Gerald Lathbury

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sir Gerald Lathbury
Gerald Lathbury.jpg
Sir Gerald William Lathbury, seen here as Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C), East Africa, in May 1955.
Nickname(s) "Legs"
Born (1906-07-14)14 July 1906
Murree, India[1]
Died 16 May 1978(1978-05-16) (aged 71)
Mortimer, Berkshire, England, United Kingdom[1]
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1926–1965
Rank General
Unit Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Parachute Regiment
Commands held 3rd Parachute Battalion
3rd Parachute Brigade
1st Parachute Brigade
16th Airborne Division
Staff College, Camberley
East Africa Command
Eastern Command

Second World War

Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Member of the Order of the British Empire
Mentioned in despatches
Other work Governor of Gibraltar

General Sir Gerald William Lathbury, GCB, DSO, MBE (14 July 1906 – 16 May 1978) was a senior British Army officer who fought during the Second World War, serving with distinction with the British Army's airborne forces, commanding the 1st Parachute Brigade in Sicily and Holland. He later became Governor of Gibraltar from 1965 to 1969.[1]

Military career[edit]

Lathbury was born into a military family. His father was Colonel (Henry) Oscar Lathbury. He was educated at Wellington College and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Lathbury was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1926.[2] He was seconded to the Royal West African Frontier Force and Gold Coast Regiment between 1928 and 1932 and went to the Staff College, Camberley between 1937 and 1938.[2]

Lathbury served in the Second World War, raising the 3rd Parachute Battalion in 1941 and the 3rd Parachute Brigade in 1943 and then taking command of the 1st Parachute Brigade, part of the 1st Airborne Division, in North Africa. Lathbury took part in the landings in Sicily (Operation Husky), his brigade tasked with the capture of the Primosole Bridge, where he was wounded in the back and both thighs, although he remained in command until reinforcement arrived. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for this action. The citation reads:

Lathbury was still in command of the 1st Parachute Brigade during the Battle of Arnhem, part of Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. On 18 September 1944 he was cut off from his command while in the company of Major General Roy Urquhart, the divisional commander, when he was badly wounded in the left leg and his spine was chipped, leaving him temporarily paralysed. Lathbury was left in the care of a local Dutch family and became a prisoner of war. He concealed his rank, pretending to be a lance corporal. He escaped by simply walking out of the main doors of the hospital in which he was held. The Dutch resistance put him in touch with other hiding British soldiers. Lathbury, along with Lieutenant Colonel David Dobie and Major Digby Tatham-Warter, organised an escape across the Rhine. Lathbury and Digby crossed the Rhine on 22 October with one hundred and thirty-seven men linking up with American paratroopers of First Lieutenant Frederick Heyliger's Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division. Brigadier Lathbury was portrayed by Donald Douglas in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far.

After the war Lathbury went to Palestine for several years and then went on to the Imperial Defence College in 1948.[2] He was appointed General Officer Commanding 16th Airborne Division in 1948 and then Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley in 1951.[2] He went on to be Commander-in-Chief East Africa in 1955 and Director General of Military Training at the War Office in 1957.[2] He became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Eastern Command in 1960 and Quartermaster-General to the Forces in 1961.[2] Finally he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar in 1964; he retired in 1969.[2] He was described as radiating "a serene imperturbability" by Joshua Hassan, who was a Chief Minister of Gibraltar. Lathbury's composure was invaluable at the time as the politics meant there was doubts over the status of Gibraltar with questions being asked at the United Nations. This made the locals nervous especially as there was a de facto freeze on take home pay in Gibraltar.[4]

He was also an ADC General to the Queen from 1962 to 1965 as well as Colonel Commandant of both the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) and the Parachute Regiment from 1961 to 1965. In 1965 he participated in the third of the series of Harold Hall Australian ornithological collecting expeditions.


In 1942 he married Jean Gordon Thin: they had two daughters. In 1972 he married Mairi Zoë Gibbs, widow of Patrick Somerset Gibbs.[1] He died in 1978. There is a Lathbury Barracks in Gibraltar.


  1. ^ a b c d 1st British Airborne Division, Arnhem, September 1944
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  3. ^ Pegasus Archive – Biography
  4. ^ Joshua Hassan, 'Lathbury, Sir Gerald William (1906–1978)’, rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 10 June 2013
Military offices
Preceded by
Roy Urquhart
GOC 16th Airborne Division
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Bourne
Preceded by
Dudley Ward
Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley
Succeeded by
Charles Jones
Preceded by
Sir George Erskine
GOC East Africa Command
Succeeded by
Sir Nigel Tapp
Preceded by
Sir James Cassels
GOC-in-C Eastern Command
Succeeded by
Sir Roderick McLeod
Preceded by
Sir Cecil Sugden
Quartermaster-General to the Forces
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Richardson
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Dudley Ward
Governor of Gibraltar
Succeeded by
Sir Varyl Begg