General Sir George Giffard GCB DSO
George Giffard was born in 1886 and was commissioned into The Queen’s Royal Regiment in 1906. After serving seven years with the 1st Battalion he was seconded to The Kings African Rifles. This started his long association with native troops and Africa. During the 1914-18 War he served in British, German and Portuguese East Africa. He was appointed Colonel and Column Commander at the age of 32, awarded the DSO, was four times Mentioned in Despatches and suffered severe wounds.
He attended the first Staff College course after the war, at the end of which he returned to the West African Frontier Force in 1920. In 1925 he returned to The Queen’s and went with them to China as part of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force. On his return to the UK in 1928 he was an Instructor at the Staff College having already attended the Royal Naval College. In 1931 he became a student at the Imperial Defence College. It was here that he met many of those who were to achieve high rank in the war to come.
In January 1932 he returned to his regiment to command the 2nd Battalion at Aldershot. In July 1936 he was promoted Colonel and appointed GSO 1 to the 2nd Division at North Camp, Aldershot. During the last year in this appointment the 2nd Division was under command of Major General Archibald Wavell. Giffard assisted the General with his new ideas of training of junior commanders.
From 1937-1939 he was Inspector-General of The Royal West African Frontier Force and The King’s African Rifles. He returned briefly to London as Military Secretary to Mr Hore-Belisha, the Secretary of State for War, and was then even more briefly posted to the Middle East as GOC Palestine and Jordan. Events were moving fast worldwide, and in late 1940 he was sent back to West Africa to take command of the varied and under-strength defence forces of Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
This was an exceptionally difficult period. France had fallen, and there was a strong risk that the neighbouring Vichy French would seize the opportunity to attack the poorly defended British colonies. Despite acute shortages of material and experienced staff, Giffard was so successful in raising and training new RWAFF units and supporting arms that the French abandoned any thought of invasion.
By 1942, his command had reached a peak of efficiency which allowed him to offer to the War Office his newly-formed 81st and 82nd (WA) Divisions for service in Burma. This was agreed, and he took them to Ceylon for jungle warfare training. In August 1943 he was appointed GOC-in-Chief, Eastern Army, India, and successively (1943-1944) as GOC-in-Chief, 11th Army Group, South East Asia. Serving under him during this period was the "forgotten” 14th Army, commanded by General “Bill” Slim. The African troops whom he had laboured so hard to prepare for war went on to win a fine reputation as Chindits and in the Kaladan and Kabaw Valley campaigns.
General Giffard was appointed ADC to His Majesty King George VI from 1943-1946, and was elevated to Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1944. His banner was bequeathed to the Regiment and now hangs in the Regimental Chapel in Guildford Cathedral. He returned to England in 1944 and so did not witness at first hand the defeat of the Japanese. He held no further senior posts in the army, and retired in 1946.
His colonelcy of The Queen’s commenced in 1945, and he was devoted to the promotion of its interests and excellence. He was also President of the Army Benevolent Fund. In 1954 he gave up the colonelcy and also his appointment as Colonel Commandant of The Royal West African Frontier Force, The King’s African Rifles, and The Northern Rhodesia Regiment.
It was said of him: “Except in the course of duty, he always appeared somewhat shy. In the course of duty he was nothing of the sort. He dealt with everything he considered unjust without fear, favour or affection”. He died at Winchester in November 1974, his wife of 49 years surviving him by only a few days.