.C.. Further important positions followed,[4] along with promotion to substantive brigadier in 1954.[17] By January 1958 he was at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe as deputy chief signal officer,[18] and became director of telecommunications at the War Office (with the temporary rank of major-general) on 15 April 1958,[19] receiving substantive promotion on 24 August 1958,[20] and relinquished the role on 27 April 1961,[21] retiring from active duty shortly after.[22] He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 1960 Queen's Birthday Honours,[23] Colonel Commandant of the Royal Corps of Signals on 22 December 1962, in succession to Mervyn Wheatley, and held that appointment until 22 December 1967.[24][25]

On his retirement in 1961 he joined Ultra Electronics managing their telecommunications business, he was also appointed president of the Radio Society of Great Britain. In 1964 he moved to manage Granger Associates, a radio aerial manufacturer, and later become a director of the company.[4]

Cricket career[edit]

Eric Cole
Cricket information
Batting style Right-handed
Bowling style Right-arm medium pace
Role Bowler
Domestic team information
Years Team
1938 Kent
1933–1938 Army
1937 Combined Services
1931 Free Foresters
First-class debut 13 June 1931 Free Foresters v Cambridge University
Last First-class 15 June 1938 Kent v Worcestershire
Career statistics
Competition First-class
Matches 10
Runs scored 147
Batting average 9.80
100s/50s 0/0
Top score 36
Balls bowled 1757
Wickets 25
Bowling average 36.48
5 wickets in innings 0
10 wickets in match 0
Best bowling 4/78
Catches/stumpings 13/0
Source: CricketArchive, 11 May 2008

Cole's early cricket career was split between Egypt and England. He first played for the Egyptian national side in April 1930, playing twice against HM Martineau's XI. Indeed, all his matches for Egypt were against Martineau's team, and he also played twice against them for Gezira Sporting Club.[26]

In 1931, after playing twice for Egypt in April, he made his first-class debut, playing for the Free Foresters against Cambridge University.[27] Back in Egypt, he played for the national side once in 1932 and twice in 1933.[26]

The 1933 English cricket season was when he first became involved with Kent County Cricket Club, playing five times for their second XI in the Minor Counties Cricket Championship that year.[28] He also played his second first-class match that year, playing for the British Army cricket team against the West Indies.[27] He again played twice for Egypt in 1934, and played his final match for them in April 1935.[26]

The rest of his cricket career was in England, and in 1935 he played a first-class match for the Army against Cambridge University,[26] and a Minor Counties Championship match for Kent Second XI against Staffordshire.[28] He played first-class matches for the Army against Cambridge University in the 1936 season and against Oxford University in the 1937 season. He also played for the Combined Services against New Zealand in 1937.[27]

In 1938, after playing for the Army against Cambridge University, he made his debut for the Kent first team, playing County Championship matches against Lancashire, Derbyshire and Worcestershire. These were his only games for Kent.[27] He played a non-first-class match for the Army against the West Indies in 1939, his last recorded match.[26]


In his ten first-class matches, Eric Cole scored 147 runs at an average of 9.80, with a top-score of 36[2] for the Army[29] against the West Indies[30] in 1933.[27] He took 25 wickets at an average of 36.48, his best innings bowling performance of 4/78[2] came on his County Championship debut for Kent against Lancashire.[31]

Other sports and recreations[edit]

In his youth, Cole was Army light-heavyweight boxing champion,[31] and also fought at middle-weight.[32][33] He also represented Aldershot Command in at least one football match in 1928.[34] He later took up golf to a reasonable standard and was president of the Army Golfing Society in the 1970s.[4]

He was a keen photographer, and an associate of the Royal Photographic Society. He collected English bronze coinage, and was known as a numismatist. He frequently competed in amateur radio competitions.[4]


  1. ^ Cricinfo profile
  2. ^ a b c d CricketArchive profile
  3. ^ Teams played for by Eric Cole at CricketArchive
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Major-General Eric Cole; Obituary" The Times (London). 23 December 1992. p. 15.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33081. p. 5836. 4 September 1925. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33308. p. 5671. 2 September 1927. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  7. ^ "Promotion of Army Officers—Examination Results" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times (London). Wednesday, 30 January 1935. (46975), col F, p. 7.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34320. p. 5723. 4 September 1936. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34615. p. 2431. 11 April 1939. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  10. ^ "Documents online—Recommendations for Honours nad Awards (army)—Image details—Cole, Eric Stuart—Mention in Despatch" (fee required to see full original recommendation). The National Archives. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  11. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35020. pp. 7174–7183. 20 December 1940. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 35690. p. 3856. 1 September 1942. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37386. pp. 6055–6056. 11 December 1945. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  14. ^ "Documents online—Recommendations for Honours and Awards (army)—Image details—Cole, Eric Stuart—Mention in Despatch" (fee required to see full original recommendation). The National Archives. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  15. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37762. p. 5150. 15 October 1946. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38530. p. 630. 4 February 1949. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  17. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40377. p. 147. 4 January 1955. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  18. ^ "Military Appointments" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times (London). Thursday, 30 January 1958. (54062), col B, p. 13.
  19. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41359. p. 2357. 11 April 1958. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  20. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41506. p. 5879. 23 September 1958. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  21. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42335. p. 3065. 21 April 1961. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42362. p. 3897. 23 May 1961. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  23. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42051. p. 3975. 3 June 1960. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  24. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42865. p. 10063. 21 December 1962. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  25. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 44481. p. 14157. 22 December 1967. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  26. ^ a b c d e Other matches played by Eric Cole at CricketArchive
  27. ^ a b c d e First-class matches played by Eric Cole at CricketArchive
  28. ^ a b Minor Counties Championship Matches played by Eric Cole at CricketArchive
  29. ^ First-class batting and fielding for each team by Eric Cole at CricketArchive
  30. ^ First-class batting and fielding against each opponent by Eric Cole at CricketArchive
  31. ^ a b 1994 Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, Obituaries
  32. ^ "Boxing" The Times (London). Thursday, 24 November 1927. (44747), col B, p. 12.
  33. ^ "Boxing—The Army individual championships" The Times (London). Friday, 13 January 1928. (44789), col C, p. 7.
  34. ^ "R.M.C. v. Aldershot Command" The Times (London). Monday, 19 November 1928. (45054), col E, p. 6.