Henry Maitland Wilson, 1st Baron Wilson bigraphy, stories - British field marshal

Henry Maitland Wilson, 1st Baron Wilson : biography

5 September 1881 - 31 December 1964

Field Marshal Henry Maitland Wilson, 1st Baron Wilson, GCB, GBE, DSO (5 September 1881 – 31 December 1964), also known as "Jumbo" Wilson, saw active service in the Second Boer War and then during the First World War on the Somme and at Passchendaele. During the Second World War he served as General Officer Commanding (GOC) British Troops in Egypt, in which role he launched Operation Compass, attacking Italian forces with considerable success, in December 1940. He went on to be Military Governor of Cyrenaica in February 1941, Commander of a Commonwealth expeditionary force to Greece in April 1941 and General Officer Commanding Palestine and Trans-Jordan in May 1941.

Wilson became General Officer Commanding the British Ninth Army in Syria and Palestine in October 1941, General Officer Commanding Persia and Iraq Command in August 1942 and General Officer Commanding Middle East Command in February 1943. In the closing stages of the War he was Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean, from January 1944, and then Chief of the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington D. C. from January 1945.


Early life and military service

Born in London, England, the son of Captain Arthur Maitland Wilson and his wife Harriet Wilson (née Kingscote), Wilson was educated at Eton College and the Sandhurst.Heathcote, p.308 He was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade as a 2nd lieutenant on 10 March 1900. He served with the 2nd Battalion in South Africa in the Second Boer War, and having taken part in operations there in August 1900, was promoted to lieutenant on 18 March 1901. He was posted with his battalion to Egypt and then in 1907 to India. Promoted to captain on 2 April 1908 he served with the 3rd Battalion at Bordon in Hampshire and then in Tipperary in Ireland, and in 1911 became Adjutant of the Oxford OTC.

Wilson served in the Great War, being appointed Brigade Major of 48th Brigade on 15 October 1914; having been promoted to the rank of acting major in December 1914 and then to the substantive rank of major on 15 September 1915, he was sent to France to serve on the Western Front in December 1915. His capabilities as a staff officer led to him being moved to become GSO 2 of the 41st Division on the Somme and of the XIX Corps at Passchendaele. In October 1917 he was appointed GSO 1 of the New Zealand Division with promotion to temporary lieutenant colonel on 28 October 1917. For his war service he was awarded the DSO in 1917 and was thrice mentioned in dispatches.

After being promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel on 1 January 1919 and being hand-picked for the first post-war staff course at Camberley, Wilson was given command of a company of cadets at Sandhurst.Heathcote, p. 309 He then became second-in-command of the 2nd Battalion, the Rifle Brigade at Aldershot in August 1923. Next he took command of his regiment's 1st Battalion on the North-West Frontier in January 1927, receiving promotion to the substantive rank of lieutenant colonel on 15 June 1927.

Returning to be an instructor at Camberley in June 1930, Wilson spent 9 months on half pay in 1933. Promoted to temporary brigadier, he became Commander of 6th Infantry Brigade in 1934 and, having been promoted to major-general on 30 April 1935, he became General Officer Commanding 2nd Division in August 1937.

Second World War

Egypt (1939–1941)

On 15 June 1939, Wilson was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) British Troops in Egypt, with the rank of lieutenant general, in which role he was also responsible for giving military advice for a range of countries from Abyssinia to the Persian Gulf. He made his HQ in Cairo and undertook successful negotiations with the Egyptian government at their summer quarters in Alexandria. The Treaty of 1936 called for the Egyptian army to fight under British command in the event of war and to supplement the limited force then at his disposal — an armoured division then being formed (later to be the 7th Armoured Division) and eight British battalions. He concentrated his defensive forces at Mersa Matruh some 100 miles from the border with Libya.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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