John Bagot Glubb

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John Bagot Glubb

Glubb Pasha (1953).jpg
Glubb Pasha (1953)
Nickname(s)Glubb Pasha
Born(1897-04-16)16 April 1897
Preston, Lancashire, England
Died17 March 1986(1986-03-17) (aged 88)
Mayfield, East Sussex, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Years of service1915–1956
RankLieutenant General
Commands heldRoyal Engineers
Arab Legion
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II:
Anglo-Iraqi War
Syria–Lebanon Campaign
1948 Arab–Israeli War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Other workAuthor
Glubb Pasha in Amman in 1940

Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, KCB, CMG, DSO, OBE, MC, KStJ, KPM (16 April 1897 – 17 March 1986), known as Glubb Pasha (Arabic: غلوب باشا) and Abu Hunaik (Arabic: أبو حنيك) by the Jordanians, was a British soldier, scholar, and author, who led and trained Transjordan's Arab Legion between 1939 and 1956 as its commanding general. During the First World War, he served in France. Glubb has been described as an "integral tool in the maintenance of British control."[1]


Born in Preston, Lancashire, and educated at Cheltenham College, Glubb gained a commission in the Royal Engineers in 1915. On the Western Front of World War I, he suffered a shattered jaw. In later years, this would lead to his Arab nickname of Abu Hunaik, meaning "the father of the little jaw".[2] He was then transferred to Iraq in 1920, which Britain had started governing under a League of Nations Mandate following war, and was posted to Ramadi in 1922 "to maintain a rickety floating bridge over the river [Euphrates], carried on boats made of reeds daubed with bitumen", as he later put it.[3] He became an officer of the Arab Legion in 1930. The next year he formed the Desert Patrol – a force consisting exclusively of Bedouin – to curb the raiding problem that plagued the southern part of the country. Within a few years he had persuaded the Bedouin to abandon their habit of raiding neighbouring tribes. He also took part in suppressing the Ikhwan revolt.

In 1939, Glubb succeeded Frederick G. Peake as the commander of the Arab Legion (subsequently known as the Jordan Royal Army). During this period, he transformed the Legion into the best-trained force in the Arab world.

According to the Encyclopædia of the Orient:

Glubb served his home country all through his years in the Middle East, making him immensely unpopular in the end. Arab nationalists believed that he had been the force behind pressure that tried to make King Hussein I of Jordan join the Baghdad Pact, however this was unsuccessful. Glubb served different high positions in the Arab Legion, the army of Transjordan. During World War II he led attacks on Arab leaders in Iraq, as well as the Vichy regime which was present in Lebanon and Syria.[4]

During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Arab Legion was considered the strongest Arab army involved in the war.[5] Glubb led the Arab Legion across the River Jordan to occupy the West Bank (May 1948). Despite some negotiation and understanding between the Jewish Agency and King Abdullah, severe fighting took place in Kfar Etzion massacre (May 1948), Jerusalem and Latrun (May–July 1948). According to Avi Shlaim,

Rumours that Abdullah was once again in contact with the Jewish leaders further damaged his standing in the Arab world. His many critics suggested that he was prepared to compromise the Arab claim to the whole of Palestine as long as he could acquire part of Palestine for himself. 'The internecine struggles of the Arabs,' reported Glubb, 'are more in the minds of Arab politicians than the struggle against the Jews. Azzam Pasha, the mufti and the Syrian government would sooner see the Jews get the whole of Palestine than that King Abdullah should benefit.' (p. 96)
Glubb (right) with King Abdullah (left) the day before the King's assassination, 19 July 1951.

Glubb remained in charge of the defence of the West Bank following the armistice in March 1949. He retained command of the Arab Legion until 1 March 1956, when King Hussein dismissed him and several other British senior officers in the Arab Legion.[6] Hussein wanted to distance himself from the British and to disprove the contention of Arab nationalists that Glubb was the actual ruler of Jordan. Differences between Glubb and Hussein had been apparent since 1952, especially over defence arrangements, the promotion of Arab officers and the funding of the Legion. Despite his decommission, which was forced upon him by public opinion, Glubb remained a close friend of the king.

He spent the remainder of his life writing books and articles, mostly on the Middle East and on his experiences with the Arabs.

He served on the Board of Governors of Monkton Combe School from 1956 to 1966.[7]

Glubb died in 1986 at his home in Mayfield, East Sussex. King Hussein gave the eulogy at the service of thanksgiving for Glubb's life, held in Westminster Abbey on 17 April 1986.[8] A stained glass window in his local church, St Dunstan's Church, Mayfield, celebrates his life and legacy.

His widow died in 2006, whereupon his papers were deposited with the Middle East Centre Archive at St Antony's College, Oxford.[9]


Glubb was appointed OBE in 1925; CMG in 1946; and KCB in 1956.

Ribbon Description Notes
Order of the Bath UK ribbon.svg Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB)
UK Order St-Michael St-George ribbon.svg Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG)
Dso-ribbon.png Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Order of the British Empire (Military) Ribbon.png Order of the British Empire (OBE)
Military cross BAR.svg Military Cross (MC)
Order of St John (UK) ribbon -vector.svg Order of Saint John (KStJ)
Queens Police Medal for Merit.png King's Police Medal (KPM)
  • 1939, for distinguished service.[16]
Ribbon - 1914 Star.png 1914–15 Star
Ribbon - British War Medal.png British War Medal
Interallied Victory Medal ribbon.svg Victory Medal
General Service Medal 1918 BAR.svg General Service Medal (1918)
Ribbon - 1939-45 Star.png 1939–1945 Star
Defence Medal BAR.svg Defence Medal (United Kingdom)
Ribbon - War Medal.png War Medal 1939–1945
Jordan004.gif Supreme Order of the Renaissance
  • Order of El Nahda, 1st Class[17]
Order of Independence Jordan.svg Order of Independence (Jordan)
  • Order of El Istiqlal, 1st Class[18]
Arab Legion Medal for World War II[19]
Arab Legion Medal for 1948 Arab–Israeli War
Order of the Two Rivers - Military (Iraq) - ribbon bar.png Order of Al Rafidain


Glubb's father was Major-General Sir Frederic Manley Glubb, of Lancashire, who had been chief engineer in the British Second Army during the First World War; his mother was Letitia Bagot from County Roscommon.[citation needed] He was a brother of the racing driver Gwenda Hawkes.

In 1938, Glubb married Muriel Rosemary Forbes, the daughter of physician James Graham Forbes. The couple had a son, Godfrey (named after the Crusader King Godfrey of Bouillon) born in Jerusalem in 1939, and another son was born in May 1940 but lived only a few days. In 1944, they adopted Naomi, a Bedouin girl who was then three months old, and in 1948 they adopted two Palestinian refugee children called Atalla, renamed John and Mary.



Glubb's autobiographical story A Soldier with the Arabs was reviewed in The Atlantic Monthly, April 1958;[20] The National Review, May 1958;[21] The Saturday Review, February 1958;[22] The Reporter, April 1958;[23] The New Yorker, October 1958;[24] and Foreign Affairs, April 1958.[25]

Writing in The Reporter, Ray Alan commented that the book was more than just an apologia; while it provided "no serious political analysis or social observation", it did offer interesting insights into the period, even if Glubb was out of touch with later trends in Middle Eastern politics. What Alan found more surprising was that Glubb also had hardly anything new to say about the 1948 Palestine war "in which he had star billing," instead lapsing into self-justifying propaganda. Alan ends his review with a long quotation from T. E. Lawrence, in which he reflects on what role a foreigner may play, and prays to God that "men will not, for love of the glamour of strangeness, go out to prostitute themselves and their talents in serving another race", but will let them "take what action or reaction they please from [his] silent example".[23]

Writing in the Saturday Review, Carl Hermann Voss commented that Glubb served with and for the Arabs for 36 years, 17 of them for King Abdullah of Jordan. The portrait photograph is captioned "Glubb Pasha—'I ... failed hopelessly.'" Voss calls the book well written, absorbing, and often deeply moving; engrossing and informative, no matter how subjective; but also overly long. He enjoys the sensitive and lyrical writing that in places "could be scanned as poetry", feeling the "sudden fury of a border raid".[22]


In his 1993 poetry collection, Out of Danger, James Fenton mentions Glubb Pasha in "Here Come the Drum Majorettes!":

There's a Gleb on a steppe in a dacha.
There's a Glob on a dig on the slack side.
There's a Glubb in the sand (he's a pasha).[26]


The source for the following bibliography is Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2005. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2005, except *.

  • (With Henry Field) The Yezidis, Sulubba, and Other Tribes of Iraq and Adjacent Regions, G. Banta, 1943.
  • The Story of the Arab Legion., Hodder & Stoughton, 1948, Da Capo Press, 1976.
  • A Soldier with the Arabs., Hodder & Stoughton, 1957.
  • Britain and the Arabs: A Study of Fifty Years, 1908 to 1958, Hodder & Stoughton, 1959.
  • War in the Desert: An R.A.F. Frontier Campaign, Hodder & Stoughton, 1960, Norton, 1961.
  • The Great Arab Conquests, Hodder & Stoughton, 1963, Prentice-Hall, 1964.
  • The Empire of the Arabs, Hodder & Stoughton, 1963, Prentice-Hall, 1964.
  • The Course of Empire: The Arabs and Their Successors, Hodder & Stoughton, 1965, Prentice-Hall, 1966.
  • The Lost Centuries: From the Muslim Empires to the Renaissance of Europe, 1145–1453, Hodder & Stoughton, 1966, Prentice-Hall, 1967.
  • Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, Walker & Co., 1967.
  • The Middle East Crisis: A Personal Interpretation, Hodder & Stoughton, 1967.
  • A Short History of the Arab Peoples, Stein & Day, 1969.
  • The Life and Times of Muhammad, Stein & Day, 1970.
  • Peace in the Holy Land: An Historical Analysis of the Palestine Problem., Hodder & Stoughton, 1971 (unavailable on line 8 Aug. 2021).
  • Soldiers of Fortune: The Story of the Mamlukes, Stein & Day, 1973.
  • The Way of Love: Lessons from a Long Life, Hodder & Stoughton, 1974.
  • Haroon Al Rasheed and the Great Abbasids, Hodder & Stoughton, 1976.
  • Into Battle: A Soldier's Diary of the Great War, Cassell, 1977.
  • The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival (PDF)., Blackwood (Edinburgh), 1978.
  • Arabian Adventures: Ten Years of Joyful Service, Cassell (London), 1978.
  • The Changing Scenes of Life: An Autobiography, Quartet Books (London), 1983.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Glubb Pasha and the Arab Legion: Britain, Jordan and the End of Empire in the Middle East, p7.
  2. ^ Lunt, James (1984). Glubb Pasha, a Biography: Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, Commander of the Arab Legion, 1939–1956. London: Harvill Press. p. 42. ISBN 9780002726382. Retrieved 4 April 2023.
  3. ^ Glubb, Sir John Bagot (1983). The changing scenes of life: an autobiography. Quartet Books. pp. 58–59. ISBN 978-0-7043-2329-2.
  4. ^ "Sir John Bagot Glubb and the Fate of Empires". March 2021.
  5. ^ Morris, Benny (2008). 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War. p. 207.
  6. ^ Simon C Smith (28 June 2013). Reassessing Suez 1956: New Perspectives on the Crisis and its Aftermath. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-4094-8013-6.
  7. ^ A Delightful Inheritance by P LeRoy, Monkton Print, 2018
  8. ^ Royle, Trevor (1992). Glubb Pasha. Little, Brown &co/Abacus. pp. 497–498. ISBN 0-349-10344-5.
  9. ^ "The Glubb Pasha papers: a precarious existence", 4 April 2017
  10. ^ "No. 40728". The London Gazette. 9 March 1956. Page 1437
  11. ^ "No. 37598". The London Gazette. 13 June 1946. Page 2761
  12. ^ "No. 35316". The London Gazette. 21 October 1941. Page 6085
  13. ^ "No. 32941". The London Gazette. 3 June 1924. Page 4412
  14. ^ "No. 30450". The London Gazette. 1 January 1918. Page 36
  15. ^ "No. 40378". The London Gazette. 30 December 1954. Page 158
  16. ^ "No. 34585". The London Gazette. 2 January 1939. Page 23
  17. ^ "No. 36662". The London Gazette. 18 August 1944. Page 3832
  18. ^ "No. 34889". The London Gazette. 18 August 1944. Page 4098
  19. ^ "Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb". The Saleroom. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  20. ^ The Atlantic Monthly, April 1958. pp 87–95
  21. ^ The National Review, May 1958. p 430
  22. ^ a b "Generation of Service." The Saturday Review, February 1958. pp17-18
  23. ^ a b "Glubb Pasha's Rear-Guard Action". The Reporter, April 1958. p 39
  24. ^ "Pasha's Testament". The New Yorker, October 1958. pp 182–189
  25. ^ "The Middle East". Foreign Affairs, April 1958. p 528
  26. ^ Fenton, James (1993). Out of Danger. Penguin. p. 65. ISBN 0-14-058719-5.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alon, Yoav. "British Colonialism and Orientalism in Arabia: Glubb Pasha in Transjordan, 1930-1946." British Scholar 3.1 (2010): 105–126.
  • Bradshaw, Tancred. The Glubb Reports: Glubb Pasha and Britain's Empire Project in the Middle East 1920-1956 (Springer, 2016).
  • Hughes, Matthew. "The Conduct of Operations: Glubb Pasha, the Arab Legion, and the First Arab–Israeli War, 1948–49." War in History 26.4 (2019): 539–562. online
  • Jevon, Graham. Glubb Pasha and the Arab Legion: Britain, Jordan and the End of Empire in the Middle East (2017).
    • Jevon, Graham. Jordan, "Palestine and the British World System, 1945-57: Glubb Pasha and the Arab Legion" (PhD. Diss. Oxford University, 2014) online.
  • Lunt, James, "Glubb, Sir John Bagot (1897–1986)", rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-00-272638-6
  • Lunt, James D. Glubb Pasha, a Biography: Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, Commander of the Arab Legion, 1939-1956 (Harvill Press, 1984).
  • Meyer, Karl E.; Brysac, Shareen Blair, Kingmakers: the Invention of the Modern Middle East, W.W. Norton, 2008, ISBN 978-0-393-06199-4 pp 259–92.
  • Morris, Benny, The Road to Jerusalem: Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews, ISBN 1-86064-812-6
  • Royle, Trevor. Glubb Pasha: The Life and Times of Sir John Bagot Glubb, Commander of the Arab Legion (Little, Brown, 1991).
  • Shlaim, A. (2001). "Israel and the Arab Coalition in 1948" in E. L. Rogan, A. Shlaim, C. Tripp, J. A. Clancy-Smith, I. Gershoni, R. Owen, Y. Sayigh & J. E. Tucker (Eds.), The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948 (pp. 79–103). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-79476-5

External links[edit]