Alan Gordon Cunningham

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Alan Cunningham, British Army Officer

Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham (1st May 1887 - 30th January 1983) was a British Army officer noted for victories over Italian forces in the East African Campaign during World War II. He was the younger brother of the renowned Admiral Andrew Cunningham.

Cunningham was born in Dublin, Ireland. He was educated at Cheltenham College and the Royal Military Academy before taking a commission in the army in 1906. During World War I he served with the Royal Horse Artillery and was awarded an MC in 1915 and the DSO in 1918. For two years after the war he served in the Straits Settlements.

In 1937 Cunningham became the commander of the 1st Division of Royal Artillery. This was followed by his appointment as commander of the Anti-Aircraft Division.

At the beginning of World War II Cunningham took command of the British troops in East Africa. He led the campaign to take Somaliland and Addis Ababa from the Italians. The offensive started with the occupation of the Red Sea ports of Chisimaio (Kismaayo) and Mogadiscio (Mogadishu), the Italians having fled into the interior. On 6th April 1941 Cunningham's forces entered Addis Ababa. Six weeks later on 20th May in collaboration with General Sir William Platt's men, he took the surrender, at Amba Alagi, of the Italian Army led by Amadeo di Savoia, Duke d'Aosta.

The East Africa campaign was a swift action which resulted in the taking of 50,000 prisoners and the loss of only 500 of Cunningham's men. The success of this operation led to Cunningham taking command of the 8th Army in North Africa in August 1941. His immediate task was to lead General Sir Claude Auchinleck's Libyan Desert offensive which began on 18th November. However, early losses led Cunningham to recommend the offensive be curtailed. This advice was not accepted by his superiors, who relieved him of his command. He returned to Britain to serve the remainder of the war at the Staff College and in Northern Ireland. He was knighted in 1941.

After World War II Cunningham, who was promoted to General in 1945, returned to the Middle East as High Commissioner of Palestine from 1945 to 1948. During this time the British mandate in Palestine expired and Israel was proclaimed an independent state. He also served as Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery until 1954.

Alan Cunningham died in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England in his 96th year.

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