Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis

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Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander in 1945

Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis , KG , GCB , GCMG , CSI , GCVO , DSO , MC (born  December 10, 1891 in London , † June 16, 1969 in Slough ) was a British field marshal . He fought in World War I , in the Latvian War of Independence , in the West , in Burma , in Africa and in the Italian campaign . He later served as Governor General of Canada and as British Secretary of Defense.

Military career

First World War and the interwar period

Harold Alexander was born the third son of James Alexander , the fourth Earl of Caledon and Lady Elizabeth Graham Toler. He attended Harrow School and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst . He was inducted into the Irish Guards as a Second Lieutenant on September 23, 1911 . At the beginning of the First World War he served as a platoon leader on the Western Front. For his services in the Battle of Loos he was awarded the Military Cross and in the Battle of the Somme with the Distinguished Service Order . At the Battle of Cambrai he commanded the 2nd Battalion of the Irish Guards . Alexander was wounded twice and was accepted into the Legion of Honor as a knight . His highest rank was that of a Brevet - lieutenant colonel .

Alexander with officers of the Baltic State Army, 1920

After the World War, Alexander took part in the Allied Aid Commission in newly established Poland. From May 1919 he took part in the Latvian War of Independence and after the armistice of Strasdenhof became commander of the Baltic National Army . He returned to Great Britain and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on May 14, 1922 and commander of the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards in the Aldershot Garrison . With this unit he took part in the occupation of Istanbul and served in Gibraltar . From 1926 he attended the Staff College in Camberley, after which he was regimental commander of the Irish Guards as Colonel . He held this post for two years and then attended Imperial Defense College for one year .

On October 14, 1931, he married Lady Margaret Diana Bingham, second daughter of the 5th Earl of Lucan . After some staff assignments, he took over in 1934 as a temporary brigadier general of the Nowshera Brigade on the North West Frontier in British India . Between February and April 1935 an expedition led against the Pashtuns in Malakand . In September 1935 he fought under Claude Auchinleck in an operation against the Mohmand Pashtuns . For his service there he was Mentioned twice in Despatches and in 1936 as Companion in the Order of the Star of India . In 1937 he returned to Great Britain and was promoted to Major General on October 16, 1937, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Aldershot Command .

Second World War

At the beginning of the Second World War , Harold Alexander became commander of the 1st Division of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. During the German campaign in the west , he led the division in retreat to Dunkirk . Alexander took command of the 1st Corps during the evacuation of British troops in Operation Dynamo . He returned to England on June 3, 1940 on the last destroyer to leave France. In recognition of his achievements, he was promoted to Lieutenant General on July 13, 1940 and appointed Commander in Chief of the Southern Command . This was due to the expected German invasion a prominent position.

On January 1, 1942, he was accepted as Knight Commander in the Order of the Bath and thereby elevated to the personal nobility. After the Japanese invasion of Burma , he was appointed commander in chief of this theater of war in February 1942 and at the same time promoted to general . He left the tactical leadership there largely to his subordinate William Slim , while he himself primarily dealt with political issues. After the withdrawal of British troops to India, Alexander was recalled to England in July 1942, originally to lead the British 1st Army in what would later become Operation Torch . Due to the simultaneous crisis in Egypt , where the Axis troops threatened Alexandria , he was appointed in August by Winston Churchill to succeed Claude Auchinlecks as Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East. At the same time, Bernard Montgomery became the new commander of the 8th Army .

After the capture of Tripoli , Alexander was raised to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath on November 11, 1942 . After the Anglo-American forces of Operation Torch met with the armed forces of the Western Desert in Tunisia in early 1943, he was appointed Commander in Chief of the 18th Army Group and Deputy Dwight D. Eisenhowers as Commander in Chief of the entire Allied Armed Forces in the Mediterranean. After the end of the Tunisian campaign , his staff was converted into the 15th Army Group , which was responsible for the subsequent Operation Husky (the invasion of Sicily in July 1943) and the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943.

After Eisenhower was appointed Commander in Chief of the SHAEF , the Allied Headquarters for Operation Overlord , the latter proposed Alexander as Commander in Chief of the Ground Forces for this operation. However, on Sir Alan Brooke's intervention , Alexander was left in his post in Italy under Eisenhower's successor Henry Maitland Wilson, and Montgomery was selected for the role. Alexander successfully overcame the German resistance at Monte Cassino . After Rome was declared an open city at the beginning of June 1944 , Allied troops marched there. On December 12, 1944, Alexander was appointed Field Marshal, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in the Mediterranean, and thus successor to Wilson, who went to Washington, and on April 29, 1945, accepted the German partial surrender in Italy .

Governor General of Canada

Alexander with his wife when being greeted by Prime Minister King in Canada, April 1946

After the war, Alexander was the first candidate to succeed Alan Brookes as Chief of the Imperial General Staff , but was persuaded by Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King to propose himself as Governor General of Canada . After he resigned from the army, he was sworn in to the new office in April 1946. On the occasion of his retirement from the army service he was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George on January 29, 1946 and on March 1, 1946 in the Peerage of the United Kingdom as Viscount Alexander of Tunis , of Errigal in the County of Donegal, was raised to hereditary peer . On December 3rd of the same year he was also made a Knight of the Order of the Garter .

Alexander was very popular with the Canadian people. In addition to his reputation as a military genius, Lord Alexander was a charismatic person who knew how to make friends and communicate with others. He took his duties very seriously - in fact, when asked to kick the ball for the 1946 Gray Cup final , he spent some early mornings practicing for it. He viewed his position as a vital link between Canadians and their heads of state, and was eager to spread that view wherever he was. He traveled extensively in Canada, 180,000 miles in the five years he served.

During his first extended visit to western Canada on July 13, 1946, he was given a totem pole by carver Mungo Martin of the Kwakiutl tribe . It should mean his appointment as honorary chief of the Kwakiutl tribe. He was the first white man to be honored in this way. The totem pole is still a popular attraction in the front yard of Rideau Hall . During a later visit, he became the chief eagle main Blackfoot ( Blackfoot appointed).

Lord Alexander's time - the postwar period of World War II - was a time of upheaval for Canada. The postwar economy flourished in Canada and prosperity expanded. In an open letter, King George VI. to the Governor General in all his powers over Canada. Even today, this document is the source of the governor general's powers. In 1949 the Conference of Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth elected the designation "Member of the Commonwealth" instead of " Dominion ".

Alexander handing over Newfoundland's charter of accession to the Canadian Confederation, March 1949

In the same year Newfoundland joined the Canadian Confederation and Lord Alexander visited the new province in the summer. In 1950 Canada was back at war as Canadian units in Korea fought against communist North Korea and the People's Republic of China . Lord Alexander visited the troops en route overseas to personally encourage them.

Many dignitaries were also guests of Lord Alexander, including Princess Elisabeth and Prince Philip , who toured Canada in 1951. The Alexanders gave a square dance party which the prince and princess attended. Lord Alexander also made many trips abroad, where he visited, among others, President Truman in the United States in 1947 , and Brazil , to which he paid a state visit in June 1948.

In general, however, the Alexanders led an informal lifestyle. Lord Alexander was an avid sportsman who particularly enjoyed fishing, golf and rugby. A lover of the great outdoors, he loved attending the harvest of maple syrup in Ontario and Quebec and personally overseeing the branching of the maple trees on the Rideau Hall grounds. He was also a passionate painter. In addition to setting up a studio for himself, which is still in Rideau Hall today, he also organized art classes at the National Gallery of Canada . Lady Alexander became an expert in weaving and had two looms in her room.

Lord Alexander also campaigned for education in Canada. He has received many honorary degrees from Canadian universities, as well as honorary doctorates in law from Harvard University and Princeton University in the USA. Lord Alexander was a member of the Freemasonry Association .

Later career

In early 1952, after his tenure had already been renewed twice, Lord Alexander left the governor-general after the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill offered him the post of Secretary of Defense . He was briefly represented by an administrator until the diplomat Vincent Massey succeeded him as governor general. Lord Alexander served as Secretary of Defense until 1954 before retiring from political life.

He was raised on March 14, 1952 by the new Queen Elizabeth II in the Peerage of the United Kingdom to Earl Alexander of Tunis with the subordinate title Baron Rideau , of Ottawa and Castle Derg in the County of Tyrone. In the same year he became a member of the British Privy Council ; he was also a member of the Canadian Privy Council . Alexander was also appointed head of the organizing committee for the coronation ceremony of Elizabeth II (June 1953) and wore the imperial orb on the occasion .

Canada remained a second home for the Alexanders, and they often returned to visit their friends and family.

After the death of Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax , he became his successor as Grand Master ( Grand Master ) of the Order of St Michael and St George. He held this office until 1967, when he was replaced by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent .

In 1969 Lord Alexander died. The memorial service was held on June 24, 1969 at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle . He was buried in Ridge Cemetery, near Tyttenhanger, his family's home in Hertfordshire. Lady Alexander died in 1977.


Individual evidence

  1. ^ TA Heathcote: The British Field Marshals 1763-1997 Leo Cooper, 1999 p. 13 ff.
  2. Michael Garleff : The Baltic countries. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania from the Middle Ages to the present . Pustet, Regensburg 2001, ISBN 3-7917-1770-7 , p. 102.
  3. ^ TA Heathcote: The British Field Marshals 1763-1997 Leo Cooper, 1999 p. 13 ff.
  4. ^ TA Heathcote: The British Field Marshals 1763-1997 Leo Cooper, 1999 p. 15
  5. ^ TA Heathcote: The British Field Marshals 1763-1997 Leo Cooper, 1999 p. 16
  6. On May 2, 1945 it became known that in Caserta on April 29, Army Group C , whose commander was also the Commander in Chief Southwest, had surrendered to the Allies under Alexander. Commissioned by Colonel General Heinrich von Vietinghoff (1887–1952) and the Supreme SS and Police Leader in Italy, SS-Obergruppenführer and General of the Waffen-SS Karl Wolff (1900–1984) by two representatives (Lieutenant Colonel Hans Lothar von Schweinitz and SS -Sturmbannführer Eugen Wenner ) signed surrender ended the war in Italy on May 2, 1945. Source: bundesarchiv.de ( Memento of the original from October 2, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.bundesarchiv.de
  7. Famous Freemasons Army Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis ( Memento of the original from June 26, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Homepage: Grand Lodge of Scotland (Retrieved April 16, 2013) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.grandlodgescotland.com

Web links

Commons : Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
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New title created Viscount Alexander of Tunis
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New title created Earl Alexander of Tunis
Shane Alexander