Information

Claude Auchinleck


Claude Auchinleck, was born in Ulster on 21st July, 1884. Educated at Wellington College and Sandhurst Military Academy. He graduated in 1904 and was commission into the 62nd Punjab Regiment where he saw action in Egypt, Aden and Mesopotamia.

In 1933 Auchinleck joined with General Harold Alexander in repelling invading tribesmen and pacifying large regions of India. Promoted to the rank of major general he was given control of the Meerut District in 1938.

Auchinleck returned to Britain on the outbreak of the Second World War and on 7th May, 1940, he was sent to command 25,000 British, French and Polish troops in Norway. The Allies took Narvik on 28th May but when German reinforcements arrived in June 1940 Auchinleck was ordered to withdraw from Norway.

Promoted to full general he returned to India before in July, 1941, replacing General Archibald Wavell as commander in chief of British troops in the Middle East. Auchinleck soon clashed with Winston Churchill who demanded the he should immediate organize an offensive against General Erwin Rommel and the Deutsches Afrika Korps. Auchinleck insisted on having time to prepare and he did not launch Operation Crusader until 18th November, 1941.

Initially this was very successful and Erwin Rommel was forced to abandon his siege of Tobruk on 4th December, and the following month had moved as far west as Archibald Wavell had achieved a year previously. Aware that Wavell's supply lines were now overextended, and after Rommel gained obtained reinforcements from Tripoli he launched a counterattack It was now the turn of the British Army to retreat.

After losing Benghazi on 29th January, Auchinleck ordered his troops to retreat to Gazala. Over the next few months the Eighth Army, under Lieutenant General Neil Richie, established a line of fortifications and minefields. Erwin Rommel launched his offensive on 26th May. The Italian infantry attacked at the front while Rommel led his panzers round the edge of the fortifications to cut off the supply routes.

Ritchie outnumbered Rommel by two to one but he wasted his advantage by not using his tanks together. After defeating a series of small counter-attacks Rommel was able to capture Sidi Muftah. On 12th June, two of the three British armoured brigades were caught in a pincer movement and were badly defeated. Two days later Neil Richie, with only 100 tanks left, abandoned Gazala.

Rommel returned to Tobruk and took the port on 21st June, 1942. This included the capture of over 35,000 British troops. However, Rommel now only had 57 tanks left and was forced to wait for new supplies to arrive before heading into Egypt.

The following month Erwin Rommel and the Deutsches Afrika Korps were only 113km (70 miles) from Alexandria. The situation was so serious that Winston Churchill made the long journey to Egypt to discover for himself what needed to be done. Churchill decided to make changes to the command structure. On 8th August, 1942, Auchinleck was replaced by General Harold Alexander.

Auchinleck was unassigned for almost a year but on 20th June, 1943, he replaced Archibald Wavell as commander in chief of the British Army in India. He was knighted and made a field marshal in June, 1945.

After the war Auchinleck was given the task of splitting the Indian Army into the new armies of India and Pakistan. He was accused of being partial to the Pakistanis and in August 1947 Lord Mountbatten forced him to resign.

Auchinleck left India before it became independent and returned to London where he held several administrative posts until he retired in 1968 to Marrakech. Claude Auchinleck died in 1981.

I had not liked his attitude in the Norwegian campaign at Narvik. He had seemed to be inclined to play too much for safety and certainty, neither of which exists in war, and to be content to subordinate everything to the satisfaction of what he estimated as minimum requirements. However, I had been much impressed with his personal qualities, his presence, and high character.

Auchinleck was a poor picker of men,. A good judge of men would never have selected General Corbett to be his Chief of Staff in the Middle East. And to suggest that Corbett should take command of the Eighth Army, as Auchinleck did, passed all comprehension. Again, nobody in his senses would have sent Ritchie to succeed Cunningham in command of the Eighth Army; Richie had not the experience or qualifications for the job and in the end he had to be removed to.

Since the Panzer divisions now seemed to be committed to battle and were supported to be losing a considerable number of tanks, General Cunningham allowed the signal to be given for the Torbruk sorties to begin and the XIIIth Corps to start operations. On November 21 however our difficulties began. The enemy, as was to be expected, reacted at once to the threat to Sidi Rezegh, and his armoured divisions evaded the 4th and 22nd Armoured Brigades. The whole of the enemy armour then combined to drive us from the vital area and to prevent help reaching the Support Group and the 7th Armoured Brigade, which were isolated there. Neither of these formations was designed to carry out a prolonged defence, and it is greatly to their credit that they managed to do so, unaided, throughout the 21st.

Next day all three armoured brigades joined in the defence of the area. But our tanks and anti-tank guns were no match for the German, although they were fought with great gallantry, and on the evening of November 22 the XXXth Corps was compelled to retire, having lost two-thirds of the tanks and leaving the garrison of Tobruk with a huge salient to defend.

The enemy rounded off his success in spectacular fashion. In a night attack he surprised and completely disorganized the 4th Armoured Brigade, whose hundred tanks represented two-thirds of our remaining armoured strength. On the 23rd he practically annihilated the 5th South African Infantry Brigade, one of the only two infantry brigades General Norrie had under command - there was no transport for any more - and then on the 24th with his armoured divisions he made a powerful counter-stroke to the frontier.

Throughout the day our mobile forces continued successfully to attack the enemy, whose general trend of movement in north-west. A number of engagements took place, but owing to the wide area covered and the the difficulties of communication detailed reports have not been received.

Enemy troops and transport sheltering behind defences immediately west of El Adem were attacked by British armoured units, while farther to the west British and South African mobile columns pressed the enemy back all day in a north-westerly direction.

Small pockets of enemy infantry and armoured cars left in the area north of Bir Hacheim are being dealt with.

In the late afternoon our armoured forces attacked and drove off a number of German tanks which were endeavouring to interfere with operations being carried out west of El Adem by Sikhs, Punjabis, and the Royal Sussex Regiment.

Some miles south-west of Acroma British armoured units shelled a concentration of enemy motor transport, burning some and damaging others.

At Tobruk itself, Polish units, maintaining pressure on the enemy, captured two posts on the western defences. Enemy air action against Tobruk yesterday was on a somewhat increased scale, but ineffective.

Further east South African troops continued to clear up the area north of the Trigh Capuzzo, where a few enemy stragglers are still being captured. New Zealanders are also engaged in mopping-up operations in the area immediately east of Tobruk.

Supporting ground forces, our air forces carried out continual sweeps over the whole area of operations. Enemy concentrations and motor transport were attacked and near Acroma, in particular, a number were damaged and set on fire. Ground troops shot down one German Me. 110.

Bad weather in the desert is making any clear picture of the operations difficult to obtain. For two days heavy sandstorms have blown incessantly, but in this thick, greyish pall which overhangs everything the British advance continues.

Under continual pressure Rommel's men are withdrawing quickly westwards. Our advance is three-pronged. New Zealanders from Tobruk have struck rapidly along the coast and have now reached the eastern outskirts of Gazala, while Indian and British troops have pushed up from the south-east and have reached the other side of Gazala. On the southern flank our columns continue their slow but steady advance, mopping up enemy positions as they go. Finally, hard pressure on the central sector has not been lifted since the attack opened last week. Should the northern and southern prongs advance more rapidly than the enemy withdraws and eventually meet the encircling movement will be complete.

Because we have succeeded in pushing on our advance and there are not any particular reports of enemy opposition it should not be imagined that the enemy is not fighting back strongly. Rommel is still full of fight, but he clearly does not think the present conditions favourable. While withdrawing his troops he is putting up strong resistance; and every mile of ground we take has to be fought for.

Auchinleck spent a long weekend with me at Chequers. As we got to know better this distinguished officer, upon whose qualities our fortunes were now so largely to depend, and as he became acquainted with the high circle of the British war machine and saw how easily and smoothly it worked, mutual confidence grew. On the other hand, we could not induce him to depart from his resolve to have a prolonged delay in order to prepare a set-piece offensive on November 1st. This would be called "Crusader", and would be the largest operation we had yet launched.

In the Middle East the morale of all our people was most deplorable. Auchinleck had completely lost confidence in himself. Everybody was always looking over their shoulders towards prepared positions to which to retreat. The units at the Front were hopelessly mixed up, and there was no evidence of good staff work. Auchinleck had 180 Generals on his staff. This number has now been reduced to 30 by his successor. We should, of course, have hit Rommel hard when he reached his furthest point of advance. Winston Churchill and Sir Alan Brooke both went up to the line and followed different routes, and met that evening to compare notes. "Both", said Morton, "came back with faces like boots." They were both convinced that drastic and speedy action must be taken. Already there had been a very great improvement. But it was only just in time. Alexander, Auchinleck's successor, has hitherto been in charge of brilliant retreats. He was the last man off the beaches at Dunkirk and since then he has done Burma.

Auchinleck took me into his map-room and shut the door; we were alone. He asked me if I knew he was to go. I said that I did. He then explained to me his plan of operations; this was based on the fact that at all costs the Eighth Army was to be preserved "in being" and must not be destroyed in battle. If Rommel attacked in strength, as was expected soon, the Eighth Army would fall back on the Delta; if Cairo and the Delta could not be held, the army would retreat southwards up the Nile, and another possibility was a withdrawal to Palestine.

I listened in amazement to his exposition of his plans. I asked one or two questions, but I quickly saw that he resented any question directed to immediate changes of policy about which he had already made up his mind. So I remained silent.


A Career Far from Home

Born in Aldershot in 1884 to the son of an Army Colonel, it seemed Auchinleck was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps in service to his country. However, in an era where the British Empire still ruled half the world this service would take him far from home and the bulk of his career was spent in Southwest Asia and the Middle East.

After attending the Royal Military College in Sandhurst, Auchinleck would be commissioned a 2 nd lieutenant in the Indian Army in 1903. The Indian Army was actually a combination of the remnants of the East India Company armies, local Indian and British expats, and British Army units posted on a tour of duty to India.

British Indian Army entering Baghdad in 1917

Auchinleck would deploy to India just after the reforms that merged the various fighting entities and would quickly make himself at home as he embraced the local culture by learning as much as he could. He learned Punjabi and attempted to pick up the various local dialects and customs that would allow him to better communicate with troops and the locals. When World War 1 broke out in 1914, Auchinleck would deploy with the 62 nd Punjabis in modern day Iraq.

While the European theater tends to get most of the attention in World War 1, the British Empire was slugging it out with the Ottoman Empire throughout the war in the Middle East. Many of these battles, alliances, and partitions would actually set the stage for much of the conflict we see today in the modern Middle East.

During this Mesopotamian campaign, Auchinleck would prove his abilities early on after becoming the commanding officer of his regiment. He led them in the 2 nd Battle of Kut and the Fall of Baghdad before being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel shortly after the end of the war.


Auchinleck, Claude

Auchinleck, Claude (1884�). British general and field marshal. Originally an officer in the Indian army, Auchinleck succeeded Wavell as commander-in-chief, Middle East, in July 1941. On 17 November the 8th Army, under Alan Cunningham, attacked westward into Cyrenaica. Rommel counter-attacked on 22 November and Cunningham decided to retreat, but Auchinleck took direct command and replaced Cunningham by Neil Ritchie on 26 November. The 𠆌rusader’ offensive continued, clearing Cyrenaica by 6 January. Rommel counter-attacked again on 21 January and drove the 8th Army back to the Gazala line by 4 February. Churchill felt Auchinleck to be dilatory in offensive action and Rommel struck first in May 1942. The 8th Army was defeated by concentrations of German armour, outflanking ill-coordinated resistance. By mid-June the 8th Army's retreat, with the rapid fall of Tobruk, became near rout. On 25 June Auchinleck took over direct command, organized a defence at El Alamein, and finally stopped Rommel. However, in August, Churchill flew to Cairo, and substituted Alexander and Montgomery respectively as C.-in-C. and army commander. Montgomery blackened Auchinleck's reputation by suggesting that he planned further retreat if Rommel resumed serious attacks. Auchinleck ended his career as C.-in-C. of the Indian army. He refused a peerage, distressed by the partition of India.

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The Painting Square At La Trinite

The painting Square at La Trinité (Le Square de La Trinité) (1875) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir is located at the RISD museum in Providence, RI. This is an oil painting on canvas, surrounded by an ornate gold frame. Square at La Trinité is a pastel colored landscape scene with nature, figures and buildings in the background. The main focus of the painting is the two people in the right-hand corner, one a female and the other a male who are strolling through a lively garden. During the 19th century impressionist


Auchinleck was a career soldier who saw action in World War I. He was posted to India in the late 1920s and was made chief of the General Staff of the Indian Army in 1936. He returned to England in 1940 to take part in the Anglo-French Narvik operation in Norway that May and then oversaw the beaten force's evacuation the following month. He subsequently returned to India to take command of the British forces stationed there but was soon on the move again - this time to the strategically vital Middle East.

Auchinleck was made commander-in-chief, Middle East in June 1941 and he was fully backed by Churchill but the latter's support ebbed away over the next few months as the former refused to order an attack due to shortages of men and equipment. The fall of Tobruk in January 1942 weakened Auchinleck's position further and, although he redeemed himself considerably with a victory of sorts at the First Battle of El Alamein in June, when Rommel's drive towards Egypt was halted, Auchinleck was replaced by Alexander the next month. He served in India for the remainder of the conflict.


World War II Database


ww2dbase Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, "the Auk", was born in Aldershot to a poor family. He graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1904 after he completed studies at Wellington College. He was commissioned to the 62nd Punjab Regiment where he gained combat experience in the Middle East and Egypt. Shortly before WW2 started, he was promoted to the rank of major general, commanding the Meerut District in India in 1938.

ww2dbase On 7 May 1940, he was in charge of Allied forces of 25,000 British, French, and Polish troops in Norway. He was successful in capturing Narvik on 28 May, but the operations overall failed to deprive the German Kriegsmarine from using Norwegian ports and fjords as submarine bases. He was ordered to withdraw from Norway not long afterwards. He was criticized by Prime Minister Winston Churchill as too conservative, stressing too much on safety and certainty.

ww2dbase After a brief time as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Southern Command he was transferred to Indian as the commander-in-chief there in Jul 1940. In Jul 1941 Auchinleck became commander-in-chief of Allied forces in the Middle East (including North Africa). He saw initial success at El Agheila (Jan 1942), but Erwin Rommel's German forces picked up momentum and started to push back Auchinleck's forces. Tobruk fell to Rommel on 21 Jun 1942 after Rommel received reinforcements from Tripoli. The fall of Tobruk was a political blow to Churchill, especially at the cost of 35,000 British troops captured. However, before the fall of Tobruk, the British troops were able to wear down Rommel's forces so that he was unable to launch another offensive until he could receive more reinforcement. Auchinleck attempted to reorganize the infantry units to fight in a more coordinated fashion with the armored units, but only achieving limited success. He was demanded by Churchill to launch a major offensive against Rommel, but refused based on his feeling that his troops were not ready. On 8 Aug 1942, he was relieved of duty by Churchill in person, with two men assigned to replace him: Harold Alexander took over the theater commander role while Bernard Montgomery became the new commander of the Eight Army. Auchinleck's reputation suffered neededlessly at the hands of the Montgomery publicity machine after the personnel change, however, he was still considered by Rommel as one of the greatest generals that the German had ever faced in war.

ww2dbase After being relieved of his duty, he returned to India and was unassigned until 20 Jun 1943 when he once again became commander-in-chief of the Indian Army after his predecessor Archibald Wavell became the viceroy of India. He was knighted and promoted field marshal in Jun 1945.

ww2dbase After some political disagreements over the India/Pakistan partition, he was forced by Lord Mountbatten to resign in Aug 1947. He also suffered personal issues as his wife left him for another officer in 1946. He returned to Britain in 1948 and held administrative posts. He retired in 1968 and moved to Marrakesh, Morocco, where he was cared for by Corporal Malcolm James Millward. Auchinleck passed away in Marrakesh in 1981. He was remembered for his integrity and his popularity among the common soldiers.

ww2dbase Sources: Spartacus Educational, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Aug 2005

Claude Auchinleck Timeline

21 Jun 1884 Claude Auchinleck was born.
26 Feb 1942 An irritable Churchill took General Auchinleck to task over lack of offensive spirit in North Africa.
8 Mar 1942 An annoyed Winston Churchill, not satisfied with Cairo's reasons for not attacking at Gazala, summoned the British C-in-C Middle East back to London, England, United Kingdom to "confer with him about the situation".
19 Aug 1943 From Britain, Claude Auchinleck cabled Winston Churchill in Canada, attempting to convince the British Prime Minister to decrease the number of brigades to be assigned to Orde Wingate to only three Wingate had requested eight.
21 Aug 1943 Claude Auchinleck compromised in regards to Orde Wingate's demands, offering to provide him with five brigades (Wingate had wanted eight) for operations in Burma.
20 May 1945 Claude Auchinleck had lunch with Winston Churchill, during which Auchinleck noted to Churchill that William Slim was among the best generals in the British Army and recommended the appointment of Slim to succeed him as Commander-in-Chief, India.
24 May 1981 Claude Auchinleck passed away.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Rob says:
31 Jul 2010 10:20:55 AM

--Auchinleck didn't resign on 15 August 1947 because of a disagreement with Mountbatten. He didn't resign at all, for any reason.
--He ceased being C in C Indian Army on 14 August because the Indian Army he commanded split into the Indian Army and the Pakistanian Army on that date, as their nations attained independence on 15 and 14 August respectively. See Special India Army Order 79/S/47 14 August 1947 Discontinuation of India Army Orders: "This is the last India Army Order".
--He was then appointed to a special oversight command and supervised the division of resources between the two armies, and the withdrawal of British forces from India and Pakistan, until that command ended some three months later.
--See the pertinent chapter of John Connell's "Auchinleck: A Critical Biography".

2. jarrar says:
2 Oct 2010 01:59:20 PM

Please i need pictures/photographs of FM sir Auchinleck.where i can find

3. malika suhail says:
4 Dec 2011 03:01:33 PM

i'm sorry to read as malcolm he take care of him in fact i did take care of him paying he bills ,doctor and his maid and his driver i took them to court as the used to steal from him and not doing they job as i speak french and Arabic made life of malcolm millward easy all he was doing wright a report to the embassy to tell the what happened.and the reason he did get the job when he was in england to go to morocco because me and i believe my name sould be mention for my hard work and care i gave to sir Claude auchinleck,he pend time with me at my house plenty time special on the Christmas ,i have photos of with us on the picnic and my hose with my son and me

4. Anonymous says:
4 Dec 2011 03:06:23 PM

i have pictures i took of him in1980

5. malika suhail says:
4 Dec 2011 03:18:33 PM

sir Claude auchinleck passed way in marrakech and been buried in Casablanca Ben elmsik as i was there in his funeral and is wakening

6. Zuhaib Muhsin says:
25 Dec 2012 05:50:04 AM

I do have pictures of Sir claude and if any one have sir Auks pix with Quid e Azam and some clear pictures please do share me on said e mail address. [email protected]

7. davide says:
15 Oct 2014 05:31:41 AM

hallo, I m very much interested in Sir Claude life and I ve original Connel book signed by him and by O'Connor too. I ve readen many topics on him as one of my main "hobby" is study the story of last century and mainly WW2, and he's a pure great hero to me . I will be delighted to watch some photos of him during late life in Morocco or elsewhere . i've readen that he was a painter too ? thaks a lot Davide , if any reply i will give u my mail.

8. davide says:
18 Oct 2014 05:03:41 AM

about my above message request , my mail is : [email protected]
many thanks for yr kind help in this regards or suggestion , davide

9. Vijay Kumar Pandya says:
28 Mar 2017 05:00:36 AM

My uncle Shri Krishna Dave s/o G .N
Dave was recruited in British Indian army in ww2 as Storekeeper as per details below
OUN/582
25 INF.Bde.Tpt Coy.
Middle East Force
He was captured at mersa Matruh & fallen pow in Italian hands on 28-6 -1942 in cocentration camp 91. Military post 3300.
He was handed over to Germany on
13 -9-1943.his details are as below:-
POW. No. 8108
Stalag12A
His last but one letter received was of
27-2-1945 communicating about his
Sickness having Malarial fever.

His last letterwith Russian stamp received of dated 26 June 1945 stating that " I am in Risky hand & that he will soon repatriate and be
Able to come home".
He never repatriated nor he came to his home.
I will be very grateful in person to
To the individual or institution for giving me the information fabout the
Not repatriating. my uncle.how my uncle reached in Russian hands.
I am very thankful to the web sight
Owner, developer &it's generated
In war we lose or win but even if we win we lose our nearest & dearest one. Kindly lhelp in locating my uncle.
My ad
VK Pandya
283, Lord bank, garhaphatak
JABALPUR,-482002
M.P,( INDIA)

10. Omsingh says:
24 Feb 2021 08:14:18 AM

My grandfather serve with him

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.


Auchinleck People

    the famous biographer of Samuel Johnson, was a member of this family. was commander in chief in India in 1941 when Winston Churchill assigned him to lead the Allied offensive in the western desert of Egypt and India.He led the British Eighth Army at the first Battle of El Alamein in 1942. The battle was indecisive and Auchinleck was replaced by Field Marshal Montgomery.

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About Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck

Field Marshal Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, GCB, GCIE, CSI, DSO, OBE (21 June 1884 – 23 March 1981), nicknamed "The Auk", was a British army commander during World War II. He was a career soldier who spent much of his military career in India, where he developed a love of the country and a lasting affinity for the soldiers he commanded. In July 1941 he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Middle East theatre after initial successes the war in North Africa turned against the British, and he was relieved of the post in 1942 during the crucial Alamein campaign. He served thereafter as C-in-C India until his resignation in 1947. He retired to Marrakesh, where he died at age 96.

The Auchinlecks were an Ulster-Scots family from County Fermanagh, where they had settled in the 17th century. Claude Auchinleck was born in Aldershot, son of Colonel John Claud Alexander Auchinleck and Mary Eleanor (Eyre) Auchinleck, while his father's regiment was stationed there. His father died in 1892, when he was eight years old, and Auchinleck grew up in impoverished circumstances, but he was able, through hard work and scholarships, to graduate from Wellington College.[citation needed] After Wellington, he went to the nearby Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

Auchinleck joined the Indian Army as an unattached second lieutenant in January 1903 and in 1904 joined the 62nd Punjabis. He learnt Punjabi and, able to speak fluently with his soldiers, he absorbed a knowledge of local dialects and customs. This familiarity engendered a lasting mutual respect, enhanced by his own personality. In April 1905 he was promoted to lieutenant and in January 1912 he was promoted to captain.

During World War I, he served in the Middle East in Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia. Auchinleck's division was the last of four offered by the Indian government. While en route for France, it was reassigned to defend the Suez Canal from possible Turkish attack. When the attack occurred in February 1915, Auchinleck's regiment prevented the Turks from crossing the canal and he led a successful counter-attack the Turks subsequently surrendered.

The 6th Indian Division, of which the 62nd Punjabis were a part, was landed at Basra on 31 December 1915 for the Mesopotamian campaign. In July 1916 Auchinleck was promoted Acting Major and made second in command of the regiment. North of Basra, the Punjabis were in heavy action in dreadful conditions: cold, rain and mud as well as determined Turkish defence reduced the regiment to 247 men and Auchinleck took temporary command when his regimental commander was wounded. Further hard fighting ensued: the Turkish army inflicted a humiliating reversal on the British and eventual success was hard won. Auchinleck was mentioned in despatches and received the Distinguished Service Order in 1917 for his service in Mesopotamia, promoted to major in January 1918 and was also appointed brevet lieutenant-colonel in 1919 for his "distinguished service in Southern and Central Kurdistan" on the recommendation of the C-in-C of the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force.

Auchinleck took a number of practical lessons from his experiences in Mesopotamia. Firstly, soldiers' health and well-being was critical to an army's effectiveness and he became convinced of the need of adequate rest, hygiene, good food and medical supplies for the troops. Secondly, he had seen the futility of inadequately prepared attacks against dug-in, well-armed defenders and this fuelled his later reluctance to initiate precipitate actions advocated by his political and military superiors.

Between the wars, Auchinleck served in India. He was both a student and an instructor (1930�) at the Staff College at Quetta and also attended the Imperial Defence College. In January 1929 he had been promoted to lieutenant-colonel and appointed to command his regiment which had become in the 1923 reorganisation of the British Indian Army the 1st battalion, 1st Punjab Regiment. In 1930 he was promoted to full colonel, with seniority backdated to 1923, and in 1933, he was appointed temporary brigadier to command of the Peshawar Brigade, which was active in the pacification of the adjacent tribal areas. During his period of command he was Mentioned in Despatches for services in Upper Mohmand from July to October 1933 The Second Mohmand Campaign of 1935 nn the Mohmand area led to the first use of tanks in India. Auchinleck was again mentioned in despatches and received the CSI and CB for his skill in managing the operation.

In November 1935 Auchinleck was promoted to major-general and on leaving his brigade command in the following April was on the unemployed list (on half pay) until September 1936 when he was appointed Deputy Chief of the General Staff and Director of Staff Duties in Delhi. After this he was appointed to command the Meerut District in India in July 1938. In 1938 Major-General Auchinleck was appointed to chair a committee to consider the modernisation, composition and re-equipment of the British Indian Army. The committee's recommendations formed the basis of the 1939 Chatfield Report which outlined the transformation of the Indian Army. It grew from 183,000 in 1939 to over 2,250,000 men by the end of the war.

On the outbreak of war Auchinleck was appointed to command the Indian 3rd Infantry Division but in January 1940 was summoned to the United Kingdom to command IV Corps, the only time in the war that a wholly British corps was commanded by an Indian Army officer. In May 1940 Auchinleck took over command of the Anglo-French ground forces in Norway, a military operation that was doomed to fail. After the fall of Norway, in July 1940 he briefly commanded V Corps before becoming General Officer Commander-in-Chief, Southern Command, where he had an uneasy relationship with his subordinate Bernard Montgomery, the new V Corps commander. Montgomery later wrote

"In the 5th Corps I first served under Auchinleck. I cannot recall that we ever agreed on anything"

India and Iraq January–May 1941

In January 1941 Auchinleck was recalled to India to become Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army in which position he also was appointed to the Executive Council of the Governor-General of India and in April appointed ADC General to the King[39] which ceremonial position he held until January 1947, shortly after his promotion to field marshal.

In April 1941 RAF Habbaniya was threatened by the new pro-Axis regime of Rashid Ali. This large Royal Air Force station was west of Baghdad in Iraq and General Archibald Wavell, C-in-C Middle East Command, was reluctant to intervene, despite the urgings of Winston Churchill, because of his pressing commitments in the Western Desert and Greece. Auchinleck, however, acted decisively, sending a battalion of the King's Own Royal Regiment by air to Habbaniya and shipping Indian 10th Infantry Division by sea to Basra. Wavell was prevailed upon by London to send Habforce, a relief column, from the British Mandate of Palestine but by the time it arrived in Habbaniya on 18 May the Anglo-Iraqi War was virtually over.

North Africa July 1941 – August 1942

Following the see-saw of Allied and Axis successes and reverses in North Africa, Auchinleck was appointed to succeed General (later Field Marshal) Sir Archibald Wavell as C-in-C Middle East Command in July 1941 Wavell took up Auchinleck's post as C-in-C of the Indian Army, swapping jobs with him.

As C-in-C Middle East Auchinleck, based in Cairo, held responsibility not just for North Africa but also for Persia and the Middle East the Eighth Army confronting the German Afrika Corps and the Italian Army was commanded successively by Sir Alan Cunningham and Neil Ritchie. The first major offensive by Eighth Army following Auchinleck's appointment, Operation Crusader in November 1941 resulted in the defeat of much of the British armour and the breakdown of Cunningham. Auchinleck relieved Cunningham, and ordered the battle to continue. Despite heavy losses, the Eighth Army drove the Axis forces back to El Agheila. Auchinleck then appointed Ritchie to command Eighth Army. While Auchinleck resumed overall strategic direction of the Middle East theatre, he continued to dictate operational matters to Ritchie.

Auchinleck appears to have believed that enemy had been defeated, writing on 12 January 1942 that the Axis forces were "beginning to feel the strain" and were "hard pressed". In fact Afrika Korps had been reinforced, and a few days after Auchinleck's wildly optimistic appreciation, struck at the dispersed and weakened British forces, driving them back to the Gazala positions near Tobruk. The British Chief of Imperial General staff, Alan Brooke, wrote in his diary that it was "Nothing less than bad generalship on the part of Auchinleck". Rommel's attack at the Battle of Gazala of 26 May 1942 resulted in a significant defeat for the British. Once more, Auchinleck's appreciation of the situation was faulty (Auchinleck had believed the Axis forces would attack the centre of the British line, whereas Rommel's attack outflanked the British from the south). The Eighth Army retreated into Egypt Tobruk fell on 21 June.

Once more Auchinleck stepped in to take direct command of the Eighth Army, having lost confidence in Ritchie's ability to control and direct his forces. Auchinleck discarded Ritchie's plan to stand at Mersa Matruh, deciding to fight only a delaying action there, while withdrawing to the more easily defendable position at El Alamein. Here Auchinleck tailored a defence that took advantage of the terrain and the fresh troops at his disposal, stopping the exhausted German/Italian advance in the First Battle of El Alamein. Enjoying a considerable superiority of material and men over the weak German/Italian forces, Auchinleck organised a series of counter-attacks. Poorly conceived and badly coordinated, these attacks achieved little.

"The Auk", as he was known, appointed a number of senior commanders who proved to be unsuitable for their positions, and command arrangements were often characterised by bitter personality clashes. Auchinleck was an Indian Army officer and was criticised for apparently having little direct experience or understanding of British and Dominion troops. His controversial chief of operations, Major-General Dorman-Smith, was regarded with considerable distrust by many of the senior commanders in Eighth Army. By July 1942 Auchinleck had lost the confidence of Dominion commanders and relations with his British commanders had become strained.

Like his foe Rommel (and his predecessor Wavell and successor Montgomery), Auchinleck was subjected to constant political interference, having to weather a barrage of hectoring telegrams and instructions from Prime Minister Churchill throughout late 1941 and the spring and summer of 1942. Churchill constantly sought an offensive from Auchinleck, and was (understandably) downcast at the military reverses in Egypt and Cyrenaica. Churchill was desperate for some sort of British victory before the planned Allied landings in North Africa, Operation Torch, scheduled for November 1942. He badgered Auchinleck immediately after the Eighth Army had all but exhausted itself after the first battle of El Alamein. Churchill and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Alan Brooke, flew to Cairo in early August 1942, to meet Auchinleck, but it was now obvious[to whom?] that he had lost the confidence of both men.

He was replaced as C-in-C Middle East Command by General Sir Harold Alexander (later Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis) and as GOC Eighth Army by Lieutenant-General William Gott, who was killed in Egypt before taking up command. On Gott's death, Lieutenant-General (later Field Marshal Viscount) Bernard Montgomery was appointed commander of the Eighth Army.

Churchill offered Auchinleck command of the newly created Persia and Iraq Command (this having been hived off Alexander's command), but Auchinleck declined this post, as he believed that separating the area from the Middle East Command was not good policy and the new arrangements would not be workable. He set his reasons out in his letter to the CIGS dated 14 August 1942. The post was accepted in his stead by General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. Instead he returned to India, where he spent almost a year "unemployed" before in 1943 being again appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, General Wavell meanwhile having been appointed Viceroy. C-in-C India had become a rear area appointment with the prosecution of the Burma Campaign the responsibility of the Supreme Commander, Admiral Louis Mountbatten. Nevertheless, Auchinleck played an important role and made the supply of Fourteenth Army, with probably the worst lines of communication of the war, his immediate priority as William Slim, commander of the Fourteenth Army was later to write:

"It was a good day for us when he [Auchinleck] took command of India, our main base, recruiting area and training ground. The Fourteenth Army, from its birth to its final victory, owed much to his unselfish support and never-failing understanding. Without him and what he and the Army of India did for us we could not have existed, let alone conquered"

Role in Partition of India

Auchinleck continued as Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army after the end of the war helping, though much against his own convictions, to prepare the future Indian and Pakistani armies for the Partition of India (August 1947). In November 1945 he was forced to commute the sentence of transportation for life awarded to three officers of the Indian National Army in face of growing unease and unrest both within the Indian population, and the British Indian Army. In June 1946 he was promoted to field marshal but refused to accept a peerage, lest he be thought associated with a policy (i.e. Partition) that he thought fundamentally dishonourable. Having disagreed sharply with Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the last Viceroy of India, he resigned as C-in-C and retired in 1947.

In 1948 Sir Claude returned to Britain to live in a modest Mayfair flat off Green Park. When naively asked who was doing his cooking, his reply was that he kept "a few tins and things". On developing a painful stomach ache, he packed a small case to go to hospital. Having climbed the stairs he presented himself, giving the doctors a shock as they found his appendix broken. Being the soldier he was, calling an ambulance when able to walk was out of question.

Lord Auckinleck attended the 1953 Spithead Review. He boarded the MV Caltex Bahrain, a merchant tanker of the Overseas Tankship Fleet.

In later years, he lived with his sister in Beccles, Suffolk until she died, after which he moved to Marrakech. There he lived quietly and alone in a modest flat for many years, (his wife having left him for Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Peirse in 1946), taking his morning coffee at the La Renaissance Café in the new part of the city where he was known simply as le marechal.[citation needed]

Auchinleck was befriended and aided by Corporal Malcolm James Millward, a serving soldier in the Queen's Regiment, for three and a half years up until his death on 23 March 1981 aged 96.

Auchinleck was buried in Ben M'Sik European Cemetery, Casablanca, in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission plot in the cemetery, coincidentally next to the grave of Raymond Steed who was the second youngest non-civilian Commonwealth casualty of the Second World War.

A memorial plaque was erected in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral. The tour guides relate how in 1979, as plaques for the other great Second World War military leaders were being installed, no one in the establishment had been in contact with his family for some years. Cathedral officials telephoned to enquire the date of his death only to be told "Auchinleck here – but I won't be keeping you much longer!"


Sir Claude Auchinleck, 96, Dies

Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, 96, a commander-in-chief of British forces in the Middle East and India during World War II, died Monday at his home in Marrakech, Morrocco. He had influenza.

The field marshal, who had lived in Marrakech since 1967, was appointed to the Middle East command by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in June 1941. He succeeded Gen. Sir Archibald Wavell, a brilliant soldier and administrator who had fallen into disfavor with Churchhill. (Like Auchinleck, Wavell later became a field marshal). During the 13 months that he commanded in the Middle East, Auchinleck, then a general, had almost continuous disagreements with the prime minister.

The prime minister pressed for an immediate offensive against the German and Italian forces of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Auchinleck insisted on a period of preparation for the British 8th Army, the major formation under his command. In November 1941, he launched Operation Cursader. When it faltered, Auchinleck, with Churchill's blessing, intervened personally. (The direct command of the 8th Army was in the hands of a subordinate general).

The first six months of 1942 were a dark time for the British and Commonwealth troops in the Western Desert. In June 1942, their strong point at Tobruk fell. Two days later, Auchinleck, who was known in the army as "The Auk," asked his superiors in London "seriously to consider the advisability of retaining me in my command."

But with Rommel across the Egyptian frontier, the general took personal command of the 8th Army and in the next weeks stabilized the front 60 miles west of Alexandria at Alamein. The official British history of the war states: "In retrospect, the vital importance of the July (1942) fighting stands out clearly, and to Gen. Auchinleck belongs the credit for turning retreat into counterattack."

Other comentators have credited Auchinleck with laying the groundwork for the first of the spectacular victories that lay in the 8th Army's future.

Nonetheless, Churchill wished a change of command. Auchinleck was succeeded by two future field marshals, Gen. Sir Harold Alexander as commander-in-chief of the Middle East and Gen. Sir Bernard Law Montgomery as commander of the 8th Army. Montgomery led the army to victory at Alamein in the autumn of 1942.

In 1943, Auchinleck was commander-in-chief of British forces in India, the post he had held before being appointed to the Middle East command. He was promoted to field marshal in 1946. In 1947, with the approaching partition of India and Pakistan, he was made supreme commander in both countries. Through a joint defense council, he helped establish separate armed forces for both. At the moment that India and Pakistan became independent members of the British Commonwealth, he gave up his last command retired.

Claude John Eyre Auchinleck was born on June 21, 1884, the son of a colonel in the Royal Artillery. He graduated from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, England, and was posted to India, where, as an officer in the Indian Army, he spent most of his career.

He fought against the Turks during World War I and won rapid promotion after the war. Early in World War II, he was called to England and held several important posts there. In April 1940, he commanded the unsuccessful British effort to establish a base at Narvik, Norway. He said the experience impressed upon his the importance of airpower and of training and equipment suitable to the terrain. Late in 1940, he returned to India as commander-in-chief.


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