General Sir Archibald Wavell 1883 – 1950

Archibald Wavell was born on 5 May 1883 at Colchester, Essex, son of General A G Wavell, CBE. Wavell was educated at Winchester College, the original Public School, and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst where he graduated top of his class. He was commissioned into the 42nd Highland Regiment (The Black Watch) in 1901, serving in both South Africa (where he was decorated five times) and in 1903 was transferred to India, where he fought in the Bazar Valley Campaign of 1908. He went to France at the outbreak of the First World War with the British Expeditionary Force and won the Military Cross at Ypres, but was badly wounded and lost his left eye. He married Eugenie Marie Quirk in 1915, having one son and three daughters.

In 1917 he was sent to represent the Chief of the Imperial General Staff on General Edmund Allenby’s staff during the Egyptian Campaign, and later wrote his biography. Wavell was appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the newly created Middle East Command on 2 August 1939 and it was under his command that O’Connor routed the Italian forces advancing into Egypt. One of the major problems he faced was his relationship with the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, whose complete underestimation of Wavell was made worse by his constantly trying to interfere with his command. He was forced to divert precious forces to help the Greeks during the Balkan Campaign, a move he completely disagreed with, and faced the arrival of General Erwin Rommel and the Afrika Korps.

He was succeeded by General Claude Auckinleck as C-in-C, Middle East in June 1941 and was posted to the Far East where he assumed the role of Commander-in-Chief, British Forces in India but was sent to Burma after Japan had entered the war in December 1941 to organise its defences. The Burma Campaign did not start well with the Japanese outnumbering and outfighting the British and a series of defeats led to a retreat back into India (see Japanese conquest of Burma). As a result, Wavell resigned his post in February 1942. In January 1943 he was promoted to Field Marshal and in June 1943 was appointed Viceroy of India and gained a peerage as 1st Earl of Cyrenaica and Winchester. One of his first acts was to free Congress leaders from prison and worked hard to resolve Hindu-Moslem differences. He remained Viceroy until March 1947 when he was replaced by Mountbatten (the last Viceroy). Wavell returned to Britain, where he died on 24 May 1950.

Bibliography and Further Reading

http://expage.com/page/wwiigen78
http://www.dutcheastindies.webs.com/wavell.html
http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Archibald%20Percival%20Wavell,%201st%20Earl%20Wavell
http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWwavell.htm
Wavell, Scholar and Soldier , Connell, J., Collins, London, 1964.
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Wavell: Portrait of a Soldier , Fergusson, B., Collins, London, 1961.
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Churchill's Generals , Keegan, J., Weidenfeld, London, 1990.
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The Chief , Lewin, R., Hutchinson, London, 1980.
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The Crucible of War: Wavell's Command , Pitt, B., Papermac, London, 1986.
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How to cite this article: Antill, P. (7 March 2005 ), General Sir Archibald Wavell 1883 – 1950, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_wavell.html

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