News, Heritage | 17 June 2024

The Forgotten General: Sir Alan Cunningham GCMG KCB DSO MC – by Colonel Dennis Vincent MBE

General Sir Alan Cunningham was one of the most well-known British Generals in 1941, but virtually unknown by the end of the Second World War. His fame came from his dynamic leadership of the small East African Army, which defeated the Italians. His renown was such that he was selected to form and command the British Army’s newest and most technically advanced formation, the 8th Army, the only British Army fighting the Germans in 1941.

He was given eight weeks to organise and train his new command. The ensuing battle started exceptionally well, but Cunningham found that he had lost the initiative and just nine days into the campaign he was removed from command by General Auchinleck. His removal was controversial both at the time and today, with an official narrative of mental breakdown; but the author’s research proves this not to be the case.

Churchill took against Cunningham and he spent nearly nine months unemployed before he was given a series of UK-based roles until the end of the War. As soon as Churchill lost power, Cunningham was offered the prestigious and incredibly challenging job of High Commissioner in Palestine and for the next three years successfully managed the British withdrawal. This is a fascinating story of military success and political jealousy; unsurprisingly, the great Alan Brooke and astute Field Marshal Smuts were supporters, Monty was not.

The foreword has kindly been provided by Professor Sir John Cunningham, Dr Jane Cunningham and Admiral Sir Jock Slater.

You can purchase the book here

The Author

Dennis Vincent was a Colonel in the Royal Anglian Regiment before he became an academic and is now the Head of the Department of Communication and Applied Behavioural Science at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. His PhD is in ‘Military History and Leadership Studies’ and was on General Sir Alan Cunningham and his African campaigns of 1941.

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