Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer
After commanding infantry and armoured divisions, as well as the German Directorate of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War, he went on to lead the British forces during the Malayan Emergency. He was instrumental in founding the National Army Museum.
"The Tiger of Malaya"
Gerald Templer (1898-1979) joined the British Army in 1916 and served on the Western Front with the Royal Irish Fusiliers during the later stages of the First World War. In the inter-war period he served in Palestine during the Arab insurgency, and also found time to make the 1924 Olympic squad as a 120-yard hurdler. In 1940 Templer went to France as an intelligence officer on the staff of the British Expeditionary Force.
After the Dunkirk evacuation he oversaw the raising of the 9th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and then commanded a brigade in a Home Service division. In 1942 Templer was given command of the 47th Division as a major-general, shortly thereafter commanding II Corps as the Army's youngest lieutenant-general.
In 1943-44, he commanded the 56th Division in Italy, which saw severe fighting in operations around Anzio. He briefly commanded the 6th Armoured Division before being wounded by a land mine in mid-1944. He spent the rest of the war on intelligence duties with 21st Army Group HQ as well as heading the German Directorate of the Special Operations Executive. After the War he served as Director of Military Government in occupied Germany before being appointed Director of Military Intelligence at the War Office in 1946.
Templer’s most important achievements came towards the end of his military career. After a spell in charge of Eastern Command, in February 1952, following the assassination of the local High Commissioner, he was sent to Malaya to assume control of both the civil government and military operations. There he faced a communist insurgency led by the Malayan Races Liberation Army. Templer combined vigorous military operations against the insurgents’ jungle bases with political reforms designed to win the ‘hearts and minds’ (Templer is credited with coining this phrase) of the racially divided Malayan community. He continued his predecessors’ policy of building new settlements for the marginalised Chinese population and promised independence once the guerrillas had been defeated. This won him the support of many nationalists.
He also involved the local population in the fight against the guerrillas by increasing the number of Malay battalions and strengthening the Home Guard raised to defend the new villages. These measures helped unite the population against the insurrection. The campaign was a striking success, and it is still studied today as model of how such operations should be conducted. When he relinquished his post in October 1954, government control over most of the country had been re-established. Templer was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1955, and created a Field Marshal in 1956.
After retiring from active service in 1958, Templer threw his energies into the creation of the National Army Museum. Always passionately interested in the history and traditions of the British Army, it was largely through his efforts that the Museum was originally founded, and that most of the money for the Museum’s main building in Chelsea was later raised.
Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer. Photolithograph after the artist James Gunn, 1958.
‘Time Magazine’ article on Sir Gerald Templer.
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