Harold Franklyn

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Sir Harold Franklyn
Born 28 November 1885
Died 31 March 1963 (aged 77)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1905−1945
Rank General
Unit Alexandra, Princess of Wale's Own (Yorkshire Regiment)
Commands held 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Sudan Defence Force
5th Infantry Division
VIII Corps
British Troops in Northern Ireland
Home Forces
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Mentioned in dispatches (6)
Croix de guerre (France)
Relations Sir William Franklyn

General Sir Harold Edmund Franklyn KCB DSO MC (28 November 1885 − 31 March 1963) was a senior British Army officer who fought in both World War I and World War II. He is most notable during the latter for his command of the 5th Infantry Division during the Battle of France in May 1940.

Early life and military career[edit]

Harold Edmund Franklyn was born on 28 November 1885, the son of a British Army officer, Lieutenant General Sir William Franklyn. He was educated at Rugby School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst,[1] where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into his father's regiment, the Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment) in 1905.[2] By 1914, he was a captain and had attended the Staff College, Camberley.[1][3]

He served in World War I, on the Western Front and served mainly as a staff officer throughout the war.[1] Soon after the outbreak of the conflict in early August 1914, Franklyn was Assistant Embarkation Staff Officer, later becoming attached to the 6th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, a newly created Kitchener's Army unit composed of volunteers, which was followed, in October, by a promotion to staff captain.[1] By June 1916 he was on the operations staff of the 21st Division, a Kitchener's Army unit, and was involved in the division's preparations for the Somme offensive. The division was commanded throughout Franklyn's service with it by Major General David Campbell.[1] After the division's involvement in the Battle of Arras in April 1917, followed by the Battle of Passchendaele throughout the summer, he became the senior staff officer in the division in mid-October, remaining in this role until hostilities ceased in November 1918.[1]

Between the wars[edit]

After the war he served at the Staff College, as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (DAAG) from 1925−1928.[1] He became Commanding Officer (CO) of the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment in 1930, and transferred to the Sudan Defence Force in 1933, initially as a General Staff Officer and then from 1935 as Commandant.[2] In 1938 he returned to Britain where he was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 5th Infantry Division, succeeding Major General Guy Williams. The 5th was a reserve formation that was severely understrength.[3][2][1]

World War II[edit]

Upon the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Franklyn had been GOC of the 5th Division for over a year.[3] However, the division was still not fully formed and so, as a result, the division arrived piecemeal in France where it became part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The divisional HQ arrived in France in mid-December and the division was now fully formed.[3][1]

The division, composed of the 13th, 15th and 17th Infantry Brigades and supporting units, was assigned to Lieutenant General Sir Alan Brooke's II Corps until early April 1940.[4] All three brigades were commanded by future general officers, the 13th commanded by Brigadier Miles Dempsey, the 15th by Brigadier Horatio Berney-Ficklin, and the 17th by Brigadier Montagu Stopford.[5] Although Berney-Ficklin's 15th Brigade saw contact with the enemy on the Saar front in January and February, the division as a whole, saw little action. In April the 15th Brigade was detached from the division for participation in the disastrous Norwegian Campaign, leaving Franklyn's 5th Division with just two brigades.[5]

The War Office had intended for the 5th Division, being the reserve division of the Regular Army, to return to the United Kingdom as a reserve.[5] By 9 May, many units had already reached the Channel Ports, but the order was cancelled. The German Army launched its assault in the West the day after, and the division joined Lieutenant General Ronald Adam's III Corps. Just days later, Lieutenant General Michael Barker's I Corps, which was manning a defensive line on the river Senne.[5] After withdrawing, the division was held in reserve until moving to Arras, which was then under attack from several German panzer divisions, including the 7th Panzer under Generalmajor Erwin Rommel.[5]

The Germans had broken through the French armies on the BEF's right flank, and were sweeping their way west and northwards, aiming for the Channel coast.[5] Senior Allied commanders believed a counterattack necessary, to be made southwards from Arras, and Franklyn was assigned by General Lord Gort, Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the BEF, to command "Frankforce".[5] "Frankforce" was composed of Franklyn's 5th Division, along with Major General Giffard Martel's 50th Division (like the 5th Division, with only two brigades) and the 1st Army Tank Brigade.[5] On 21 May the attack went in, and was initially very successful, greatly surprising the Germans and unnerving the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. However, French support did not materialise on time and Franklyn was forced on the defensive and ordered to hold the high ground on Vimy Ridge.[5] "Frankforce" came under heavy attack and Lord Gort ordered its withdrawal on the night of 23 May.[5]

Gort was then ordered to use the 5th and 50th Divisions to attack across the German lines of communication and link up with the French attacking from the Somme.[5] However, Gort decided instead on 25 May to send both divisions, in one of the most important decisions of the campaign, to fill the gap between the Belgian Army and the BEF, along the Ypres–Comines Canal.[5] Franklyn's 5th Division again came under command of Brooke's II Corps where, in the Battle of the Ypres–Comines Canal, the division was engaged in some of the toughest fighting of the war so far, with the Germans concentrating on eliminating the British penetration.[5] As the battle wore on, more units came under Franklyn's command, including the 10th Brigade, under Brigadier Evelyn Barker, and the 11th Brigade, under Brigadier Kenneth Anderson (both detached from Major General Dudley Johnson's 4th Division), along with elements of Major General Harold Alexander's 1st Division, and heavy artillery from I Corps.[5] By holding the line on the night of 27 May Franklyn enabled Major General Bernard Montgomery's 3rd Division to cross behind Franklyn's rear to fill the huge gap caused by the Belgian Army's surrender.[5]

Franklyn's stand, Brooke believed, had saved the BEF from destruction, causing the latter to write in his diary that "Franklyn had put up a very fine show and the 5th Division had fought admirably".[5] Brooke then gave orders for Franklyn and his division, now reduced to only 600 men in each brigade, to withdraw from their positions and retreat to the Dunkirk perimeter, which they did on the night of 29 May, and were subsequently evacuated to England over the next few days.[5][1]

For his performance in the campaign, Franklyn was, some six weeks after returning from France, promoted to lieutenant general and established a new VIII Corps to command.[2][1] On 19 July Franklyn handed over the 5th Division, which by now he had been GOC for nineteen months, to Horatio Berney-Ficklin, his senior brigade commander who had returned, with his 15th Brigade, from Norway (although he himself had taken no part in the campaign).[5] With fears throughout the country of a German invasion, Franklyn, as GOC VIII Corps, was responsible for the defence of the counties of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, a very long line of coast to defend, but one which was considered a less likely invasion target.[5] The corps had, initially, the 3rd and 48th (South Midland) Divisions under command, both of which had fought in France with the BEF.[6][2] In late November the 3rd Division, now under Major General James Gammell, was replaced by Major General William Ramsden's 50th Division.[7] All three divisions had fought in France with the BEF, and were all short of manpower and equipment.[7] In early 1941 three of the independent infantry brigades serving as part of VIII Corps were merged together to create the Devon and Cornwall County Division, whose first GOC was Major General Charles Allfrey, later Major General Frederick Morgan.[7] The division was one of the many newly created British County Divisions which, despite a plethora of infantry, had no supporting divisional troops.[7]

In May 1941 Franklyn handed over VIII Corps to Lieutenant General Kenneth Anderson and was appointed as C-in-C of Northern Ireland.[7][2][1] The Republic of Ireland, then still within the British Empire and known as Éire, had remained neutral in the war and kept diplomatic relations with Germany, who supported the Irish Republican Army (IRA).[7] Of great concern to the British government, in particular to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was the possibility of Germany invading Éire, where they could establish a foothold. To this end, an agreement was reached with the Irish government, allowing British troops to be stationed in Éire in the event of a German invasion.[7]

Members of the Czech Government in Exile visiting Northern Ireland. Left to right: Brigadier General Edmund Hill (USA); General Jan Sergěj Ingr, Minister of National Defence and C-in-C of Czechoslovak Forces; Lieutenant General Harold Franklyn, GOC British Troops in Northern Ireland; Air Vice Marshal Karel Janoušek, GOC Czechoslovak Air Force; and Mr Jan Masaryk, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia.

As a result III Corps, under Lieutenant General Desmond Anderson, was sent to Northern Ireland, and took under command the 5th, 53rd and 61st Infahtry Divisions.[7] Northern Ireland District was deemed to be too small and so Franklyn established a superior HQ, entitled British Troops in Northern Ireland.[7] By early 1942, the United States had entered the war, and, due to an agreement between Prime Minister Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt before the American entry into the conflict, U.S. troops, mainly the 34th Infantry Division, began arriving in January 1942 and, their numbers swelling over the next two years, gradually relieving the British divisions.[7]

Franklyn remained in this post until July 1943 when he succeeded General Sir Bernard Paget as C-in-C Home Forces, who himself was promoted to the command of the newly created 21st Army Group.[7][2][1] Home Forces had, until Franklyn's assumption of command, commanded all the field formations in the country. From the fall of France in June 1940 until December 1941, Home Forces, commanded throughout most of this period by General Sir Alan Brooke, who became Chief of the General Staff (CIGS), was responsible for the defence of the country against invasion.[7] By 1942, with the United States in the war and the Soviet Union fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front, the emphasis turned from the defensive to taking the offensive. The situation changed again by the time Franklyn took command of Home Forces.[7]

Soon after he took command, Home Forces had to allocate several divisions to Paget's 21st Army Group, with its own C-in-C, and begin training for the Allied invasion of Normandy, then to take place in May 1944.[7] The remaining divisions fell into three categories, with the 38th, 45, 47th and 55th Divisions being placed on the Lower Establishment, with a much reduced composition than a standard division.[8] A further three divisions, the 48th, 76 and 80, were reserve formations, specifically for training and holding men before being sent on an overseas draft.[9] The 77th was a holding division, created with the intention of retraining men returning from leave and released Prisoners of war (POWs).[9] The 61st Division was the only field formation but did not transfer to the 21st Army Group and in the event never served overseas.[9]

Reorganisations took place in late 1944, after the Normandy landings had taken place, with the 76th, 77th and 80th Divisions were disbanded, and the 38th, 45th and 47th Divisions becoming reserve formations, and the 55th Division being raised to the Higher Establishment.[9] By this stage of the war the British Army was suffering from a very severe shortage of manpower, particularly on the Western Front, the main theatre of war for the Western Allies, and Home Forces was under increasingly heavy pressure to provide enough men as battle casualty replacements to the 21st Army Group in North-western Europe.[9]

There were, however, other priorities, most notably coordinating with allies, mainly the Americans, and the running of an armed camp, which was no easy task. The Home Guard, along with numerous training commands and establishments, regimental depots and POW camps.[9]


Retiring from the army in 1945, in May 1946, Franklyn was appointed chairman of the Battles Nomenclature Committee for the Second World War.[9][10][11]

He was given the colonelcy of The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) from 1939 to 1949 and promoted full general on 23 July 1943.[12]


In 1913 he married Monica Belfield, daughter of Lieutenant General Herbert Belfield; they had one daughter and one son.[1] His son, Captain John Belfield Edmund Franklyn, was killed in action in Holland on 27 September 1944 while serving with the 6th Battalion, Green Howards. He was 22.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o 21st Division 1914-18 - a divisional history
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  3. ^ a b c d Mead, p. 143
  4. ^ Mead, p. 143−144
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Mead, p. 144
  6. ^ Mead, p. 144−145
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Mead, p. 145
  8. ^ Mead, p. 145−146
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Mead, p. 146
  10. ^ Battles Nomenclature Committee (1956) The Official names of the Battles, Actions and Engagements fought by the Land Forces of the Commonwealth during the Second World War, 1939–1945: Report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee as approved by the Army Council, London: HMSO, pp. 7–9
  11. ^ Battles Nomenclature Committee (1958) The Official names of the Battles, Actions and Engagements fought by the Land Forces of the Commonwealth during the Australian Campaign in the South-west Pacific 1942–1945 and the New Zealand Campaign in the South Pacific 1942–1944 and the Korean Campaign 1950–1953: Final report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee as approved by the Army Council, London: HMSO, p. 5
  12. ^ "Franklyn, Sir Harold Edmund". generals.dk. Retrieved 31 July 2016. 


  • Harman, Nicholas. (1980) Dunkirk; the necessary myth. London: Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-24299-X
  • Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A Biographical Guide to the Key British Generals of World War II. Stroud: 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. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Guy Williams
GOC 5th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Horatio Berney-Ficklin
Preceded by
New post
Succeeded by
Kenneth Anderson
Preceded by
Sir Bernard Paget
C-in-C Home Forces
Succeeded by
Post disbanded