Douglas Gracey

Douglas Gracey
Sir Douglas Gracey
Born 1894
Died 1964
Allegiance United KingdomUnited Kingdom
Service/branch Indian Army
Pakistan Army
Rank General
Commands held 2nd Bn 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles
Indian 17th Infantry Brigade
Indian 20th Infantry Division
Northern Command, India
Indian I Corps
Pakistan Army
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 an 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.


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.[1] and saw World War I service in France. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917[2] and again in 1919.[3] The citation to his first MC read:[4]

"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

Between the Wars he became an Instructor at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and was then appointed a General Staff Officer at GHQ India before transferring to Western Command in India.[5]

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.[5] In March 1940 on promotion to full Colonel he became Assistant Commandant of the Staff College Quetta.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5] 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. Driving rapidly south the division captured Prome on 2 May by which time the campaign was effectively over.[6]

Because of Gracey's close relationship with his men, afforded by his long service as commander, 20th Division had a reputation as a happy and confident unit.[7] Field Marshal Slim said of them[8]

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.[5] 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.[9] 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.[6]

After Second World War

Promoted lieutenant-general, Gracey successively commanded Northern Command and Indian I Corps in India.[5]


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.[5] 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.[5]

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[10] - 1951

See also


  • Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. pp. 181–184. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0. 


  1. ^ London Gazette: no. 29328. p. 10169. 15 October 1915.
  2. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29990. p. 2720. 16 March 1917.
  3. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31371. p. 6928. 30 May 1919.
  4. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30023. p. 3681. 17 April 1917.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  6. ^ a b Mead, p.183
  7. ^ Mead, p. 184
  8. ^ Slim, Field Marshal Viscount (1972) [1956]. Defeat into Victory. London: Cassell. p. 472. ISBN 0-304-29114-5. 
  9. ^ "The Empire Strikes Back". Socialist Review. September 1995. 
  10. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39297. p. 4095. 27 July 1951.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Frank Messervy
Commander-in-Chief, Pakistan Army
Succeeded by
Ayub Khan

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