Douglas Gracey

General Sir Douglas David Gracey KCB, KCIE, CBE, MC and bar (1894 - 1964) was a British Indian Army officer in both World War I and World War II. He also fought in French Indochina and was the second Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan. Gracey held this latter office from 11 February 1948 until his retirement on 16 January 1951.

World War I

Gracey was commissioned into the Indian Army from the unattached list in 1915. and saw World War I service in France. He was awarded the Military cross in 1917 and again in 1919. The citation to his first MC read:

World War II

At the start of the war Gracey was commanding the 2nd Battalion 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles on the North West Frontier of India. In March 1940 on promotion to full Colonel he became Assistant Commandant of the Staff College Quetta. In May 1941 he was promoted brigadier and given command of Indian 17th Infantry Brigade which as part of Indian 8th Infantry Division was sent shortly thereafter to Basra in Iraq but took no significant part in the Anglo-Iraqi War. In June 1941 the brigade was ordered to northwest Iraq to the Bec du Canard region in northeast Syria, part of the Syria-Lebanon Campaign. After this Gracey and his brigade remained in Iraq as part of Iraqforce (subsequently Paiforce}, protecting the Middle East from a possible Axis thrust south from the Caucasus.

In April 1942 Gracey was promoted major-general and given the task of forming and then commanding Indian 20th Infantry Division. The division concentrated in Ceylon for training and in August 1943 was sent to join Fourteenth Army's Indian XV Corps in northeast India to take part in the Burma Campaign.

Shortly thereafter the division was moved to British IV Corps based at Imphal on the India-Burma border. From early April to late July the division was in almost constant combat during the Battle of Imphal, latterly as part of Indian XXXIII Corps. There was then a four month period of rest and recuperation before the division was back in the front line with XXXIII which launched an attack across the Chindwin river in December and thrust south. In February 1945 the division created a bridgehead across the Irrawaddy and broke out in mid-March to cut the Japanese communications and supplies to the battles being fought at Mandalay and Meiktila. Driving rapidly south the division captured Prome on 2 May by which time the campaign was effectively over.

Because of Gracey's close relationship with his men, afforded by his long service as commander, 20th Division had a reputation as a happy and confident unit. Field Marshal Slim said of them

I have never seen troops who carry their tails more vertically

Commander in Chief Allied Land Forces French Indochina

In September 1945, Gracey led 20,000 troops of the 20th Indian Division to occupy Saigon. During the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, the Allies had agreed on Britain taking control of Vietnam south of the 16th parallel (then part of French Indochina) from the Japanese occupiers. Meanwhile, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnamese independence from French rule and major pro-independence and anti-French demonstrations were held in Saigon. Ho Chi Minh was the leader of the communist Viet Minh.

The French, anxious to retain their colony, persuaded Gracey's Commander in Chief, Lord Mountbatten, to authorise Gracey to declare martial law. Fearing a communist takeover of Vietnam, Gracey decided to rearm French citizens who had remained in Saigon. He allowed them to seize control of public buildings from the Viet Minh. In October 1945, as fighting spread throughout the city, Gracey issued guns to the Japanese troops who had surrendered. He used them to help restore order in the city. According to some socialist and communist commentaries, this controversial decision furthered Ho Ch Minh's cause of liberating Vietnam from foreigners' rule and precipitated the First Indochina War. French General Leclerc arrived in Saigon in October 1945 to assume authority but it was not until well into the first half of 1946 that enough French troops had arrived to allow to return with his troops to India where 20th Indian Division was disbanded.

Post World War II

Promoted lieutenant-general Gracey successively commanded Northern Command and Indian I Corps in India.


When India was partitioned in 1947 Gracey became Chief of the General Staff and Deputy C in C of the Pakistan Army before succeeding Frank Messervy as Commander in Chief Pakistan Army in 1948. Gracey did not send troops to the Kashmir front and refused to obey the order to do so given by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Governor-General of Pakistan. Gracey argued that Jinnah as Governor-General represented the British Crown of which he himself was an appointee. Similar to Gracey, the early heads of Pakistan’s air force and naval force were Englishmen. He retired in 1951.

Army career summary

See also


  • Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount.


External links

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