John Dill

John Dill

Infobox Military Person
name= John Greer Dill
lived= birth date|1881|12|25 – death date and age|1944|11|4|1881|12|25
placeofbirth=Lurgan, County Armagh, Ireland
placeofdeath=Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, DC, USA

caption=Sir John Dill at the headquarters of General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief of Middle East Forces, Egypt, 18 February 1941
allegiance= flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
serviceyears=1901 - 1944
rank= Field Marshal
commands= Staff College, Camberley (8 January 1931 - 21 January 1934) Director of Military Operations and Intelligence, War Office (22 January 1934 - 31 August 1936) British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan (8 September 1936 - 19 September 1937) General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Aldershot Command (12 October 1937 - 2 September 1939) 1st Corps (3 September 1939 - 22 April 1940) Chief of the Imperial General Staff
unit= Leinster Regiment
awards= Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) (1942) Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) (1937) Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) (1928) Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG )(1918)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) (1915) Mentioned in Despatches (8 times in World war I) Distinguished Service Medal (United States) (21 November 1944, posthumously) Légion d'honneur, degree of Officer (France) Croix de guerre (France) British War Medal Victory Medal Commander of the Order of the Crown (Belgium) Croix de Guerre (Belgium) Officer of the Order of the Crown of Romania Grand Cross, Order of St Olav (26 November 1943) Order of Polonia Restituta, 1st class (22 July 1941) Distinguished Service Medal (United States)

Field Marshal Sir John Greer Dill, GCB, CMG, DSO (25 December 1881 - 4 November 1944) was a British commander in World War I and World War II who played a significant role in the formation of the "special relationship" between the United Kingdom and the United States.

Early life

Born in Lurgan, County Armagh, Ireland in 1881, his father was the local bank manager and his mother was an American from Kentucky. Always intended for a career in the services Dill attended Cheltenham College and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. On 8 May 1901 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 1st battalion of the Leinster Regiment [LondonGazette|issue=27311|supp=yes|startpage=3128|endpage=3130|date=7 May 1901|accessdate=2008-07-30] and was posted to South Africa to see out the Second Boer War. [Heathcote, Anthony pg 102]

Military career

Dill was appointed regimental adjutant on 15 August 1906, [LondonGazette|issue=27944|startpage=5869|date=28 August 1906|accessdate=2008-07-30] having previously been assistant adjutant from 1902. [cite web|first=Alex|last=Danchev|title=‘Dill, Sir John Greer (1881–1944)’|work=Oxford Dictionary of National Biography|publisher=Oxford University Press|month=September|year=2004; online edition, January 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-07-30|doi=10.1093/ref:odnb/32826|format=subscription required for online access] Promoted captain on [12 July 1911, [LondonGazette|issue=28529|startpage=6628|date=8 September 1911|accessdate=2008-07-30] he was seconded to study at the Staff College, Camberley from 1 February 1913, [LondonGazette|issue=28687|startpage=844|date=4 February 1913|accessdate=2008-07-30] and was still there on the outbreak of the First World War.Heathcote, Anthony pg 103] He became brigade-major of the 25th brigade (8th division) in France where he was present at Neuve Chapelle. By the end of the war he was a brigadier general and had been Mentioned in Despatches eight times. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1918 New Year Honours. [LondonGazette|issue=30450|supp=yes|startpage=3|endpage=5|date=28 December 1917|accessdate=2008-07-30] He also received a number of foreign decorations for his service, including the Légion d'honneur, in the degree of Officer, [LondonGazette|issue=31454|supp=yes|startpage=8957|date=11 July 1919|accessdate=2008-07-30] the French Croix de guerre, [LondonGazette|issue=31812|supp=yes|startpage=2868|date=5 March 1920|accessdate=2008-07-30] Commander of the Order of the Crown (Belgium), [LondonGazette|issue=31514|supp=yes|startpage=10604|date=19 August 1919|accessdate=2008-07-30] Officer of the Order of the Crown of Romania. [LondonGazette|issue=31560|supp=yes|startpage=11749|date=19 September 1919|accessdate=2008-07-30]

After the war he gained a reputation as a gifted army instructor. In the 1928 New Year Honours he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB). [LondonGazette|issue=33343|supp=yes|startpage=3|date=30 December 1927|accessdate=2008-07-30] In 1929 he was posted to India and in 1930 was promoted to major general before returning to appointments at the Staff College (for in fact the third time) and then to the War Office as Director of Military Operations and Intelligence, holding that post until 1 September 1936. [LondonGazette|issue=34319|supp=yes|startpage=5659|date=1 September 1936|accessdate=2008-07-30] Alongside his other positions, he was appointed to the largely honorary role of Colonel of the East Lancashire Regiment on 24 December 1932. [LondonGazette|issue=34319|startpage=129|date=6 January 1933|accessdate=2008-07-30]

Dill was appointed General Officer Commanding British forces in Palestine on 8 September 1936, [LondonGazette|issue=34327|startpage=6212|date=29 September 1936|accessdate=2008-07-30] holding the post until 1937, and was knighted in the 1937 Coronation Honours with his promotion to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB), [LondonGazette|issue=34396|supp=yes|startpage=3078|date=11 May 1937|accessdate=2008-07-30] and he was then appointed General Officer Commanding, Aldershot Command but at the outbreak of World War II he initially had to watch younger, junior officers be promoted over him. Seen as something of a dinosaur and poorly regarded by both Winston Churchill and Leslie Hore-Belisha, Minister for War, Dill was eventually posted as commander of I Corps in France on 3 September 1939. [LondonGazette|issue=34753|supp=yes|startpage=8305|date=12 December 1939|accessdate=2008-07-30] Heathcote, Anthony pg 104] He was promoted to full general on 1 October 1939 (with seniority backdated to 5 December 1937). [LondonGazette|issue=34709|supp=yes|startpage=6933|date=13 October 1939|accessdate=2008-07-30] On returning to the UK in April 1940, [LondonGazette|issue=34855|supp=yes|startpage=3091|date=21 May 1940|accessdate=2008-07-30] Dill was appointed Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff (and a member of the Army Council [LondonGazette|issue=34873|startpage=3608|date=14 June 1940|accessdate=2008-07-30
LondonGazette|issue=34878|startpage=3779|date=21 June 1940|accessdate=2008-07-30
LondonGazette|issue=34920|startpage=4932|date=13 August 1940|accessdate=2008-07-30
LondonGazette|issue=35068|startpage=750|date=7 February 1941|accessdate=2008-07-30
LondonGazette|issue=35187|startpage=3320|date=10 June 1941|accessdate=2008-07-30
LondonGazette|issue=35208|startpage=3820|date=4 July 1941|accessdate=2008-07-30
LondonGazette|issue=35247|startpage=4719|date=15 August 1941|accessdate=2008-07-30
LondonGazette|issue=35414|startpage=193|date=9 January 1942|accessdate=2008-07-30
] ), under CIGS William Ironside, by the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. On 27 May 1940, after Chamberlain had been replaced by Churchill, Dill replaced Ironside as CIGS. [LondonGazette|issue=34858|supp=yes|startpage=3175|date=24 May 1940|accessdate=2008-07-30] Later in 1940, Dill became ADC General to King George VI.

By the time Churchill worked with Dill as Chief of the Imperial General Staff it was clear how poorly the two men got on. Dill gained a reputation as unimaginative and obstructionist. He was promoted field marshal on 18 November 1941. [LondonGazette|issue=35352|supp=yes|startpage=6693|date=18 November 1941|accessdate=2008-07-30] Keen to get him out of the way, Churchill posted Dill to Washington as his personal representative in 1941 where he became Chief of the British Joint Staff Mission, [LondonGazette|issue=35397|supp=yes|startpage=7369|date=26 December 1941|accessdate=2008-07-30] Heathcote, Anthony pg 105] then Senior British Representative on the Combined Chiefs of Staff. [ [ Arlington National Cemetery] ] He showed a great flair as a diplomatic military presence. In 1943 alone he attended the Quebec Conference, the Casablanca Conference, the Tehran Conference and meetings in India, China and Brazil. He also served briefly on the combined policy committee set up by the British and United States governments under the Quebec Agreement to oversee the construction of the atomic bomb.

In the United States he was immensely important in making the Chiefs of Staff committee — which included members from both countries — function, often promoting unity of action. [ [ Letter Roosevelt to Churchill on the announcement of the posthumous honours to Dill] ] He was particularly friendly with General George Marshall [ [ Marshal Foundation] ] and the two exercised a great deal of influence on President Roosevelt who described Dill as "the most important figure in the remarkable accord which has been developed in the combined operations of our two countries". [ Citation for Dill's Army Distinguished Service Medal] ]


Dill served in Washington until his death from aplastic anaemia in November 1944. His funeral arrangements reflected the great professional and personal respect and affection that he had earned. A memorial service was held in Washington Cathedral and the route of the cortege was lined by some thousands of troops, following which he was interred in Arlington National Cemetery, where a simple service was conducted at the graveside. A witness recorded that "I have never seen so many men so visibly shaken by sadness. Marshall's face was truly stricken ...". He was sorely missed by the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, who sent a fulsome message of condolence to their British colleagues: [cite book
last = Danchev
first = Alex
authorlink =
editor = John Keegan
coauthors =
title = Churchill's Generals
publisher = Cassell Military
date = 1991
location = London
pages = pp 67-68
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-304-36712-5

We feel we share equally with you the loss to our combined war effort resulting from the death of Field Marshal Sir John Dill. His character and wisdom, his selfless devotion to the allied cause, made his contribution to the combined British-American war effort of outstanding importance. It is not too much to say that probably no other individual was more responsible for the achievement of complete cooperation in the work of the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

... we have looked to him with complete confidence as a leader in our combined deliberations. He has been a personal friend of all of us ...

We mourn with you the passing of a great and wise soldier, and a great gentleman. His task in this war has been well done.

He was posthumously awarded an American Distinguished Service Medal in 1944 [LondonGazette|issue=36801|supp=yes|startpage=5321|date=17 November 1944|accessdate=2008-07-30] as well as receiving an unprecedented joint resolution of the United States Congress appreciating his services. [ [ Resolution of the United States Congress] ]


Further reading

* "The British Field Marshals 1736-1997", Tony Heathcote, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 1999, ISBN 0-85052-696-5

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