Michael West (British Army officer)

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Sir Michael Montgomerie Alston-Roberts-West
Born(1905-10-27)27 October 1905
Died14 May 1978(1978-05-14) (aged 72)
Bembridge, Isle of Wight, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1925–1965
UnitOxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Commands held2nd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment
5th Infantry Brigade
2nd Infantry Division
1st Commonwealth Division
1st (British) Corps
Northern Command
Battles/warsSecond World War Korean War
AwardsKnight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order & Two Bars
Mentioned in despatches
Legion of Merit (United States)[1]

General Sir Michael Montgomerie Alston-Roberts-West GCB, DSO & Two Bars (27 October 1905 – 14 May 1978), better known as Sir Michael M.A.R. West, was a senior British Army officer who achieved high office in the 1960s. He served in the Second World War and the Korean War, where he commanded the 1st Commonwealth Division and later became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) for Northern Command.[1] West was a witty and unconventional soldier, with a taste for partying and jazz.[2]

Early life and military career[edit]

West was the son of Captain Harry Charles John Alston-Roberts-West, RN, and Olive Molyneux-Montgomerie.

West was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, British Army, in 1925.[3] He went to India, serving with the 2nd Battalion, in 1935.[3]

He served in the Second World War (1939–1945), initially as a brigade major for the 163rd Infantry Brigade.[3] He was then appointed Commanding officer (CO) of the 2nd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment and was deployed to Madagascar in 1942.[3] He became Deputy Commander of the 72nd Indian Infantry Brigade in 1943 and Commander of the 5th Infantry Brigade in Burma in 1944.[3]

After the war he joined the School of Infantry in 1946 moving on to be Deputy Director of Manpower Planning at the War Office in 1949. He was appointed General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) British Troops in Austria in 1950. West was appointed General officer commanding (GOC) of the 1st Commonwealth Division in Korea from 1952 to 1953 and has been described as "the architect of British strategy in the Korean War".[2] He was Director of the Territorial Army (TA) from 1955 and then GOC 1st (British) Corps, part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), from 1958. He became GOC-in-C for Northern Command in 1960 and Head of the British Defence Staff in Washington, D.C. and UK Representative on the NATO Standing Group in 1962.[3]

West was often routinely provocative and, as a relatively junior officer, he regularly challenged US President Dwight D. Eisenhower's planning and was "invariably" found to be right.[2] Despite his successes and influence, West was thought to be too unpredictable for the highest levels of command and he retired in September 1965.[3]

West was a friend or acquaintance of musicians Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan.[2] He was a keen dancer and artist,[4][5] and used to drive a London taxi.[2]

There is a memorial to him in the Church at Whitchurch in Warwickshire.[6]


On 24 August 1935, he married Christine Sybil Oppenheim, from Newbury. The couple had one daughter, Carinthia (who was courted by Mick jagger[2]).[1]

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Houterman, Hans; Koppes, Jeroen. "British Army Officers – 1939–1945". World War II Unit Histories. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Anthony Powell Society
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  4. ^ The cook, her lover and a spicy divorce Daily Mail, 26 July 2007
  5. ^ Quay Arts – Michael West Gallery Archived 6 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Papers of Michael Harvey University of Reading
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Harold Pyman
GOC 1st (British) Corps
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Jones
Preceded by
Sir Richard Goodbody
GOC-in-C Northern Command
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Jones
Preceded by
Sir George Mills
Head of the British Defence Staff in Washington, D.C. and
UK Military Representative to NATO

Succeeded by
Sir Nigel Henderson