Major General M Forrester CB CBE DSO MC
(The 70th Foot, 1768-80)
Major General Michael Forrester had an exceptional record of leadership and gallantry in the 1939-1945 War and went on to complete a career of much distinction.
He was born on 31st August 1917 and after school at Haileybury was commissioned into The Queen’s Royal Regiment, going out in 1938 with the 2nd Battalion to Palestine where the Arab population was in a state of revolt. In May 1939 Forrester was awarded a first MC leading his platoon in an action to occupy and search an Arab village; he was wounded.
On the outbreak of war he served for a time at GHQ Middle East before being selected for the British Military Mission in Greece. This led to his being with remnants of the Greek Army in Crete at the time of the German airborne invasion. Here near Canae he distinguished himself by organizing a mixed force of Greek soldiers supported by local civilians, which he personally led in an epic charge to recover a key position in the area which a Brigade of the New Zealand Division was trying to defend; he was awarded a second MC. After Crete he held various staff appointments in North Africa, being ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ as Brigade Major of 132 Brigade at El Alamein. In early 1943 he joined 1/6th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal Regiment and became Commanding Officer in August at the age of 26. The Battalion as part of 7th Armoured Division landed at Salerno in the second wave, and led the break out from the Beachhead. Michael Forrester commanded with exceptional dash and determination, and the Battalion captured the key bridge over the River Sarno at Scafati, holding it against intense counter-attacks by the German Herman Goering Division; he was awarded the DSO for his leadership and example. Soon after this 7th Armoured Division was redeployed back to the UK to take part in the invasion of NW Europe in June 1944, when they landed soon after D-Day. The Division’s attempt in mid-June to break out at Villers Bocage met with a fierce counter-attack by the Panzer Lehr Division equipped with Tiger tanks, and 1/6th Queen’s then played a key role in stabilizing the situation. Michael Forrester again displayed outstanding courage, coolness and control, and was awarded a Bar to his DSO. Ten days later he was badly wounded by shell fire and that ended his fighting war.
With the end of the War he filled a number of high level staff appointments with there being interspersed with service in the Parachute Regiment (first in 1952 as a Company Commander – a level of command he had not previously experienced). Then in 1957 he transferred to the Parachute Regiment as Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion. This period since the War had seen him serve in Washington, in Cyprus, in Egypt and in Jordan, and also on the staff in Kenya during the Mau Mau Rebellion. Then from 1961 to 1963 he was Commander 16th Parachute Brigade. All this service saw him awarded an OBE in 1960 and then the CBE in 1963.
After his Brigade command he attended the Imperial Defence College before becoming GOC 4th Division in Germany, being made CB in 1969. Finally he was Director of Infantry, and at the same time Colonel Commandant, The Queen’s Division.
In retirement he lived near Alton, and amongst other things was much involved in Church affairs in the Winchester Diocese.
He married in 1947 having two sons but the marriage was dissolved in 1961.
He died in October 2006.