Alexander, Field Marshal Sir Harold, 1891-1969

Alexander was one of the outstanding Commanders of the British Army, who was called in by CHURCHILL in times of trouble. In 1940 he went to France to command the 1st Division of the British Expeditionary Force and at Dunkirk was chosen to command the last corps to remain on the beach. In January 1941 he was appointed Commander of the I Corps and sent to Burma, where he could do little against the Japanese air superiority, except withdraw troops to India.

Appointed Commander in Chief in August 1942 by Churchill he directed the great campaigns in which Montgomery’s 8th Army triumphed over ROMMEL at Alamein and thereafter. After the US and British troops joined forces in Tunisia. EISENHOWER was appointed Supreme Allied Commander in North Africa, and Alexander was his deputy and Commander of the 18th Army Group. By May 1943 Tunisia had been cleared and the Allies’ next target was Sicily and Italy. When Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force (SCAEF). Alexander became the Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean. The Allied campaign in Italy was drawn out and handicapped by the fact that Overlord and the campaign in France had top priority. Alexander complained frequently about his lack of landing craft and other essential equipment. He received the surrender of German troops in Italy on 29 April 1945.

Alexander’s success lay in his ability to achieve co-operation between soldiers of different nationalities and between the services. His easy-going manner disguised a very tough inner discipline and Churchill found it difficult to find fault with him. Although some, for example General BROOKE felt that he had allowed Montgomery too much independence, their partnership led to a welcome success, for which Alexander will always be remembered.

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