Claude Auchinleck

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck

Field Marshal Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, GCB, GCIE, CSI, DSO, OBE (June 21 1884 - 1981), nicknamed The Auk, was a British army commander during World War II.

Born in Aldershot, he grew up in impoverished circumstances, but was able through hard work and scholarships to graduate from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Claude Auchinleck was a career soldier who spent much of his military career in India, where he developed a love of the country and an affinity for the ordinary soldiers under his command.

Early in World War II Auchinleck was given command of the Allied forces in Norway in May 1940, a military operation that was doomed to fail. After the fall of Norway, in July 1940 he became briefly General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command, and then Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army.

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 of the Allied Forces in the Middle East in July 1941; Wavell took up Auchinleck's post as C-in-C of the Indian Army, swapping jobs with him.

General Auchinleck was C-in-C based in Cairo, with 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 Generals Sir Alan Cunningham and Sir Neil Ritchie. Initial success at El Agheila (January 1942) was followed by defeat by Colonel-General (later Field Marshal) Erwin Rommel at Bir Hacheim (June 1942). Auchinleck withdrew his forces 400km back into Egypt; Tobruk (which was of great political significance to Winston Churchill but of limited military importance to Auchinleck) fell on 21 June. The German/Italian advance was finally halted at the First Battle of El Alamein by the Eighth Army, Auchinleck having dismissed Ritchie and assumed the field command himself. The Auk, as he was known to his troops, was unfortunate in some of his subordinate senior officers in North Africa: some were incompetent, some were killed and some were captured. He struggled with the inate conservatism of the army establishment to get the armoured and infantry wings of the army to fight together on the German pattern, but had only limited success.

Like his foe Rommel (and his predecessor Wavell), 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. Again he badgered Auchinleck, immediately after the Eighth Army had all but exhausted itself after First Alamein. He flew to Cairo in August 1942, purportedly for consultations with Auchinleck, but it is now obvious that Churchill had made up his mind before he left Britain. Auchinleck was sacked by Churchill in August 1942, almost certainly because he refused to be bullied by Churchill into ordering a major offensive before he and his troops were properly prepared. He was replaced as C-in-C Middle East by General Sir Harold Alexander (later Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis) and as GOC Eighth Army by Lt-General William Gott, who was killed in Egypt before taking up command. On Gott's death, Lt-General (later Field Marshal Viscount) Bernard Montgomery was appointed commander of the Eighth Army. Auchinleck's reputation (along with that of many other officers) subsequently suffered unfairly at the hands of the Montgomery publicity machine, a disservice that was repeated by Churchill in his own war memoirs. Indeed, Montgomery launched his El Alamein offensive on 23 October 1942, even later than the date proposed by Auchinleck while still in command.

Churchill offered Auchinleck command of Allied Forces in Persia and the Middle East (this having been hived off Alexander's command), but the Auk declined this post, possibly as it was held by his Indian Army friend and colleague General Sir Edward Quinan. Instead he returned to India, where he spent almost a year "unemployed" before in 1943 becoming again C-in-C of the Indian Army, Wavell meanwhile having been appointed Viceroy. Much against his own convictions, Auchinleck helped prepare the future Indian and Pakistani armies prior to Partition scheduled for August 1947. In 1946 he was promoted to field marshal but he 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, the last Viceroy of India, he resigned as C-in-C and retired in 1947. In 1948 the Auk returned to Britain. Sadly, his wife had left him for a brother officer in 1946.

Although a somewhat dour character, he was known as a generous and welcoming host. Despite being a general for longer than almost any other soldier, he was never pompous, and hated all forms of display and affectation. Above all, he was a soldier of the utmost integrity who was popular with his troops, and respected by his foes. Rommel considered him to be one of the greatest generals of the war. In retirement, the Auk moved to Marrakesh, where he lived quietly in a modest flat for many years, befriended and cared for by Corporal Malcolm James Millward, a serving soldier, up until the death of Sir Claude in 1981.

Preceded by:
Sir Robert Archibald Cassels
Commander-in-Chief, India
Succeeded by:
Archibald Wavell
Preceded by:
Archibald Wavell
Commander-in-Chief, India
Succeeded by:
Sir Robert Lockhart

Template:End boxja:クルード・オーキンレック no:Claude Auchinleck pl:Claude Auchinleck sv:Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools