Douglas Gracey

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Sir Douglas Gracey
Gracey Douglas David.jpg
General Sir Douglas Gracey, pictured here in 1951.
2nd Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army
In office
11 February 1948 – 16 January 1951
Preceded byFrank Messervy
Succeeded byAyub Khan
Personal details
Born(1894-09-03)3 September 1894[1]
Muzaffarnagar, North-Western Provinces, British India[1]
Died5 June 1964(1964-06-05) (aged 69)[1]
Surrey, England[1]
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Military Cross & Bar
Mentioned in Despatches (3)
Military service
Allegiance British India
Dominion of Pakistan Dominion of Pakistan
Branch/service British Indian Army (1915-1947)
 Pakistan Army (1947-1951)
Years of service1915–1951
UnitRoyal Munster Fusiliers
1st King George's Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment)
Commands2nd Battalion 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles
17th Indian Infantry Brigade
20th Indian Infantry Division
Northern Command, India
I Indian Corps
Pakistan Army
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War
War in Vietnam (1945–1946)
First Indo-Pakistani War

General Sir Douglas David Gracey KCB, KCIE, CBE, MC & Bar (3 September 1894 – 5 June 1964) was a British Indian Army officer who fought in both the First and Second World Wars. He also fought in French Indochina and was the second Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army. Gracey held this latter office from 11 February 1948 until his retirement on 16 January 1951. Born to English parents living in India, he was educated in English schools before returning to India to serve in the military there.

Early life and military career[edit]

Educated at Blundell's School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Gracey was commissioned onto the Unattached List, Indian Army on 15 August 1914 as a second lieutenant.[2] By early 1915 he had been attached to the 5th Extra Reserve Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers.[3] He served in France from 11 January to 2 May 1915 when he was wounded.[4]

In September 1915[5] he was appointed from the unattached list of the Indian Army into the 1st King George's Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment) with the rank of second lieutenant. With his Indian Army regiment he saw active service in Mesopotamia and Palestine and was awarded the Military Cross (MC) in 1917[6] and again in 1919.[7][4]

The citation to his first MC read:

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when commanding two companies in the attack. He succeeded in leading the two companies to the objective in spite of a determined opposition, and by his untiring energy and resource was largely responsible for the success of the operation."[8]

As is often the case in wartime he held postings at various times with more senior acting rank, but was formally promoted lieutenant in August 1917[9] and captain with effect from August 1918.[10]

Between the wars[edit]

Between the wars he became an instructor at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1925, commanding one of the cadet companies.[11] After this he attended the Staff College, Quetta, from 1928 to 1929, and his fellow students included Colin Gubbins, John Crocker, Eric Goddard, Lionel Cox, and Henry Davies, among many others, who were destined to achieve general officer rank.[12] In peacetime, promotion came slowly and brevet ranks were used as an interim step to the next rank up for officers who performed well. In 1930, Gracey received a promotion to brevet major.[13] In late 1931 he was appointed as GSO2 at GHQ India[14] and by the time this appointment finished in late 1935 he had received his promotion to major.[15] In early 1937 he was given another GSO2 posting[16] at Western Command in India.[17] Having waited so long to be raised from captain to major, his next advancements to brevet lieutenant-colonel and lieutenant-colonel came quite quickly, in January 1938[18] and February 1939.[19]

Second World War[edit]

At the start of the Second World War in September 1939 Gracey was Commanding Officer (CO) of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles on the North West Frontier of India.[17] In March 1940, upon his promotion to full colonel, he became assistant commandant of the Staff College, Quetta, with the Commandant then being Philip Christison, a British Army officer.[17] In May 1941 he was promoted brigadier and given command of the 17th Indian Infantry Brigade which, as part of the 8th Indian Infantry Division, was sent shortly thereafter to Basra in Iraq but took no significant part in the Anglo-Iraqi War.[17] 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 of the Caucasus. For his service, Gracey was made Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)[20]

In April 1942 Gracey was promoted to acting major-general[21] and given the task of forming and then commanding the Indian 20th Infantry Division.[17] 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 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 Corps 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. Fourteenth Army commander Bill Slim was later to write about this action:

[The] break-out of the 20th Division was a spectacular achievement which only a magnificent division, magnificently led, could have staged after weeks of the heaviest defensive fighting.[22]

Driving rapidly south the division captured Prome on 2 May, by which time the campaign was effectively over.[23]

In February 1945 Gracey had been appointed Commander of the order of the British Empire (CBE) for "gallant and distinguished services in Burma and on the Eastern Frontier of India"[24] and in May his rank of major-general was made permanent.[25] In July 1945, Gracey was made Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB)[26] and he was also gazetted as mentioned in despatches.[27] There were further mentions in despatches for services in Burma in September 1945[28] and May 1946.[29]

Because of Gracey's close relationship with his men, afforded by his long service as commander, the 20th Division had a reputation as a happy and confident unit.[30] Field Marshal Slim said of them:

I have never seen troops who carry their tails more vertically.[31]


In September 1945, Gracey led 20,000 troops of the 20th Indian Division to occupy Saigon.[17] 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. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the communist Viet Minh, proclaimed Vietnamese independence from French rule and big pro-independence and anti-French demonstrations and strikes were held in Saigon. 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 and 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 and used them to occupy the city. According to some socialist and communist commentaries, this controversial decision furthered Ho Chi Minh's cause of liberating Vietnam from foreign rule and precipitated the First Indochina War.[32] Other authors such as Peter Dunn[33] and Timothy Smith[34] reach a different, more sympathetic conclusion - that his orders were essentially to maintain essential services and prevent the slaughter of the civilian population. Marston reviews the military position Gracey found himself in. 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 Gracey to return with the bulk of his troops in March 1946 to India where the 20th Indian Division was disbanded.[23]

After Second World War[edit]

Promoted acting lieutenant-general in May 1946,[35] Gracey successively commanded Northern Command and Indian I Corps in India.[17] He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) in January 1948[36] and served in the honorary capacity of Colonel Commandant of the Indian Signal Corps between March 1946[37] and October 1948.[38]


When British India was partitioned in late 1947 Gracey became Chief of the General Staff and Acting Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army before succeeding Frank Messervy as Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army in 1948.[17]

When the Pakistani tribal invasion of Kashmir began on 22 October 1947, Messervy was away in London, and Gracey was acting as the Army Chief. He declined to send Pakistani troops to the Kashmir front as ordered by Mohammad Ali Jinnah (the Governor General) but referred the issue to Claude Auchinleck, the Supreme Commander of Indian and Pakistani forces. Both the armies were under joint British command at this stage, and Auchinleck had already issued Standdown instructions to the effect that all British officers would stand down in the event of a military conflict between the two countries. After hearing Auchinleck's reasoning, Jinnah rescinded his order.[39]

Gracey left the Pakistan Army in April 1951 to retire,[17][40] having attained the rank of full general. However, his permanent rank in the British Army had never advanced beyond major general so on retirement he was granted the honorary rank of general[41] having also had his CB promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in January 1951 at the request of the Pakistan government.[42]

Final years[edit]

After his retirement Gracey settled in Surrey. He was a keen cricketer and a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and served as Chairman of the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables at Putney in the years before his death, which occurred on 5 June 1964, at the age of 69.[43]

Army career summary[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ London Gazette 14 August 1914, page 6402
  3. ^ British Army List March 1915
  4. ^ a b War services of British and Indian officers of the Indian Army 1941, page 227
  5. ^ "No. 29328". The London Gazette. 15 October 1915. p. 10169.
  6. ^ "No. 29990". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 March 1917. p. 2720.
  7. ^ "No. 31371". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 May 1919. p. 6928.
  8. ^ "No. 30023". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 April 1917. p. 3681.
  9. ^ "No. 30236". The London Gazette. 17 August 1917. p. 8459.
  10. ^ "No. 31279". The London Gazette. 8 April 1919. p. 4579.
  11. ^ "No. 33019". The London Gazette. 10 February 1925. p. 992.
  12. ^ Smart 2005, p. 126.
  13. ^ "No. 33624". The London Gazette. 11 July 1930. p. 4363.
  14. ^ "No. 33800". The London Gazette. 19 February 1932. p. 1132.
  15. ^ "No. 34241". The London Gazette. 10 January 1936. p. 236.
  16. ^ "No. 34385". The London Gazette. 2 April 1937. p. 2128.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  18. ^ "No. 34470". The London Gazette. 4 January 1938. p. 35.
  19. ^ "No. 34618". The London Gazette. 21 April 1939. p. 2666.
  20. ^ "No. 35862". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 January 1943. p. 319.
  21. ^ "No. 35628". The London Gazette. 10 July 1942. p. 3054.
  22. ^ Slim 1972, pp. 473–474.
  23. ^ a b Mead 2007, p. 183.
  24. ^ "No. 36928". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 February 1945. p. 792.
  25. ^ "No. 37082". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 May 1945. p. 2559.
  26. ^ "No. 37161". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 July 1945. p. 3491.
  27. ^ "No. 37184". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 July 1945. p. 3753.
  28. ^ "No. 37284". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 September 1945. p. 4786.
  29. ^ "No. 37558". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 May 1946. p. 2218.
  30. ^ Mead 2007, p. 184.
  31. ^ Slim 1972, p. 472.
  32. ^ "The Empire Strikes Back". Socialist Review. September 1995.
  33. ^ The First Vietnam War by Peter M. Dunn (published 1985)
  34. ^ Vietnam and the Unravelling of Empire General Gracey in Asia 1942-1951 by T.O. Smith (published 2014)
  35. ^ "No. 37887". The London Gazette. 2 August 1946. p. 3939.
  36. ^ "No. 38161". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1948. p. 8.
  37. ^ "No. 37887". The London Gazette. 21 February 1947. p. 885.
  38. ^ "No. 38431". The London Gazette. 15 October 1948. p. 5447.
  39. ^ Lumby, Edmond W. (1981). Transfer of Power in India: 1945 To 1947. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. pp. 249.
  40. ^ "No. 39296". The London Gazette. 27 July 1951. p. 4046.
  41. ^ "No. 39297". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 July 1951. p. 4095.
  42. ^ "No. 39108". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1950. p. 45.
  43. ^ Smart 2005, p. 127.
  44. ^ "No. 39297". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 July 1951.


  • Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A Biographical Guide to the Key British Generals of World War II. Stroud: Spellmount. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0.
  • Smart, Nick (2005). Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Barnesley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 1844150496.
  • Slim, Field Marshal Viscount (1972) [1956]. Defeat into Victory. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-29114-5.
  • Dunn, Peter (1985). The First Vietnam War. London: Hurst.
  • Smith, Timothy (2014). 'Vietnam and the Unravelling of Empire General Gracey in Asia 1942-1951. London: Palgrave.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
New post
GOC 20th Indian Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Post disbanded
Preceded by
GOC I Indian Corps
Succeeded by
Preceded by C-in-C, Pakistan Army
Succeeded by