John Whiteley (British Army officer)

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Sir John Whiteley
Jock Whiteley.jpg
John Whiteley
Nickname(s) "Jock"
Born (1896-06-07)7 June 1896
Died 20 May 1970(1970-05-20) (aged 73)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1915–1956
Rank General
Unit Royal Engineers
Battles/wars

World War I:

World War II:

Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Military Cross
Mentioned in dispatches
Legion of Merit (US)
Distinguished Service Medal (US)

General Sir John Francis Martin Whiteley GBE KCB MC (7 June 1896 – 20 May 1970) was a senior British Army officer who became Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff (DCIGS). A career soldier, Whiteley was commissioned in 1915 into the Royal Engineers from the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. During World War I he served in Salonika and the Middle East.

In May 1940, during World War II, he was posted to General Headquarters (GHQ) Middle East in Cairo as Brigadier, General Staff (BGS) (Operations) under General Sir Archibald Wavell. In March 1942 he became Chief of Staff of the British Eighth Army, participating in the Battle of Gazala and the First Battle of El Alamein. In September 1942 Whiteley joined Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower's Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ) as the British Deputy Chief of Staff. When Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Allied Commander for Operation Overlord in January 1944, Whiteley was one of three key British staff officers Eisenhower brought to England to staff the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). Whiteley initially became Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence (G-2) at SHAEF before becoming deputy to the Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations (G-3), Major General Harold Bull in May 1944.

After a few months in Germany as Assistant Chief of Staff in the Control Commission, Whiteley was appointed Army Instructor at the Imperial Defence College to initiate the post-war courses under General Sir William Slim as Commandant. In 1947 Whiteley was selected for an exchange of appointments with Canada, and became Commandant of the Canadian National Defence College. He was DCIGS under Slim from 1949 until 1953, when he was promoted to full general, and took up his last appointment, as chairman of the British Joint Services Mission, Washington, D.C. and UK Representative on the NATO Standing Group from 1953 to 1956.

Early life and interbellum[edit]

John Francis Martin Whiteley was educated at Blundell's School in Tiverton and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned in 1915 in the Royal Engineers. During the First World War he served in Salonika and the Middle East.[1] He was awarded the Military Cross,[2] and a mention in despatches. [3]

Whiteley graduated from the Staff College, Camberley in 1928.[4]

Second World War[edit]

Middle East[edit]

When the Second World War began, Whiteley was serving in the War Office as a General Staff Officer, Grade 1 (GSO1). In May 1940 he was posted to General Headquarters (GHQ) Middle East in Cairo as Brigadier, General Staff (Operations) under General Sir Archibald Wavell. In February 1941, Whiteley conducted a series of meetings with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's, emissary to Britain, William J. Donovan, who had been sent to the Middle East on a fact-finding mission.[4] Following the passage of the United States Lend-Lease Act on 11 March 1941, Whiteley was sent to Washington, D.C. in May 1941 to present the President with Wavell's requirements. Whiteley's mission was fairly successful, and resulted in sixteen ships a month for the remainder of the year delivering supplies to the Middle East. Although not all of the requested items could be supplied, by the end of July store and equipment including nearly 10,000 trucks, 84 M3 Stuart tanks and 174 combat aircraft had arrived.[5]

Whiteley returned via London, where he briefed the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir John Dill and the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, on his mission to the United States. Churchill expressed his displeasure with the progress of the Western Desert Campaign,[4] which resulted in Wavell's replacement by General Sir Claude Auchinleck in July 1941.[6] In October 1941 Whiteley became Auchinleck’s envoy to London to brief the Prime Minister on the plans for Operation Crusader and the reasons why Auchinleck was resisting pressure to advance its date.[4]

During Operation Crusader, Auchinleck relieved the commander of the Eighth Army, Lieutenant-General Alan Cunningham, replacing him with his Deputy Chief of the General Staff (DCGS), Major-General Neil Ritchie. Amid doubts about Ritchie's suitability for the post, Auchinleck and his new DCGS, Brigadier Eric Dorman-Smith, decided that Whiteley should become Chief of Staff of the Eighth Army. Whiteley assumed his new post on 28 March 1942. His time in the post saw British fortunes fall to their lowest ebb, with the disastrous Battle of Gazala and the fall of Tobruk. Auchinleck assumed personal command of the Eighth Army on 25 June, and Whiteley was superseded by Dorman-Smith to some extent. However, Whiteley remained in the job until after the First Battle of El Alamein, when he was replaced by Brigadier Freddie de Guingand. In Auchinleck's opinion, Whiteley had proved himself a disappointment as Chief of Staff of the Eighth Army, but still recommended him for promotion on the basis of his performance at GHQ.[7]

North West Europe[edit]

Whiteley joined Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower's Allied Forces Headquarters as the British Deputy Chief of Staff, working with the American Deputy Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Alfred Gruenther, and the Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Walter Bedell Smith.[8] As such, Whiteley, who was duly promoted to major general in February 1943, was involved in the planning and direction of the Tunisian Campaign and the Allied invasion of Sicily. In August 1943 he acted as an envoy once more, travelling to London to brief Churchill on plans for the Allied invasion of Italy.[9]

When Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Allied Commander for Operation Overlord in January 1944, Whiteley was one of three key British staff officers he wanted to take with him to England to staff the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), the others being Kenneth Strong and Humfrey Gale. Eisenhower encountered resistance to this from the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Alan Brooke, who agreed to transfer Whiteley and, reluctantly, Gale, but not Strong.[10] Accordingly, Whiteley initially became Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence (G-2) at SHAEF, with American Brigadier General Thomas J. Betts as his deputy. However Eisenhower eventually had their way and Strong assumed the post on 25 May 1944. Whiteley then became deputy to the Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations (G-3), Major General Harold Bull. Whiteley remained in this post for the rest of the war.[11]

Whiteley remained on good terms with the staff at 21st Army Group, particularly de Guingand, who was now its chief of staff, although the relationship between the two headquarters was often stormy.[9] In December, during the Battle of the Bulge, Whiteley and Betts visited the U.S. First Army headquarters and were unimpressed with the way that it was handling the situation. Strong, Whiteley and Betts then recommended that the American armies north of the Ardennes be transferred to Montgomery's command. Smith realized the military and political implications of this, and knew that such a recommendation had to come from an American officer. Smith's immediate reaction was to dismiss it out of hand, and tell Strong and Whiteley that they were fired and should pack their bags and return to the United Kingdom, but that night Smith had second thoughts. The next morning he apologized, and informed them that he would present their recommendation to Eisenhower as his own. Eisenhower immediately ordered it. This decision was greatly resented by many Americans.[12]

Post-war[edit]

After a few months in Germany as Assistant Chief of Staff in the Control Commission, Whiteley was appointed Army Instructor at the Imperial Defence College to initiate the post-war courses under General Sir William Slim as Commandant. In 1947 Whiteley was selected for an exchange of appointments with Canada, and became Commandant of the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. His next appointment was as Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff at the War Office under Slim and he served in this post from 1949 until 1953. In 1953 Whiteley was promoted General and took up his last appointment as chairman of the British Joint Services Mission in Washington, D.C. and UK Representative on the NATO Standing Group. It fell to him as the representative of the British Chiefs of Staff to conduct the discussions on the introduction of tactical atomic weapons and the consequent adjustments to defence plans.[13]

In retirement, Whiteley and his wife settled in Wiltshire, at The Mill House, Steeple Langford.[14] He died on 20 May 1970.[1]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Obituary of Gen Sir John Whiteley,", The Times (Issue 57876), p. 10, 22 May 1970 
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30450. p. 49. 28 December 1917. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29851. p. 11937. 5 December 1916. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d Mead 2007, p. 485
  5. ^ Playfair et al. 1956, pp. 231–233
  6. ^ Playfair et al. 1956, pp. 243–244
  7. ^ Mead 2007, p. 486
  8. ^ Howe 1957, p. 33
  9. ^ a b Mead 2007, p. 487
  10. ^ Pogue 1954, pp. 64–65
  11. ^ Pogue 1954, p. 71
  12. ^ Pogue 1954, p. 378
  13. ^ Mead 2007, p. 488
  14. ^ National Gardens Scheme 1966, p. 115

References[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Brigadier General Donald Agnew
Commandant of the Royal Military College of Canada
1947
Succeeded by
J. Desmond B. Smith
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Kenneth Crawford
Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff
1949–1953
Succeeded by
Sir Alfred Ward
Preceded by
Sir William Elliott
Chief of the British Joint Staff Mission to Washington and
UK Military Representative to NATO

1953–1956
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Denny