William Dobbie bigraphy, stories - British general

William Dobbie : biography

12 July 1879 - 3 October 1964

Lieutenant-General Sir William George Shedden Dobbie GCMG, KCB, DSO (12 July 1879 – 3 October 1964) was a British Army veteran of the Second Boer War, and First and Second World Wars.

Interwar years

He was General Officer Commanding Malaya Command from 1935 to 1939.


  • Reverend Daniel A. Poling, 1943
    • Never before in any comparable area, have I found so many ranking executives giving so much attention to religion.
  • Prime Minister Churchill
    • [Dobbie is] a Governor of outstanding character who inspired all ranks and classes, military and civil, with his...determination...a soldier who...in...leadership and religious zeal...recalled memories of General Gordon and...the Ironsides and Covenanters.
  • Lord Louis Mountbatten
    • [Dobbie] prays aloud after dinner, invoking the aid of God in destroying our enemies. This is highly approved of by the Maltese, who have the same idea about God, but I would prefer an efficient Air force here.
  • Mabel Strickland
    • At San Anton, every night about seven, everyone would be summoned for prayer...Dobbie would stand...and...pray...and....ask the Almighty to bless the convoy...but he never prayed to stop the bombing...that was God's will...God helps those that help themselves...
  • William Dobbie, on British intervention to restore order in the Arab-Jewish riots of 1928
    • This will be the easiest war... We will have to fight only four days a week. The Arabs won't fight on Friday, the Jews on Saturday and Dobbie certainly won't on Sunday.
  • Dobbie was stationed in Palestine and had an office overlooking (Gordon's) Golgotha. In 1929 the Bible Society distributed New Testaments to the British soldiers serving there. Dobbie wrote the following note which was inserted into each copy for his troops:
    • You are stationed at the place where the central event in human history occurred - namely the crucifixion of the Son of God. You may see the place where this happened and you may read the details in this book. As you do this, you cannot help being interested, but your interest will change into something far deeper when you realise the events concern you personally. It was for your sake the Son of God died on the cross here. The realisation of this fact cannot but produce a radical change in one's life - and the study of this book will, under God's guidance, help you to such a realisation. W.G.S. Dobbie (Brigadier) 10 October 1929.
  • I can't help feeling that the security of the Fortress might be better served by having a stronger force in being outside it … I consequently feel that the answers to the possible threat (of Japanese landing and establishing an advanced base on the mainland) is primarily to be found in suitable mobile forces in being in the Malay Peninsula… - Dobbie's letter as GOC (Malaya), to the War Office on 17 March 1936.

Dobbie's hypothesis to the fall of Singapore

In 1936, Dobbie, then General Officer Commanding (Malaya) stationed in Singapore, made an inquiry to find out if more forces were required on mainland Malaya, so as to prevent the likelihood of Japanese landings and capturing forward bases to attack Singapore. Percival, then his Chief Staff Officer, was tasked to draw up a tactical appreciation on how the Japanese were most likely to attack. Percival's finalised report in the late 1937, did confirm that north Malaya was a strategic position for the conquest of Singapore and Borneo.Ong, Chit Chung (1997) Operation Matador: Britain's war plans against the Japanese 1918–1941. Singapore: Times Academic Press. Both Dobbie and Percival made it clear that Singapore could no longer be seen as a self-contained naval base, and that its survival rested on the defence of mainland Malaya. So in May 1938, Dobbie wrote to the Chief Of Staff: ...It is an attack from the northward that I regard as the greatest potential danger to the Fortress (Singapore). Such an attack could be carried out in the northeast monsoon.The jungle is not in most places, impassable for infantry...Dobbie, as cited in Lt. Gen. A. E. Percival, Operation of Malayan Command from 8 December 1941 to 15 February 1942, 2nd supplement to The London Gazette of Friday, 20 February 1948; dated Thursday, 26 February 1948, p.1250. Dobbie further added that an attack might be possible between the months of November and March, despite high winds and waves produced by the northeast monsoon. The recent landing of "5000 smuggled coolies" during this period, dissolved any preconceptions that the monsoon offered protection. On the contrary, this monsoon would provide good cloud cover for the invaders.Dobbie correspondences (War Office Document no. W106/2441), in Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence Papers. in Hack, Karl & Blackburn, Kevin (2004) Did Singapore have to fall? : Churchill and the impregnable fortress. London : RoutledgeCurzon.

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