John Crocker, pictured here in France in August 1944, as I Corps commander.
|Birth name||John Tredinnick Crocker|
|Born||4 January 1896
|Died||9 March 1963(aged 67)|
|Years of service||1915–1953|
|Unit||Machine Gun Corps
Royal Tank Regiment
|Commands held||3rd Armoured Brigade
6th Armoured Division
Middle East Command
Military Cross (1918)
MID (1945) (1945)
|Other work||Vice-Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex
General Sir John Tredinnick Crocker GCB KBE DSO MC (4 January 1896 – 9 March 1963) was a senior officer of the British Army who served as a private in World War I and as a corps commander during World War II. After the Second World War he rose to become Adjutant-General to the Forces, the second most senior officer on the Army Council.
As related in Delaney's book 'Corps Commanders';
The son of Mary (Tredinnick) and Isaac Crocker, a secretary with the Champion Reef Gold Mining Company, John Crocker was born on 3 January 1896, one of five siblings who lived in a modest Exbury Road dwelling in Catford, Lewisham. Owing to a respiratory ailment, young John was too sickly to attend public school, so his mother, who had been widowed with five children since John was only four years old, somehow managed to send him instead to a retired parson for instruction. The parson was a voracious reader whose disciplined self-study and rectitude rubbed off on his pupil, as did a certain piety. Crocker remained a deeply religious man his entire life. Under the tutelage of his parson instructor, he also learned to think before speaking, to choose his words carefully, and never to lie. His tutor liked things done properly, something Crocker would always demand of his own charges. One subordinate would later comment that he possessed "a most penetrative insight into character and behaviour. Anyone who tried to hoodwink him was on a forlorn and dangerous path." Odd as it may have been, his unorthodox education served him well in his military career.
First World War
Upon the outbreak of the First World War Crocker enlisted as a private in the Artists Rifles, a training corps for officers. He was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant in the Machine Gun Corps (MGC) in January 1917. He had a distinguished career in the war and in April and July 1918 was awarded respectively the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order with 174th Machine Gun Company of 59th Division in France. He was also promoted to temporary lieutenant in July 1918. The citation for his MC award, published in the official London Gazette reads:
T./2nd Lt. John Tredinnick Crocker, M.G. Corps.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as section commander in a machine-gun battery. He stuck to his battery until it was blown up, and then, going forward to the barrage, he salved two guns and took them forward to support the infantry, where the situation was uncertain.
The citation for the DSO reads:
T./2nd Lt. John Tredinnick Crocker, M.C., M.G.C.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When in charge of four machine guns he broke down two strong enemy attacks, holding on from 10a.m. till dusk, when infantry and reinforcements arrived. The following day he maintained his position till outflanked, when he stood up between two of his guns and directed their fire on the enemy, who were within 30 yards, then covered the withdrawal with bombs and rifle fire, killing many himself at close range. Took up a fresh position until almost surrounded again, when he again went out with bombs. His example throughout was magnificent.
Between the wars
After the signing of the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Crocker left the British Army to train as a solicitor. However, he did not enjoy his new profession and returned to soldiering as an infantry officer in the Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own). His rank of lieutenant was confirmed at the end of 1920 and in early 1922 Crocker was seconded to the Royal Tank Corps to specialise in the then new field of armoured warfare. His secondment became a permanent transfer in August 1923 (backdated to June 1919).
He held a number of both field and staff posts including brigade major to Percy Hobart and GSO1 to Alan Brooke when the latter was commanding the Mobile Division. He also had a period of secondment to the Royal Tank School in India from September 1925 and was promoted captain from April 1929. Promotion in the interwar army was slow and Crocker's advancement was evidenced by a succession of brevet ranks: brevet major in 1935, brevet lieutenant colonel in 1936 and brevet colonel in 1938. However, his permanent rank caught up when he was promoted full colonel in August 1938. By the time the Second World War began in September 1939 he was GSO1 Staff Officer in Southern Command.
Second World War
In April 1940, several months after World War II began, he was appointed to command of the 3rd Armoured Brigade, part of the 1st Armoured Division, in France. Crocker's brigade, like much of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), was virtually destroyed in the Battle of France in May–June 1940. Landed at Cherbourg as the rest of the BEF retreated to Dunkirk, the 1st Armoured Division unsuccessfully attacked the German bridgeheads over the River Somme before returning to Cherbourg where the remnants (including the brigade's last 13 tanks) were evacuated.
Back in Britain, Crocker was given command of the new 6th Armoured Division in September 1940 in the rank of acting major-general. In October 1941 Crocker was selected to command one of the new Armoured Groups in Home Command but was advanced to take over command of XI Corps in East Anglia in March 1942 in the rank of acting lieutenant-general. In September 1942 he took command of IX Corps which saw service in the Tunisia Campaign from March 1943. In his first battle, an attempt to cut off the Italian First Army at Fondouk Pass on 8 April 1943, Crocker underestimated the strength of the defences in front of him. Elements of 6th Armoured and U.S. 34th Infantry Divisions (at the time attached to his command) became entangled with each other and when the armour eventually broke through the Italians had escaped. Crocker's handling of his infantry was also thought to be poor and his subsequent criticism of the Americans caused upset at Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ). IX Corps was involved in heavy fighting during the latter stages of the campaign but on 27 April Crocker was wounded in a training accident, during a demonstration of a PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank) anti-tank weapon, shortly before the final battle for Tunis and saw no further action in North Africa.
On his return to service in August 1943 he was given command of I Corps, part of Miles C. Dempsey's Second Army, training for Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Northern France. Despite Crocker's background in armoured warfare, I Corps was predominantly an infantry formation, but General Bernard Law Montgomery, commanding the Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group, had confidence in his organisational skills and assigned I Corps the difficult task of capturing the city of Caen. On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Crocker had a larger task than any other corps commander: he had to control two landing beaches (Juno and Sword) and an airborne assault. The fact that, in spite of inevitable mishaps, the landings went so well was a testimony to Crocker's planning.
However, Caen did not fall on D-Day as planned, and Crocker's corps took part in the bloody two-month Battle for Caen, including Operation Charnwood. Coming under command of Lieutenant-General Harry Crerar's Canadian First Army in August 1944, I Corps drove to the Seine and then took part in the unglamorous mopping up operations along the French and Belgian coastline. When severe British manpower shortages prompted the disbandment of two infantry divisions (the 59th (Staffordshire) and 50th (Northumbrian)) in 1944, I Corps HQ was withdrawn from the front line to take over the administration of the 21st Army Group's rear areas in Germany as it advanced across the river Rhine. In June 1945 Crocker returned to the United Kingdom to take over Southern Command.
Crocker's only son, Wilfrid Crocker, a tank officer serving with the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, part of the 7th Armoured Division, was killed in action on 20 October 1944 fighting in the Netherlands.
In 1945 he became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Command, then in 1947 he moved on to be Commander in Chief Middle East Land Forces and in 1950 his career culminated in him becoming Adjutant-General to the Forces, before retiring in 1953. Crocker's permanent rank had been advanced to lieutenant-general in October 1945 and full general in 1947. In addition to the British honours he had received, Crocker was also honoured by the Netherlands government in 1947 for his service in North West Europe in the form of being appointed Knight Grand Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau with swords.
In 1948 Montgomery recommended Crocker to be his successor as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, but the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, appointed the better-known Sir William Slim. Crocker's most important postwar contribution was to write the training manuals that laid down the British Army's doctrine of armoured warfare through the years of the Cold War. Crocker held a number of honorary appointments including Aide de Camp to the King (1948 to 1951), Colonel Commandant Royal Tank Regiment (1949), Hon. Colonel Royal Armoured Corps (1949).
- The London Gazette: . 4 June 1948. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 6 June 1947. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 26 September 1944. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 3 August 1943. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 27 September 1940. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 7 August 1945. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 6 November 1945. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 9 February 1917. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 24 January 1919. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 19 April 1918. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 23 July 1918. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 14 December 1920. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 3 February 1922. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 31 August 1923. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 8 July 1932. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 17 April 1934. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 8 February 1938. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 29 September 1925. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 19 July 1929. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 1 January 1935. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 3 July 1936. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 11 February 1938. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 16 August 1938. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 8 October 1940. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- Mead 2007, p. 106.
- Army Commands, p. 137
- The London Gazette: . 3 April 1942. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- Army Commands, p. 136
- Mead 2007, p. 107.
- Mead 2007, p. 109.
- Delaney p. 203
- Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45
- The London Gazette: . 22 September 1950. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 30 October 1945. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 7 March 1947. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 14 January 1947. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- Delaney pp.204–5
- The London Gazette: . 25 February 1949. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 18 November 1949. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 16 July 1963. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 14 January 1958. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- Delaney, Douglas E. (2011). Corps Commanders: Five British and Canadian Generals at War, 1939–45. Vancouver: UBC Press. ISBN 9780774820905.
- Delaney, Douglas (Autumn 2007). "A Quiet Man of Influence: General Sir John Crocker". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. 85: 185–207.
- Ford, Ken (2002). D-Day 1944. Osprey. ISBN 1841763683.
- Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1948). Crusade in Europe. ISBN 080185668X.
- 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.
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