|Sir Douglas Gracey|
|Born||3 Sept 1894
Muzaffarnagar, North-Western Provinces, British India
|Died||5 Jun 1964
= British Raj
|Years of service||1915 - 1951|
|Commands held||2nd Bn 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles
17th Indian Infantry Brigade
20th Indian Infantry Division
Northern Command, India
Indian I Corps
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Military Cross & Bar
General Sir Douglas David Gracey, KCB, KCIE, CBE, MC and bar (1894–1964) was a British Indian Army officer 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.
First World War
Educated at Blundell's School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, 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:
"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."
Second World War
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 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. 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.
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, the 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 General Gracey to return with his troops to India where 20th Indian Division was disbanded.
On the 17th September 1945, four days after Gracey arrived in Saigon, the Viet Minh called a series of strikes in Saigon, closing the market and boycotting trade with the French. Gracey saw this as a threat to his authority and two days later he closed down the Vietnamese press. The Vietnamese protested that this was a violation of their civil rights but Gracey ignored their pleas.
Gracey implemented his plan to disarm the Viet Minh police. On 20 September, as part of the process, British troops occupied the Central Jail and took control of the two main banks in Saigon. On the 21st, Proclamation No.1 was posted up all over the city. This move has been described since as a declaration of martial law. Printed in English, French and Vietnamese, this extremely important proclamation should be quoted in order for the reader to understand the situation that then existed.
Paragraph 1 ensured that the people should know that Gracey was in command of "all the British, French and Japanese forces and of all police forces and other armed bodies in French Indo-China south of 16° latitude, with orders to ensure law and order in this area."
Paragraph 2 said; "Let it be known to all that it is my firm intention to ensure with strict impartiality that this period of transition from war to peace conditions is carried out..."
Paragraph 3 warned "...all wrongdoers, especially looters and saboteurs of public and private property, and those also carrying out similar criminal activities, that they will be summarily shot."
Paragraph 4 laid down the following orders to take effect immediately;
"(a) No demonstrations or processions will be permitted.
(b) No public meetings will take place.
(c) No arms of any description including sticks, staves, bamboo spears, etc. will be carried except by British and Allied troops, and such other forces and police which have been specially authorised by me.
(d) The curfew already imposed by the Japanese authorities between 21.30 and 05.30 in Saigon and Cholon will be continued and strictly enforced."
What is interesting in the above is item (c) where it says, "...such other forces and police...specially authorised by me." In other words, Gracey was saying that the former common enemy, the Japanese had now suddenly become "authorised" to enforce martial law.
French troops, led by Colonel Cedile, attacked and took the Town Hall which had been the seat of the Viet Minh government. The Post Office and the Surete were taken and Vietnamese sentries shot. "Scores of Annamites were trussed up and marched off. Foreign eyewitnesses that morning saw blood flow, saw bound men beaten. They saw French colonial culture being restored to Saigon." VIETNAM History, Documents and Opinions on a Major Worlds Crisis", Marvin E. Gettleman.
Fighting broke out all over the city as the Vietnamese people fought back against the French attack. Major General Gracey then called on the Viet Minh leaders to sit round the table with the French to negotiate. Gracey's chief political spokesman was asked, ""Why would you not talk with the Viet Minh before the shooting started?" "Because you cannot negotiate when a pistol is held at your head," the British official replied. "You mean you can negotiate only when you hold a pistol at the other party's head?" He shrugged." VIETNAM, History, Documents, and Opinions on a Major World Crisis, Marvin E. Gettleman
This seizure of power by French forces and the release and arming of the French internees led to the catastrophe of the Vietnam War.
After Second World War
When India was partitioned in 1947 Gracey became Chief of the General Staff and Deputy Commander-in-Chief 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
- Commissioned into 1st King George's Own Gurkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment) (1915)
- Brigadier General Staff Western Command, India - 1938
- Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles - (1939–1940)
- Assistant Commandant of Staff College Quetta, India - (1940–1941)
- Commanding Officer 17th Indian Brigade, Iraq and Syria - (1941–1942)
- General Officer Commanding 20th Indian Division, Burma - (1942–1946)
- Commander in Chief Allied Land Forces French Indochina - (1945–1946)
- General Officer Commander in Chief Northern Command, India -1946
- General Officer Commanding Indian I Corps - (1946–1947)
- Chief General Staff, Pakistan Army - (1947–1948)
- Commander-in-Chief Pakistan Army - (1948–1951)
- Retired with honorary rank of general - 1951
- The London Gazette: . 15 October 1915.
- The London Gazette: . 16 March 1917.
- The London Gazette: . 30 May 1919.
- The London Gazette: . 17 April 1917.
- Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
- Slim 1972, pp. 473-474.
- Mead, p.183
- Mead, p. 184
- Slim 1972, p. 472.
- "The Empire Strikes Back". Socialist Review. September 1995.
- Man, Kaiser. "Indochina War".
- The London Gazette: . 27 July 1951.
|Commander-in-Chief, Pakistan Army
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