Military Wiki
Alfred Reade Godwin-Austen
Born (1889-04-17)April 17, 1889
Died March 20, 1963(1963-03-20) (aged 73)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1909 - 1947
Rank General
Commands held 2nd Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (1936 - 1937)
14th Infantry Brigade (1938 - 1939)
8th Division (1939 - 1940)
British forces British Somaliland (1940)
2nd (later 12th) (African) Division (1940 - 1941)
XIII Corps (1941 - 1942)

Second World War

Awards KCSI (18 June 1946)[1]
CB (30 May 1941)[2]
OBE (1919)
MC (3 June 1916)[3]
MID (26 July 1940,[4] 11 Feb 1941[5] 15 Dec 1942[6])
Other work Colonel The S. Wales Borderers, (1 January 1950 - 16 April 1954)[7][8]

General Sir Alfred Reade Godwin-Austen KCSI, CB, OBE, MC (1889 – 1963) was a British Army officer. He served during the First and Second World Wars.

Early life

The second son of Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. Godwin-Austen, late the 24th and 89th, Godwin-Austen was educated at St Lawrence College, Ramsgate and the Royal Military College Sandhurst.[9]

He was a great-grandson of Major General Sir Henry Godwin (1784–1853), who commanded the British and Indian forces in the First and Second Anglo-Burmese Wars. His uncle was Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen, who gave his name to the second highest mountain in the Karakoram range; this mountain is now better known by the more pithy and more diplomatically neutral title: K2.

Army career

Godwin-Austen was commissioned into the South Wales Borderers in 1909 and during his service in the First World War was awarded the Military Cross.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Godwin-Austen had just been promoted major-general to command 8th Infantry Division, responsible for internal security in the British Mandate of Palestine. After the division was disbanded in February 1940 he was nominated in July to command 2nd (African) Division which was forming in Kenya.[10]

Before taking up his command, however, he was sent in mid-August 1940 after the Italian Invasion of British Somaliland to take command of the British forces there. His actions allowed almost the entire Commonwealth contingent to withdraw to Berbera. From there, it was successfully evacuated to Aden. Commonwealth losses in the short campaign are estimated to have been exceedingly light, about 260 (38 killed, 102 wounded and 120 missing).

The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, stung by the loss to British prestige, criticized General Archibald Wavell concerning the loss of British Somaliland. It was Wavell's Middle East Command which was responsible for the loss of the colony. Because of the low casualty rate, Churchill fretted that the British had abandoned the colony without enough of a fight. He demanded the suspension of Godwin-Austen and the convening of a court of inquiry.

In response to this criticism, Wavell claimed that Somaliland was a textbook withdrawal in the face of superior numbers. He pointed out to Churchill that "A bloody butcher's bill is not the sign of a good tactician". According to Churchill's staff, Wavell's retort moved Churchill to greater fury than they had ever seen before.[11] Wavell refused to accede to Churchill's demand and Godwin-Austen moved on to take command of his division in Kenya on 12 September. However, Churchill was to retain his grudge towards him.[12]

During the East African Campaign he led the 2nd (African) Division (renamed 12th (African) Division) as part of East Africa Force, commanded by Lieutenant-General Alan Cunningham, in its advance from Kenya into Italian East Africa. His division advanced into Italian Somaliland on 11 February and by late February had scored an emphatic victory over Italian forces at Gelib. Once Mogadishu had been taken, Cunningham swung his force inland across the Ogaden desert and into Ethiopia, entering the capital, Addis Ababa on 6 April.[12]

At the end of the campaign he was promoted to his last fighting command, leading the Western Desert Force (which became XIII Corps) in the Western Desert Campaign in North Africa. During Operation Crusader he was vociferous in his opposition to the suggestion of Alan Cunningham, by now commanding Eighth Army and so once more his direct superior, that they should abandon the offensive after the setback of Rommel's "dash to the wire". The C-in-C Middle East, by then Claude Auchinleck, chose to continue the offensive and Operation Crusader went on to relieve the siege of Tobruk and push the Axis forces back to El Agheila while Cunningham was relieved of his command.[13]

When Rommel counterattacked in January 1942 the Allies were forced to retreat in some confusion. Godwin-Austen, seeing that one of his divisions, Indian 4th Infantry Division was under threat, after consulting with Cunningham's successor, Neil Ritchie, ordered them to withdraw. However, Ritchie changed his mind and issued a countermand directly to the division's commander Francis Tuker. Feeling that Ritchie had by this action displayed a lack of confidence in him, he tendered his resignation to Auchinleck, which was reluctantly accepted.[14] Tuker was later to write

His going was the latest of many misjudgments which had started to shake confidence in the leadership. We lost the wrong man.[15]

In spite of support from the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Alan Brooke, and Sir James Grigg, the Secretary of State for War, Churchill was adamant that Godwin-Austen should not receive a new posting.[nb 1] Churchill relented in November after the intervention of the South African Field Marshal Jan Smuts and Godwin-Austen was appointed Director of Tactical Investigation at the War Office. He subsequently became Vice Quartermaster-General at the War Office and, as the war ended, the Quartermaster-General and then Principal Administrative Officer in India, reporting to the C-in-C Claude Auchinleck.[14]

He was knighted in 1946 and retired in 1947 having achieved the rank of General.

Career summary

See also

Footnotes and citations

  1. Alanbrooke in his diary entry of 11 May 1942 wrote: "...Grigg and I tackled PM again about Cunningham and Godwin-Austen, but without any luck!...the moment their names are mentioned one might imagine they are criminals of the worst order."[16] A further attempt and refusal is mentioned in the entry of 18 May
  1. "No. 37615". 1946-06-18. 
  2. "No. 35176". 1941-05-30. 
  3. "No. 29608". 1916-06-02. 
  4. "No. 34904". 1940-07-23. 
  5. "No. 35071". 1941-02-07. 
  6. "No. 35821". 1942-12-11. 
  7. "No. 38829". 1950-02-03. 
  8. "No. 40150". 1954-04-16. 
  9. 'Godwin-Austen, General Sir Alfred Reade (born 17 April 1889, died 20 March 1963)' in Who Was Who 1961–1970 (London: A. & C. Black, 1979 reprint, ISBN 0-7136-2008-0)
  10. Mead (2007), p. 168
  11. Mockler, Anthony. Haile Selassie's War: The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935-1941, p. 251.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Mead (2007), p.169
  13. Mead (2007), p. 170
  14. 14.0 14.1 Mead (2007), p. 171
  15. Tuker, Francis (1963). Approach to Battle. London: Cassell. , p. 81
  16. Alanbrooke War Diaries, 11 May 1942
  17. "No. 37899". 1947-03-04. 


Military offices
Preceded by
Bernard Montgomery
General Officer Commanding the 8th Division
August 1939–February 1940
Succeeded by
Post Disbanded
Preceded by
Noel Beresford-Peirse
September 1941–April 1942
Succeeded by
William Gott

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).