Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Arthur Montague Browning GCVO, KBE, CB, DSO (December 20, 1896 – March 14, 1965) was a British military officer. His most famous role was as the deputy commander of First Allied Airborne Army in Operation Market Garden. He was known affectionately as "Boy" Browning.
He spent a while as Adjutant at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where he was the first Adjutant, during the Sovereign's Parade of 1926, to ride his horse "The Vicar" up the steps of Old College and to dismount in the Grand Entrance. There is no satisfactory explanation for why he did it, but it is a tradition which endures to this day. (A ramp has to be provided for the horse to return, since horses are incapable of going down steps).
Promotion to lieutenant-colonel followed in 1935. In 1935 he was the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards. He held that position until about the time of the outbreak of World War II, when he became Commandant of the Small Arms School as a Brigadier.
In 1940, he was given command of the 24th Guards Brigade. During 1941 Churchill, who had by then become Prime Minister, appointed him as commander of the 1st Airborne Division. He held that position through the unit's fighting in North Africa. Relinquishing command of the division on May 6, 1943, he was promoted lieutenant general in December of that year and assigned to HQ Airborne Forces in Britain. On April 16, 1944, he became commander of I Airborne Corps. The corps was part of First Allied Airborne Army, commanded by US Lieutenant-General Lewis H Brereton. While retaining command of the British airborne corps, Browning also became Deputy Commander of the Army.
I Airborne Corps commanded the airborne forces committed during Operation Market Garden. Browning landed with a tactical headquarters near Nijmegen but found it difficult to command the troops due to communications failures and their geographical separation. His use of 36 aircraft to move his corps headquarters on the first lift has been criticised; the number of combat troops on the first lift was already restricted due to a decision not to make two drops on the first day. The US General James M. Gavin, commanding the US 82nd Airborne Division, was also highly critical of Browning, writing in his diary on September 6, 1944 that he "...unquestionably lacks the standing, influence and judgment that comes from a proper troop experience....his staff was superficial...Why the British units fumble along...becomes more and more apparent. Their tops lack the knowhow, never do they get down into the dirt and learn the hard way."
After the battle Browning's critical evaluation of the contribution of Polish forces led to the removal of Polish Brigadier-General Stanisław Sosabowski as the commanding officer of the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. This is now seen as unjustified and unjust scapegoating by the inner circle of British higher military ranks. In 2006 the Dutch awarded Sosabowski the Bronze Lion, and the Polish 1st. Independent Parachute Brigade the Order of William.
Although Field Marshal Montgomery attached no blame to Browning for the failure of Operation Market Garden, he received no further promotion. He subsequently became Chief of Staff to Lord Mountbatten, Commander-in-Chief of the South East Asia Command. His predecessor in that post, Lieutenant General Pownall, acerbically described Browning as "rather nervy and highly strung". Browning remained in South East Asia until the end of the war.
His last major military post was as Military Secretary of the War Office, 1946-1948. From 1948 to 1952 he was Comptroller and Treasurer to Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth Duchess of Edinburgh (later Queen Elizabeth II), and from 1952 to 1959 he was Treasurer to the Duke of Edinburgh.
From 1944 to 1962 he was Commodore of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club, and subsequently was elected its first Admiral.
Browning married novelist Daphne du Maurier in 1932, with his wife becoming initially Mrs Browning and then Lady Browning when her husband was awarded a knighthood in 1946. One of their daughters, Tessa, married David Bernard Montgomery, 2nd Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, son of Field Marshal Montgomery. His cousin was the broadcaster and cricket commentator Brian Johnston.