Eric Dorman-Smith bigraphy, stories - British Army general

Eric Dorman-Smith : biography

24 July 1895 - 11 May 1969

Eric Edward ("Chink") Dorman-Smith (24 July 1895 – 11 May 1969), later de-Anglicised to Eric Edward Dorman O'Gowan, was a British Army soldier whose career began with distinguished service in World War I. In the 1920s, he was one of the military thinkers in various countries - c.v. Heinz Guderian in Germany and Charles de Gaulle in France - who realised that technology and motorisation were changing the way that wars and battles were fought. Influenced by people such as J. F. C. Fuller, Archibald Wavell and Liddell Hart, he took an active role in trying to change the culture of the British army and held a number of teaching and training roles in various parts of the British Empire. His apparently arrogant manner and brusqueness towards people he considered less intelligent than himself made him a number of enemies who would later become highly influential.

Although he made several contributions in advisory roles during the campaigns in the Western Desert in 1940 and 1941, it was not until May 1942 that he went on active service again. However, his service record in World War II is shrouded in controversy and ended when he was sacked from his command in strange circumstances in 1944. Thereafter, he retired to Ireland.

During the 1950s and 60s, when the Western desert campaigns began to be played out all over again in memoirs, biographies and history books, he maintained loyalty to those people in whom he had placed his trust - especially Sir Claude Auchinleck, whose reputation he was always eager to defend. In view of how short a time he was on active service during World War II, it is noteworthy that he is still regarded as a controversial figure in many histories of the war in Egypt and in the memoirs and biographies of people involved.

Involvement with Ireland

Four years after he was forcibly retired from the British Army, he changed his name from Dorman-Smith to O'Gowan, having long been aware that his father was descended from the O'Gowans, once one of the ruling families of Ulster.Greacen p. 12 In 1945, as a Liberal, he had contested the safe Tory seat of Wirral in Cheshire. He won 14,302 votes and retained his deposit but Selwyn Lloyd held on to the seat for the Conservatives. "Chink" retired to Dublin. Eve joined him in November 1945 and gave birth to Christopher on 10 May 1946 and Rionagh in December 1947. He began to study in the library at University College, Dublin, after his application to read for a degree was rejected.Greacen p. 297

Throughout his military career, Dorman-Smith had retained contacts with Ireland. He did not inherit Bellamont Forest until his father died in March 1948 and his parents had long ceased to reside there, leading to the estate becoming very run-down by the time he took it over, but he paid regular visits during the 1920s and 30s. The estate was situated 11 miles from the Ulster border and so, at times, it became a place of interest to the Republicans. During one of Dorman-Smith's stays, Eamonn de Valera who seems to have been interested in learning of "Chink's" views on the state of the Irish army made an informal and unannounced visit.Greacen p. 109 During his time at the Staff College in 1927-8, two Irish Army officers paid an official visit - after rebukes from the UK for visiting Fort Leavenworth in the USA.Greacen p. 101 Montgomery, the senior lecturer, ordered a boycott so the welcoming party consisted only of the Commandant and Dorman-Smith. This was, perhaps, another fateful disagreement with Montgomery.

In 1950, he joined Clann na Poblachta, a new party led by Sean MacBride, who had been an IRA officer in Carlow during Chink's posting there. His ties and allegiance to the UK were fading fast. In May 1951 he stood for election to the Dail as an independent candidate, since Clann were already supporting another candidate, but received very few votes.Greacen p. 303 He later became an IRA advisor to the IRA Executive during the 1950s Border Campaign. Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives. King's College London. University of London. Retrieved 23 March 2010

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