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Messervy, Frank Walter (1893-1974)


Photograph of Frank Messervy

Wikipedia

"The Bearded Man" first made his reputation in East Africa, where he commanded Gazelle Force. He later commanded divisions in North Africa, where he was briefly captured by the Germans but managed to escape. Sacked by Ritchie in June 1942, he returned to India, where he again became a divisional commander and then a corps commander in Burma. A cavalryman and avid polo player noted both for his rugged optimism and his religious devotion, he became one of Slim's best subordinate commanders. Slim described him as "not too calculating of odds" and meant it as a compliment. However, Slim took the precaution of assigning Messervy a chief of staff, Brigadier Cobb, whose steadiness would balance Messervy's dash. (When Messervy objected, Slim told him "Very well, no Cobb, no Corps" [Lewin 1976].)

During the Battle of the Admin Box in the second Arakan campaign, Messervy narrowly escaped being killed or captured by the Japanese when his headquarters was overrun, and he lost his general's hat (which was custom-tailored to fit his unusually large head.) The hat was later recaptured when a group of Japanese soldiers wearing British uniforms attacked the British perimeter and were wiped out.

Messervy was a tall, thin, fearless man. He was also innovative, and with Slim's approval he reorganized 5 and 7 Indian Divisions such that each had two motorized brigades and one airlanding brigade. This proved ideal for the mobile battle that was later fought in central Burma.

Service record

1893-12-9    

Born in Trinidad
1913
Second lieutenant     
Commissioned in the Indian Army
1932
Colonel     
Instructor, Staff College, Camberley
1938

Commander, 13 Duke of Cambridge's Own Lancers
1939

Staff, 5 Indian Division, East Africa
1940-10

Commander, Gazelle Force, East Africa
1941
Brigadier
Commander, 9 Indian Brigade, Ethiopia
1941-4
Major general     
Commander, 4 Indian Division, North Africa
1942-1-6

Commander, 1 Armored Division, North Africa
1942-2-26

Commander, 7 Armored Division, North Africa
1942-6

Chief of staff, Middle East Command
1942-8

Commander, 43 Indian Armored Division
1943

Director, Amored Fighting Vehicles, India
1944-1

Commander, 7 Indian Division, India
1944-12
Lieutenant general      Commander, IV Indian Corps, Burma
1945

Commander, Malaya Command
1946

Commander, Northern Command, India
1947

Commander, Pakistan Army
1948
General
Retires
1974-2-2

Dies at Heyshott

References

Allen (1984)

Boatner (1996)

Generals.dk (accessed 2008-11-4)

Lewin (1976)

Pettibone (2006)

Slim (1956)



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