Ian Freeland

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Sir Ian Freeland
Born (1912-09-14)14 September 1912
Died 2 July 1979(1979-07-02) (aged 66)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1932–1971
Rank Lieutenant general
Unit Royal Norfolk Regiment
Commands held 7th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment
1/5th Battalion Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)
2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
54th (East Anglian) Division
East Africa Command
HQ Northern Ireland
Battles/wars World War II
Zanzibar Revolution
Cyprus Emergency
Northern Ireland
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Chevalier of the Order of the Crown with Palm (Belgium)
Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm (Belgium)

Lieutenant General Sir Ian Henry Freeland GBE, KCB, DSO, DL (14 September 1912 – 2 July 1979) was a senior British Army officer, who served during World War II, and most notably served as general officer commanding (GOC) and director of operations in security matters in Northern Ireland in the aftermath of rioting in 1969, and the beginning of the Troubles.

Early career and Second World War[edit]

The son of Majo -General Sir Francis Edward Freeland, Ian Freeland was initially educated at Wellington College.[1][2] Then, after Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Freeland was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Norfolk Regiment on 1 September 1932,[3] and promoted lieutenant on 1 September 1935,[4] and captain on 1 September 1940.[5] At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was regimental adjutant.[2] He then served as brigade major for the 7th Infantry Brigade in 1942 and general staff officer, Grade 2 at the War Office in 1943[1] and gained a variety of wartime promotions, culminating in 1944 in temporary promotion to lieutenant colonel and command of the 7th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment, part of 176th Brigade of 59th (Staffordshire) Division, in the fighting in Normandy, and for his leadership he was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 21 December 1944.[6]

The citation for this award describes how his battalion was the forward unit of a bridgehead over the River Orne near Grimbosq and over the forty-eight hours of 7 and 8 August 1944 repelled nine German counterattacks (by elements of the 271st Volksgrenadier Division and 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend). Despite heavy German fire, Freeland constantly moved around the battlefield to encourage his forward companies, and find the moment to launch his own offensive.[7] He later commanded 1/5th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment, of 131st Brigade, through Belgium, and was awarded the Belgian decorations of Chevalier of the Order of the Crown with Palm and the Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm. The citation for these awards emphasised his command of the battalion during the liberation of Ghent, when the battalion was the leading element of the 7th Armoured Division.[8][9]


Freeland held the temporary rank of colonel[8] and served on the staff of headquarters VIII Corps 1945–46, before becoming second-in-command of 4th Armoured Brigade and further staff duties at HQ British Army of the Rhine in 1946–47. This was followed by duty as commandant, All Arms Training Centre 1948–1949; staff duty at the War Office 1949–1950; and instructing at the Staff College, Camberley 1951–1953.[1][2]

While, at the end of the war, he held war temporary rank as a lieutenant-colonel, he was still only a substantive captain and was promoted to substantive major on 1 July 1946,[10] and granted a brevet promotion to lieutenant-colonel on 1 July 1951.[11] On 15 February 1954 he was promoted substantive lieutenant-colonel, and given command of 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.[1][12] The battalion served in Cyprus in 1954.[1]

Freeland was promoted to substantive colonel on 2 April 1956 (with seniority from 10 June 1954),[13] and brigadier on 1 January 1960.[14] He served as brigade commander of the 12th Infantry Brigade from 1956 to 1957, at the Imperial Defence College in 1958, and then returned to the War Office.[1] He was promoted major-general on 18 March 1961 (with seniority from 10 February 1961),[15] and appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) East Anglian District and 54 Infantry Division (T.A.),[16] holding that post until 17 July 1963, by which time it had been renamed GOC 54 (East Anglian) Division District.[17] He was then GOC, East Africa Command from 1 November 1963[18] until 28 November 1964, by which time the appointment had been renamed GOC, British Land Forces Kenya.[19] This period saw British involvement in the Zanzibar Revolution.[1] He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 1964 New Year Honours.[20] He then served as Vice-Adjutant-General at the Ministry of Defence from 3 December 1964[21] until 1 February 1968.[22] He was then appointed Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff on 1 April 1968 and promoted to lieutenant-general the same day (with seniority from 20 October 1968).[23] He was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KCB) in the 1968 Queen's Birthday Honours.[24] He stepped down as deputy chief of staff on 31 December 1968, as the position was abolished, along with its equivalents in the Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force.[2][25]

Freeland held the honorary appointment of Deputy Colonel of the Royal Anglian Regiment (successor to the Royal Norfolk Regiment) with specific responsibility for the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire components of the regiment from 1968,[26] and was appointed colonel of the regiment on 4 October 1971,[27] relinquishing the appointment on 1 October 1976.[28]

Northern Ireland[edit]

In the middle of August 1969, the decision was made to reinforce the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland with army personnel. Freeland had been appointed general officer commanding on 9 July 1969, during a relatively peaceful time in the early Troubles, when just 1,000 British troops were stationed there,[2][29] and was subsequently made director of operations in security matters on 28 August.[30] By mid-August, there had been major rioting. Troop levels had reached about 6,000, and Freeland was warning that there was a danger that soldiers would become targets.[31]

Initially unionists saw Freeland as being "on their side",[citation needed] although this changed when he argued strongly for the abolition of the B Specials.[2] However, support from the nationalist community also waned after the shooting of Daniel O'Hagan on 31 July 1970. He received criticism for a television interview he gave, in which he said, "that the Army's patience was not inexhaustible, and that force might have to be met by force".[2] He fully expected to be dismissed from his post, but he was supported by the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and the Home Secretary, James Callaghan.[2][32] By June 1970, troop numbers reached 7,000, largely to meet expected trouble arising from the climax of the "marching season", and the release of Bernadette Devlin from jail.

In the event, no major trouble materialised, perhaps thanks to the precautions put in effect.[2] By September 1970 it was reported that Freeland was to step down at his own request, due to extreme stress.[2][33] He was succeeded by Vernon Erskine-Crum on 4 February 1971.[34] This proved to be a short-lived appointment as Erskine-Crum suffered a heart attack soon afterwards and was replaced, in turn, by Lieutenant-General Harry Tuzo on 2 March.[35] Freeland was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the 1971 Queen's Birthday Honours,[36] and retired from the army on 21 June 1971.[37]

He correctly predicted a "honeymoon period" after British soldiers were placed on patrol on the streets, though he incorrectly predicted that the peace lines in Belfast were to be temporary.

The peace line will be a very, very temporary affair. We will not have a Berlin Wall or anything like that in this city.

— Lieutenant-General Sir Ian Freeland, 1969[38]


After his retirement from the army, Freeland lived in Dereham, Norfolk. He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk in 1972,[39] and Vice Lieutenant in 1978.[40]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "FREELAND, Sir Ian (Henry) (1912–1979), Lieutenant General". Liddell-Hart Centre for Military Archives. King's College London. Retrieved 26 June 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Sir Ian Freeland—Testing time in Ulster". Obituaries. The Times (60482). London. 23 November 1979. col F, p. p. IV. 
  3. ^ "no. 33860". The London Gazette. 2 September 1932. pp. 5622–5623. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  4. ^ "no. 34195". The London Gazette. 3 September 1935. pp. 5622–5623. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  5. ^ "(Supplement) no. 34936". The London Gazette. 30 August 1940. p. 5328. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  6. ^ "(Supplement) no. 36850". The London Gazette. 19 December 1944. p. 5853. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  7. ^ "Recommendations for Honours and Awards (Army)—Image details—Freeland, Ian Henry". Documents Online. The National Archives. 
  8. ^ a b "(Supplement) no. 37853". The London Gazette. 14 January 1947. p. 325. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  9. ^ "Recommendations for Honours and Awards (Army)—Image details—Freeland, Ian Henry". Documents Online. The National Archives. 
  10. ^ "(Supplement) no. 37635". The London Gazette. 28 June 1946. p. 3371. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  11. ^ "(Supplement) no. 39397". The London Gazette. 27 November 1951. p. 6239. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  12. ^ "(Supplement) no. 40197". The London Gazette. 4 June 1954. p. 3398. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  13. ^ "(Supplement) no. 40796". The London Gazette. 1 June 1956. p. 3295. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  14. ^ "(Supplement) no. 41929". The London Gazette. 12 January 1960. p. 435. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  15. ^ "(Supplement) no. 42417". The London Gazette. 18 July 1961. p. 5395. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  16. ^ "(Supplement) no. 42303". The London Gazette. 14 March 1961. p. 2045. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  17. ^ "(Supplement) no. 43057". The London Gazette. 16 July 1963. p. 6067. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  18. ^ "(Supplement) no. 43173". The London Gazette. 29 November 1963. p. 9901. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  19. ^ "(Supplement) no. 43598". The London Gazette. 12 March 1965. p. 2619. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  20. ^ "(Supplement) no. 43200". The London Gazette. 31 December 1963. p. 3. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  21. ^ "(Supplement) no. 43514". The London Gazette. 11 December 1964. p. 10649. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  22. ^ "(Supplement) no. 44517". The London Gazette. 12 March 1968. p. 1475. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  23. ^ "(Supplement) no. 44558". The London Gazette. 29 March 1968. p. 3863. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  24. ^ "(Supplement) no. 44600". The London Gazette. 31 May 1968. p. 6300. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  25. ^ "(Supplement) no. 44854". The London Gazette. 22 May 1969. p. 5480. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  26. ^ "(Supplement) no. 44625". The London Gazette. 28 June 1968. p. 7349. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  27. ^ "(Supplement) no. 45487". The London Gazette. 4 October 1971. p. 10678. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  28. ^ "(Supplement) no. 47030". The London Gazette. 4 October 1976. p. 13442. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  29. ^ "(Supplement) no. 44895". The London Gazette. 11 July 1969. p. 7284. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  30. ^ Bew, Paul & Gordon Gillespie (1993). Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968–1993. Gill & Macmillan. p. 18. ISBN 0-7171-2081-3. 
  31. ^ Douglas-Home, Charles (19 August 1969). "British troops may become targets, GOC says". News. The Times (57642). London. col B, p. 8. 
  32. ^ "Home Secretary defends General Freeland: Unionist MP wants commander replaced". Politics and Parliament. The Times (57838). London. 8 April 1970. col D, p. 13. 
  33. ^ Stanhope, Henry & John Chartres (24 September 1970). "Two new security chiefs for Northern Ireland". News. The Times (57979). London. col E, p. 2. 
  34. ^ "(Supplement) no. 45299". The London Gazette. 5 February 1971. p. 1214. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  35. ^ "(Supplement) no. 45322". The London Gazette. 16 March 1971. p. 2269. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  36. ^ "(Supplement) no. 45384". The London Gazette. 4 June 1971. p. 5961. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  37. ^ "(Supplement) no. 45422". The London Gazette. 12 July 1971. p. 7491. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  38. ^ Harding, Thomas (25 February 2004). "The security wall on our doorstep". Telegraph.co.uk. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 August 2008. 
  39. ^ "no. 45720". The London Gazette. 12 July 1971. p. 8076. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
  40. ^ "no. 47510". The London Gazette. 11 April 1978. p. 4428. Retrieved 26 August 2008. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Richard Goodwin
GOC East Africa Command
Succeeded by
Post Disbanded
Preceded by
Sir Charles Harington
Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff
April 1968 – December 1968
Succeeded by
Post Disbanded
Preceded by
Ian Harris
General Officer Commanding the British Army in Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Vernon Erskine-Crum