Michael O'Moore Creagh

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Michael O'Moore Creagh
Born 16 May 1892
Cahirbane, County Clare, Ireland
Died 14 December 1970 (aged 78)
London, Middlesex, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1911–1944
Rank Major General
Unit 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars
15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars
Commands held 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars
Mobile Division (Egypt)
7th Armoured Division
3rd Armoured Group
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Military Cross
Mentioned in dispatches
Relations Sir O'Moore Creagh (father)

Major General Sir Michael O'Moore Creagh KBE, MC (16 May 1892 – 1970) was a British Army who served in both the world wars. He commanded the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, between 1939 and 1941.

Early life and military career[edit]

Creagh was born on 16 May 1892 to O'Moore Creagh, a Victoria Cross recipient and officer in the British Indian Army, and his second wife Elizabeth (née Reade). Educated at Wellington College, he entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and was then commissioned into the 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars in 1911.[1][2] By the end of the First World War, Creagh had served as an aide de camp to the divisional commander Home Forces (1914–15), as a staff captain in France (1917–18) and a brigade major (1918–19).

Between the wars[edit]

Creagh stayed in the army after the war, attending the Staff College, Camberley from 1924 to 1925, and commanded the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars from 1934 to 1938.[2]

World War II[edit]

On 4 December 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, Creagh took over the Mobile Division (Egypt)[3] stationed on the Egyptian frontier, succeeding the original General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major General Percy Hobart, who was retired by General Sir Archibald Wavell.[2] In February 1940 the formation was renamed 7th Armoured Division and Creagh's tenure of command of this division was the longest of any of its GOCs.[2]

Sidi Barrani[edit]

Creagh led the division through its earliest triumphs against the Italians after they entered the war on 10 June 1940.[3] Under General Mario Berti the Italians invaded Egypt and advanced 60 miles to Sidi Barrani where they halted. It was here that Creagh's 7th Armoured Division fought its first major battle in the Operation Compass counterattack on 8 December, joining with 4th Indian Division in the Western Desert Force (WDF) to mount the attack. As a result, the Italians were driven back quickly into Cyrenaica, the eastern province of their colonial territory, Libya.

Bardia and Tobruk[edit]

The small port of Bardia fell to advancing British, Australian and Indian forces in the WDF under the command of General Sir Richard O'Connor, followed as the new year of 1941 came in, by Tobruk as the Italians retreated along the Via Balbia, the metallised coastal road that led back to Benghazi and Tripoli. This was the top half of a semicircle, the bottom straight line of the semicircle was formed by rough rock-strewn desert, unpromising territory for armoured and mechanised military units like 7th Armoured Division.

Beda Fomm[edit]

Creagh's division was to travel via Mechili, Msus and Antelat (the bottom of the semicircle), while the Australian 6th Division chased the retreating Italian Tenth Army along the coast road round the Jebel Akhdar mountains to the north (the curve of the semicircle). The poor terrain was hard going for the tanks, and Creagh took the bold decision to send a flying column - christened "Combe Force" - south-west across the virtually unmapped Libyan Desert. Combe Force, under its namesake Lieutenant Colonel John Combe of the 11th Hussars, consisted of the 11th Hussars, a squadron of the King's Dragoon Guards, the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own), an RAF armoured car squadron, anti-tank guns from 3rd Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery and C Battery, 4th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery. The force totalled about 2,000 men. On 5 February, Combe Force succeeded in cutting off the Italians at Sidi Saleh and Beda Fomm. The small force held the Italians long enough to be joined by the armour of 4 Brigade on 6 February. The bulk of the Tenth Army surrendered the next day as a result of this successful blockade of their path.[3]

In March 1941 Creagh was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), and was twice mentioned in Despatches that year.

On 3 September 1941 he was relieved as commander of the division by Major General William Gott following the costly failure of Operation Battleaxe. Creagh commanded 3 Armoured Group from 1941 and Hampshire and Dorset District from 1942 before retiring in 1944.[4]

In retirement Creagh worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  2. ^ a b c d Smart, p. 72
  3. ^ a b c "Divisional Commanders of 7th Armoured Division". Archived from the original on August 14, 2007. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 
  4. ^ 5
  • British Unit Histories
  • Doherty, Richard, British Armoured Divisions and their Commanders 1939-1945
  • Joslen, Lt Col J. F., Orders of Battle, Second World War 1939-1945
  • Smart, Nick (2005). Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Barnesley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 1844150496. 
  • Verney, Maj Gen G. L., The Desert Rats. The 7th Armoured Division in World War II
Military offices
Preceded by
Percy Hobart
GOC Mobile Division (Egypt)
1939–1940
Succeeded by
Post redesignated 7th Armoured Division
Preceded by
New post
GOC 7th Armoured Division
1940–1941
Succeeded by
William Gott