Military Wiki
Sir Nigel Bagnall
Field Marshal Sir Nigel Bagnall
Born (1927-02-10)10 February 1927
Died 8 April 2002(2002-04-08) (aged 75)
Place of birth India
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1946 - 1989
Rank Field Marshal
Commands held

Field Marshal Sir Nigel Thomas Bagnall GCB, CVO, MC & Bar (10 February 1927 – 8 April 2002) was Chief of the General Staff, the professional head of the British Army. Early in his military career he saw action during the Palestine Emergency, the Malayan Emergency, the Cyprus Emergency and the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation and later in his career he provided advice to the British Government on the future role of Britain's nuclear weapons.

Army career

Born the son of Lieutenant Colonel Harry Stephen Bagnall and Marjory May Bagnall and educated at Wellington College,[1] Bagnall undertook National Service for a year[2] before being commissioned into the Green Howards on 5 January 1946.[3] On 13 February 1946 he transferred to the Parachute Regiment[4] and was deployed to Palestine where the British Mandate was about to end.[2] Promoted to lieutenant on 24 September 1949,[5] he served in Malaya, where as a platoon commander, he was awarded the Military Cross in Spring 1950[6] and a bar to the Military Cross in Autumn 1952.[7]

Promoted to captain on 10 February 1954,[8] he returned to the Green Howards in Summer 1954 and then took part in counter-insurgency operations against EOKA units in Cyprus in 1955.[2] He transferred to 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards on 24 April 1956.[9] He was promoted to major on 10 February 1961[10] and appointed Military Assistant to the Vice-Chief of Defence Staff in May 1964 and then became the Senior Staff Officer dealing with intelligence activities for operations in Borneo in March 1966.[10]

Promoted to lieutenant-colonel on 31 December 1966,[11] he became the Commanding Officer of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards in 1967 and served in that capacity in Omagh in Northern Ireland and Sennelager in Germany.[10] Promoted to colonel on 31 December 1969,[12] he became Commander Royal Armoured Corps in 1st (British) Corps in December 1970,[10] before receiving further promotion to brigadier on 31 December 1970.[13] He went on to be Secretary of the Chiefs of Staff Committee at the Ministry of Defence in September 1973.[10] He was appointed General Officer Commanding 4th Division on 21 September 1975[14] with the substantive rank of major-general from 1 November 1975[15] and Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Policy) at the Ministry of Defence on 7 January 1978.[16]

He became commander of 1st (British) Corps on 1 November 1980 with the rank of lieutenant-general[17] and, having been appointed KCB in the New Year Honours 1981,[18] went on to be Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine and Commander of NATO's Northern Army Group with the rank of full general on 1 July 1983.[19] As Commander of the Northern Army Group he grappled with NATO's strategy of forward defence, when he persuaded the Germans that some ground would have to be surrendered to withstand a massive Soviet attack.[20]

After being advanced to GCB in the Queen's Birthday Honours 1985[21] and also becoming ADC to the Queen on 30 July 1985,[22] he was appointed Chief of the General Staff in August 1985[23] in which capacity he was closely involved in the debate about the future role of Britain's nuclear weapons.[20] He was promoted to field marshal on 9 September 1988 on his retirement from the British Army.[23]

He was also appointed Colonel Commandant of the Army Physical Training Corps on 5 February 1981[24] and Colonel Commandant of the Royal Armoured Corps on 1 August 1985.[25] In retirement he became a military historian and fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He wrote a history of the Punic wars published by Pimlico in 1990[26] and two months before his death, he had a book on the Peloponnesian War published.[27] He died on 8 April 2002.[28]


In 1959 he married Anna Caroline Church; they had two daughters.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Debrett's People of Today 1994
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Heathcote, Anthony pg 35
  3. "No. 37467". 12 February 1946. 
  4. "No. 37517". 29 March 1946. 
  5. "No. 38720". 23 September 1949. 
  6. "No. 39048". 24 October 1950. 
  7. "No. 39839". 28 April 1953. 
  8. "No. 40094". 5 February 1954. 
  9. "No. 40760". 20 April 1956. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Heathcote, Anthony pg 36
  11. "No. 44223". 6 January 1967. 
  12. "No. 45013". 5 January 1970. 
  13. "No. 45271". 1 January 1971. 
  14. "No. 46692". 23 September 1975. 
  15. "No. 46727". 4 November 1975. 
  16. "No. 47437". 16 January 1978. 
  17. "No. 48386". 1 December 1980. 
  18. "No. 48467". 30 December 1980. 
  19. "No. 49412". 11 July 1983. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Obituary: Field Marshal Sir Nigel Bagnall". The Guardian. 11 April 2002. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  21. "No. 50154". 15 June 1985. 
  22. "No. 50226". 12 August 1985. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Heathcote, Anthony, pg 37
  24. "No. 48614". 19 May 1981. 
  25. "No. 50233". 19 August 1985. 
  26. Bagnall, Nigel The Punic Wars Thomas Dunne Books, 2005, ISBN 978-0-312-34214-2
  27. Bagnall, Nigel The Peloponnesian War Thomas Dunne Books, 2006, ISBN 978-0-312-34215-9
  28. "Obituary: Field Marshal Sir Nigel Bagnall". The Guardian. 11 April 2002. Retrieved 2 January 2012. 

Further reading

  • Heathcote, Tony (1999). The British Field Marshals 1736–1997. Barnsley (UK): Pen & Sword. ISBN 0-85052-696-5. 
  • Mackenzie, J. J. G. (1989). The British Army and the operational level of war. Tri-Service. ISBN 978-1854880093. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Michael Gow
General Officer Commanding the 4th Division
Succeeded by
Richard Vickers
Preceded by
Sir Peter Leng
GOC 1st (British) Corps
1980 – 1983
Succeeded by
Sir Martin Farndale
Preceded by
Sir Michael Gow
Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine
Succeeded by
Sir Martin Farndale
Preceded by
Sir John Stanier
Chief of the General Staff
Succeeded by
Sir John Chapple

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