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O’Connor, General Sir Richard, 1889-1981

In September 1939 O’Connor was in command of the 7th Division and was Governor of Jerusalem. In June 1940 O’Connor and his Division were sent from Palestine to Egypt where he was appointed Commander of the Western Desert Forces, under the overall command of his friend, General WAVELL. In September 1940 Marshal Graziani’s Italian forces from Libya invaded Egypt. Within two months Wavell had launched an offensive which was to take Tobruk and to reach Benghazi and El Agheila by 5 February 1941. O’Connor led the northern flank in this successful mission and was appointed General Officer Commanding British troops in Egypt under General Neame. In March 1941 ROMMEL launched a counteroffensive and shortly afterwards Neame and O’Connor were captured and sent to Italy. In December 1943 when Italy capitulated they were freed and by June 1944 O’Connor was again in command, this time of VIII Corps for the invasion of Normandy. O’Connor was a brilliant Commander. His operative motto was ‘offensive action wherever possible.’ Many of his colleagues and comrades-at-arms felt that it was only the fact that he was captured that prevented him from being declared one of the top Desert Commanders.

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