Auchinleck, Claude John Eyre, “The Auk “

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Auchinleck, Claude John Eyre, “The Auk “, born, 21-06-1884 in Aldershot, England, the son of Colonel John Claud Alexander Auchinleck and Mary Eleanor (Eyre) Auchinleck.

Claude attended Eagle House School at Crowthorne and then Wellington College on scholarships. After attending the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Auchinleck was commissioned as an unattached second lieutenant in the Indian Army on 21-01-1903 and joined to the 62nd Punjabis in April 1904. He soon learned several Indian languages and, able to speak fluently with his soldiers, he absorbed a knowledge of local dialects and customs: this familiarity engendered a lasting mutual respect, enhanced by his own personality.

He was promoted to lieutenant on 21-04-1905 and then spent the next two years in Tibet and Sikkim before moving to Benares in 1907 where he caught diphtheria. After briefly serving with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Aldershot he returned to Benares in 1909 and became adjutant of the 62nd Punjabis with promotion to captain on 21-01-1912. Auchinleck was an active freemason.

Auchinleck saw active service in the First World War and was deployed with his regiment to defend the Suez Canal: in February 1915 he was in action against the Turks at Ismaïlia. His regiment moved into Aden to counter the Turkish threat there in July 1915. The 6th Indian Division, of which the 62nd Punjabis were a part, was landed at Basra on 31-12-1915 for the Mesopotamian campaign. In July 1916 Auchinleck was promoted acting major and made second in command of his battalion. He took part in a series of fruitless attacks on the Turks at the Battle of Hanna in January 1916 and was one of the few British officers in his regiment to survive these actions.

He became acting commanding officer of his battalion in February 1917 and led his regiment at the Second Battle of Kut in February 1917 and the Fall of Baghdad in March 1917. Having been mentioned in despatches and having received the Distinguished Service Order in 1917 for his service in Mesopotamia, he was promoted to the substantive rank of major on 21-01-1918, to temporary lieutenant-colonel on 23-05-1919 and to brevet lieutenant-colonel on 15-11-1919 for his “distinguished service in Southern and Central Kurdistan” on the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force

The he found fame in North Africa during World War II, when Churchill dismissed him after the first battle at El Alamein when he came up against the ‘Desert Fox’, Feldmarschall Erwin Rommel  He was replaced with Bernard Montgomery. He served in Egypt and Palestine during World War I and he progressed through the commissioned ranks gaining a reputation for efficiency. In World War II, he commanded the British forces at Narvik in Norway. This was a failure and the British Army had to pull out. Promoted to full General he returned to India before in July, 1941, replacing General Archibald Wavell as commander in chief of British troops in the Middle East. Wavell died age 67, on 24-05-1950, in London.
Wavell.                          William Gott.              Raymond Victor Speed.
A soon clashed with Winston Churchill, who demanded the he should immediate organize an offensive against General Erwin Rommel and the Deutsches Afrika Korps, German Africa Corps. Auchinleck insisted on having time to prepare and he did not launch Operation Crusader until 18-11-1941.  He was sacked by Churchill in August 1942, reputedly because he refused to be bullied by Churchill into ordering a major offensive before he and his troops were properly prepared and was replaced by William Gott, who was killed when his plane was shot down on the flight back to Cairo and then General Harold Alexander. Auchinleck returned to India, was an year without a command and then appointed to Commander in Chief of the British Indian Army.

Naik Narayan Sinde, 5th Mahratta Light Infantry, receiving the Indian Distinguished Service Medal from General Sir Claude Auchinleck, 1945.

Claude continued as Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army after the end of the war helping, though much against his own convictions, to prepare the future Indian and Pakistani armies for the Partition of India in August 1947. He was befriended and aided by Corporal Malcolm James Millward, Malcolm James Millward  a serving soldier in the Queen’s Regiment, for three and a half years up until the death on 23-03-1981 at the very old age of 96.

Burial ground of Auchinleck, Claude John Eyre, “The Auk “.

Auk wavell

He was buried in Ben M’Sik European Cemetery, Casablanca, next to the grave of Raymond Victor Steed, Steed died age 14, on 26-04-1943 and was the second youngest British services recruit to die during the Second World War. It was a request of Auchenleck to be buried next to Steed, as Steed’s  nephew, Michael Steed, reported


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