Neil Ritchie
Overview
 
General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Sir Neil Methuen Ritchie GBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, KCB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

, DSO
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

, MC
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

, KStJ (29 July 1897 - 11 December 1983) was a senior British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 army officer during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.
Following Lancing
Lancing College
Lancing College is a co-educational English independent school in the British public school tradition, founded in 1848 by Nathaniel Woodard. Woodard's aim was to provide education "based on sound principle and sound knowledge, firmly grounded in the Christian faith." Lancing was the first of a...

 and Sandhurst, Ritchie's military career started in 1914 when he was commissioned as an officer in the Black Watch
Black Watch
The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The unit's traditional colours were retired in 2011 in a ceremony led by Queen Elizabeth II....

. During the First World War he served in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, where he won the Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

 in 1917, and in the Mesopotamian campaign
Mesopotamian Campaign
The Mesopotamian campaign was a campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I fought between the Allies represented by the British Empire, mostly troops from the Indian Empire, and the Central Powers, mostly of the Ottoman Empire.- Background :...

 where he won the Military Cross
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

 in 1918, for "a fine example of coolness, courage and utter disregard of danger".

By the start of the Second World War Ritchie had risen to the rank of brigadier
Brigadier
Brigadier is a senior military rank, the meaning of which is somewhat different in different military services. The brigadier rank is generally superior to the rank of colonel, and subordinate to major general....

, and was involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Encyclopedia
General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Sir Neil Methuen Ritchie GBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, KCB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

, DSO
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

, MC
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

, KStJ (29 July 1897 - 11 December 1983) was a senior British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 army officer during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Military career

Following Lancing
Lancing College
Lancing College is a co-educational English independent school in the British public school tradition, founded in 1848 by Nathaniel Woodard. Woodard's aim was to provide education "based on sound principle and sound knowledge, firmly grounded in the Christian faith." Lancing was the first of a...

 and Sandhurst, Ritchie's military career started in 1914 when he was commissioned as an officer in the Black Watch
Black Watch
The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The unit's traditional colours were retired in 2011 in a ceremony led by Queen Elizabeth II....

. During the First World War he served in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, where he won the Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

 in 1917, and in the Mesopotamian campaign
Mesopotamian Campaign
The Mesopotamian campaign was a campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I fought between the Allies represented by the British Empire, mostly troops from the Indian Empire, and the Central Powers, mostly of the Ottoman Empire.- Background :...

 where he won the Military Cross
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

 in 1918, for "a fine example of coolness, courage and utter disregard of danger".

By the start of the Second World War Ritchie had risen to the rank of brigadier
Brigadier
Brigadier is a senior military rank, the meaning of which is somewhat different in different military services. The brigadier rank is generally superior to the rank of colonel, and subordinate to major general....

, and was involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk. He held posts on the staffs of Wavell, Alanbrooke
Alan Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke
Field Marshal The Rt. Hon. Alan Francis Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke, KG, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO & Bar , was a senior commander in the British Army. He was the Chief of the Imperial General Staff during the Second World War, and was promoted to Field Marshal in 1944...

 and Auchinleck
Claude Auchinleck
Field Marshal Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, GCB, GCIE, CSI, DSO, OBE , nicknamed "The Auk", was a British army commander during World War II. He was a career soldier who spent much of his military career in India, where he developed a love of the country and a lasting affinity for the soldiers...

 and was highly regarded by them all. It was Auchinleck who was to give him his highest field command, the Eighth Army, in November 1941, following the dismissal of Lt-Gen. Alan Cunningham from that position.

Ritchie had the bad luck to hold his highest command during the earliest phases of the war, when British fortunes were at their lowest ebb. The Eighth Army, in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, were the only British land force engaging the Germans
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 anywhere in the world. After some early successes against the Italians
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 the British were pushed back following the arrival of the Afrika Korps
Afrika Korps
The German Africa Corps , or the Afrika Korps as it was popularly called, was the German expeditionary force in Libya and Tunisia during the North African Campaign of World War II...

 under Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

. Ritchie was originally intended as a temporary appointment until a suitable commander could be found, but in fact ended up commanding the Eighth Army for over six months. He was in command of the Eighth Army at the Battle of Gazala
Battle of Gazala
The Battle of Gazala was an important battle of the Second World War Western Desert Campaign, fought around the port of Tobruk in Libya from 26 May-21 June 1942...

 in May–June 1942 where Ritchie failed to exercise strong command over the army and the British were heavily defeated, losing the port of Tobruk
Tobruk
Tobruk or Tubruq is a city, seaport, and peninsula on Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border with Egypt. It is the capital of the Butnan District and has a population of 120,000 ....

. He was sacked by Auchinleck on 25 June 1942 prior to the first battle of El Alamein
First Battle of El Alamein
The First Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought between Axis forces of the Panzer Army Africa commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Allied forces The First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942) was a battle of the Western Desert...

.
Auchinleck is often seen as having appointed Ritchie, a relatively junior commander, in order to allow him to closely direct the battle himself as Commander-in-Chief Middle-East. Ritchie was criticised heavily both during and after the war for his failure to stop Rommel. Since then several commentators have come to his defence, most notably Field Marshal Lord Carver
Michael Carver, Baron Carver
Field Marshal Richard Michael Power Carver, Baron Carver GCB, CBE, DSO & Bar, MC was a British soldier. He served as the Chief of the Defence Staff of the United Kingdom and thus the professional head of the British Armed Forces.-Army career:Educated at Winchester College, Michael Carver was...

.

After being replaced as Eighth Army commander Ritchie was appointed to command the 52nd Division
British 52nd (Lowland) Division
The British 52nd Division was a Territorial Army division that was originally formed as part of the Territorial Force in 1908.- World War I :...

 in Britain and later XII Corps during the D-Day landings and the campaign in Europe. The fact that Ritchie regained an active command following his dismissal, unlike his Eighth Army predecessor, Lt-Gen. Cunningham, reflects the high esteem in which he was held by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Alanbrooke.

After the war Ritchie remained in the Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 becoming General Officer Commanding
General Officer Commanding
General Officer Commanding is the usual title given in the armies of Commonwealth nations to a general officer who holds a command appointment. Thus, a general might be the GOC II Corps or GOC 7th Armoured Division...

 Scottish Command
Scottish Command
-History:The Command was established in 1905 at Edinburgh Castle but moved to Craigiehall in the early 1950s.Since 1936 the General Officer Commanding Scottish Command has also always been appointed Governor of Edinburgh Castle....

 and Governor of Edinburgh Castle in 1945 and General Officer Commanding
General Officer Commanding
General Officer Commanding is the usual title given in the armies of Commonwealth nations to a general officer who holds a command appointment. Thus, a general might be the GOC II Corps or GOC 7th Armoured Division...

 Far East Land Forces
British Far East Command
The Far East Command was a British military command which had 2 distinct periods. These were firstly, 18 November 1940 – 7 January 1942 succeeded by the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command , and secondly, 1963 – 1971 succeeded by Australia, New Zealand, and United Kingdom Force...

, in 1947.

From December 1948 until retirement from the army he held the ceremonial appointment of Aide-de-Camp General
Aide-de-Camp General
One of the several categories of aides de camp to the Monarch in the United Kingdom is styled Aide de Camp General.These are honorary appointments for senior British Army generals, first made in 1910. There were originally four, but the number was reduced to three in 1988...

 to the King and from September 1950 he was colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 of the Black Watch
Black Watch
The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The unit's traditional colours were retired in 2011 in a ceremony led by Queen Elizabeth II....

, his old regiment. Following his retirement he emigrated to Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 where he became a director of the Canadian subsidiary of Tanqueray Gordon & Co. and in 1954 became chairman of the Mercantile & General Reinsurance Co. of Canada. He died at the age of 86 in Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

.

Honours and decorations

  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire 7 June 1951 (KBE 5 July 1945, CBE 11 July 1940)
  • Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath 12 June 1947 (CB 1 January 1944)
  • Distinguished Service Order
    Distinguished Service Order
    The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

     25 August 1917
  • Military Cross
    Military Cross
    The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

     15 February 1918
  • Mentioned in Despatches 26 July 1940, 30 June 1942, 22 March 1945, 9 August 1945
  • Virtuti Militari, 5th class
    Virtuti Militari
    The Order Wojenny Virtuti Militari is Poland's highest military decoration for heroism and courage in the face of the enemy at war...

     (Poland) 15 May 1942
  • Commander Legion of Honour (France)
  • Croix de Guerre
    Croix de guerre
    The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

     (France) 1945
  • Knight Commander of the Order of Orange Nassau (Netherlands) 1945
  • Commander, Legion of Merit
    Legion of Merit
    The Legion of Merit is a military decoration of the United States armed forces that is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements...

     (United States) 1945
  • Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem 2 July 1963 (Commander 2 August 1960)
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