Rupert Smith

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Sir Rupert Smith
Born (1943-12-13) 13 December 1943 (age 79)[1]
Chelmsford, Essex, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1962–2002
Service number477836
Commands heldDeputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (1998–01)
HQ Northern Ireland (1996–98)
UN forces in Bosnia (1995)
1st Armoured Division (1990–92)
Battles/warsThe Troubles
Gulf War
Bosnian War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Queen's Gallantry Medal
Legionnaire of the Legion of Merit (United States)
Order of King Abdulaziz, 3rd Class (Saudi Arabia)
Other workAuthor

General Sir Rupert Anthony Smith, KCB, DSO & Bar, OBE, QGM (born 13 December 1943) is a retired British Army officer and author of The Utility of Force. He was a senior commander during the Gulf War, for which he was recognised with the award of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), and again during the Bosnian War, for which he was recognised with the award of a bar to his DSO. He later became Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

Early life and education[edit]

Smith was born in Chelmsford, Essex, England on 13 December 1943, the son of Irving Smith and Joan Debenham.[1] His father was a New Zealand fighter ace in the Battle of Britain who later led No. 487 Squadron RNZAF before rising to group captain in the service of the Royal Air Force.[2]

Smith was educated at the Haileybury and Imperial Service College and later at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.[1]

Military career[edit]

Smith enlisted in 1962 and graduating from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Parachute Regiment in December 1964.[3] He has served in East and South Africa, Arabia, the Caribbean, Northern Ireland, Europe and Malaysia. He was promoted lieutenant in June 1966,[4] captain in December 1970,[5] and major in December 1975.[6] In 1978, when a major, he was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for services in Northern Ireland.[7]

In June 1980 Smith was promoted to lieutenant colonel and,[8] having been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1982 New Year Honours,[9] was advanced in June 1985 to colonel.[10] His promotion to brigadier came in December 1986.[11]

In October 1990 Smith was promoted major general and assumed command of the 1st Armoured Division[12][13] which he led during the Gulf War. For services during the war he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO),[14] the United States Legion of Merit and the Saudi Order of King Abdulaziz, 3rd Class.[15] The citation for the DSO, published in the London Gazette reads:

Major General Smith has led the largest British armoured force deployed in action since World War II. He has done so with consummate skill and outstanding personal leadership and under direct enemy fire.

Within two weeks of taking over 1 Armoured Division in Germany, Major General Smith was despatched to the Gulf to command 35,000 men and women making up the British Ground Force contribution to Operation Granby. The force was made up of a wide variety of individuals, many never having served together before. He was given a two Brigade Division with exceptionally strong artillery and engineer support. Although he did not know it at the time, he had only six weeks to pull his force together, train it, and deploy it some 350 miles, and set up a close working relationship with the Americans under whose tactical control he was placed.

By the time the war started he had achieved all of these targets and had a first class fighting Division under his command.

During the land battle his Division was given a key role in the US VII Corps battle which involved a rapid exploitation of the minefield breach and a rapid advance to destroy some three Iraqi divisions. Failure to achieve it would have destroyed the main thrust of the Commander in Chiefs battle plan and could have resulted in grave and heavy US casualties.

With consummate personal attention to the detailed planning, and with outstanding personal leadership, Major General Smith swept his command through the breach and attacked the Iraqi division in detail. He personally led from the front with fearless disregard for the enemy anti tank fire, and despite the high threat of chemical weapons being used. With outstanding skill, and no little personal bravery, his Division achieved its objectives, secured the flank of VII Corps and enabled the main thrust of Desert Storm to sweep through and destroy the Iraqi rear divisions.

Major General Smith has led the major British land force operations on Operation Granby with a level of skill and personal bravery that is a credit to our nation.[14]

He became the first Assistant Chief of Defence Operations and Security at the UK Ministry of Defence in August 1992.[16] While there he was intimately involved in the UK's development of the strategy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In January 1995 he was granted the acting rank of lieutenant general and appointed Commander Bosnia and Herzogovina Command[17] to command UNPROFOR in Sarajevo. His lieutenant general rank was made substantive in April 1995,[18] and he was awarded a Bar to his DSO in 1996 for his services in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[19] Knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 1996 New Year Honours,[20] Smith was General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland from 1996 to 1998.[21] His final assignment, initially as an acting general, was as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe between 1998[22] and 2001, covering NATO's Operation Allied Force during the Kosovo war, and the development of the European Security and Defence Identity. His general's rank was made substantive on 1 January 1999.[23] His retirement from the army took effect in January 2002.[24]

He was appointed Honorary Colonel of Exeter University OTC in June 2003[25] having held periods of tenure as Colonel Commandant Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (November 1992[26] to November 1997[27]) and Colonel Commandant The Parachute Regiment (July 1993[28] to September 1998[29]). He also held the appointment of Aide-de-Camp General to the Queen between August 2000[30] and November 2001.[31]


External video
video icon After Words interview with Smith on The Utility of Force, May 10, 2008, C-SPAN
  • The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Allen Lane, 2005) ISBN 0-7139-9836-9[32]

A treatise on modern warfare, it explains why the best military forces in the world win their battles but lose the wars. This is due to the paradigm change in military activity, from industrial warfare to the paradigm identified in the book as "war amongst the people"—a situation in which an outcome cannot be resolved directly by military force.[33] The strategies for war amongst the people should be analysed as fighting and winning a linked series of confrontations rather than a series of battles.[34]


  1. ^ a b c Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 3664. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Irving Smith". The Guardian. 1 March 2000. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  3. ^ "No. 43576". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 February 1965. p. 1676.
  4. ^ "No. 44023". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 1966. p. 7001.
  5. ^ "No. 45257". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 December 1970. p. 13920.
  6. ^ "No. 46773". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1975. p. 16371.
  7. ^ "No. 47610". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 August 1978. p. 9495.
  8. ^ "No. 48245". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 July 1980. p. 9716.
  9. ^ "No. 48837". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1981. p. 6.
  10. ^ "No. 50204". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 July 1985. p. 10106.
  11. ^ "No. 50799". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 January 1987. p. 449.
  12. ^ "No. 52359". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 December 1990. p. 19055.
  13. ^ "No. 52317". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 October 1990. p. 16821.
  14. ^ a b "No. 52588". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 June 1991. p. 7.
  15. ^ "No. 53326". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 June 1993. p. 9831.
  16. ^ "No. 53028". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 August 1992. p. 14360.
  17. ^ "No. 53933". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 January 1995. p. 963.
  18. ^ "No. 54022". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 May 1995. p. 6339.
  19. ^ "No. 54393". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 May 1996. p. 6547.
  20. ^ "No. 54255". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1995. p. 2.
  21. ^ "No. 54336". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 March 1996. p. 3327.
  22. ^ "No. 55325". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 November 1998. p. 13067.
  23. ^ "No. 55365". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 January 1999. p. 53.
  24. ^ "No. 56459". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 January 2002. p. 781.
  25. ^ "No. 56952". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 2003. p. 6799.
  26. ^ "No. 53095". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 November 1992. p. 18427.
  27. ^ "No. 54937". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 November 1997. p. 12372.
  28. ^ "No. 53426". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 September 1993. p. 14962.
  29. ^ "No. 55253". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 September 1998. p. 9957.
  30. ^ "No. 55935". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 August 2000. p. 8748.
  31. ^ "No. 56399". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 November 2001. p. 13956.
  32. ^ Author page for General Sir Rupert Smith at Penguin books
  33. ^ Gal Perl Finkel, How to win a modern war, The Jerusalem Post, 7 September 2016
  34. ^ Confrontation Analysis by Professor Nigel Howard at CCRP

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by General Officer Commanding the 1st Armoured Division
Succeeded by
Preceded by General Officer Commanding the British Army in Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Succeeded by