Background[ edit ] Piotr Zychowicz stated in a November interview: "This book is my answer to the question that all Poles ask. And the question is: did we have to bungle up World War Two so badly? Did we have to lose our elites, which were slaughtered? Did we have to lose millions of our citizens, murdered by totalitarian occupiers, the Germans and the Soviets? Did we have to lose our independence for 50 years? The answer to these questions is politically incorrect , because Poland was not doomed to fail.
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Early life[ edit ] Ironside was born in Edinburgh , Scotland, on 6 May His father, Surgeon-Major William Ironside of the Royal Horse Artillery , died shortly afterwards, leaving his widowed wife to bring up their son on a limited military pension. As the cost of living in the late nineteenth century was substantially lower in mainland Europe than in Britain, she travelled extensively around the Continent, where the young Edmund began learning various foreign languages. At Woolwich he flourished, working hard at his studies and his sports; he took up boxing, and captained the rugby 2nd XV as well as playing for Scotland.
He was built for both of these sports, six feet four inches tall and weighing seventeen stone, for which he was nicknamed "Tiny" by his fellow students. The name stuck, and he was known by it for the rest of his life. He then disguised himself as an Afrikaans -speaking Boer , taking a job as a wagon driver working for the German colonial forces in South West Africa. This intelligence work ended unsuccessfully when he was identified, but managed to escape.
Ironside pushed for a hard training regime, intending to get the division to the front as quickly as possible and prevent it being broken up to feed reinforcements to the other three divisions of the Canadian Corps.
During the final phase of the fighting at Vimy , Ironside again was required to take unofficial command of the division, overruling an ambiguous order from Watson — who was out of contact at headquarters — to halt the attack, and personally ordering the leading battalions into action. However, the Red Army managed eventually to gain a superior position in the Civil War and in late he was forced to abandon the White Army to their fate.
In November he handed command over to Henry Rawlinson , who would supervise the eventual withdrawal, and returned to Britain. Most importantly for his future career, he became the mentor of J.
Fuller , who was appointed a lecturer at the College at the same time, and became a close acquaintance of Sir Basil Liddell-Hart. He was promoted to Lieutenant-General in March , and left for England in May,  where he returned to half-pay with the sinecure of Lieutenant of the Tower of London.
However, he found that as with his earlier posts, he could achieve little in Eastern Command — the most important decisions being made in Whitehall. He himself seemed to lose his opportunity for higher office in , when he was rebuked over his mishandling of a mobile force in the annual exercises; until this point, he had been considered a possible candidate as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, but was dropped from consideration in favour of Lord Gort , whom Ironside considered unfit for the job.
Lord Hore-Belisha gave him official notice that he was deemed too old for the post, aged Thus, he was appointed an Aide-de-Camp to HM the King in October, a purely ceremonial position, and early in accepted the offer of Governor of Gibraltar ,  generally seen as a quiet role where to retire.
Under his tenure, the defences were strengthened and the garrison prepared for a long siege. The position gave him overall responsibility for the readiness of forces based outside the United Kingdom, and many at the War Office worried that he might interpret this as a precursor to being given formal command of the Expeditionary Force on the outbreak of war.
Whilst Gort was nominally in the more senior position, Ironside had seniority of rank and a far more dominant personality, and had concluded several months earlier that Gort was "out of his depth" as CIGS ; he is unlikely to have shown much deference.
Whilst his sympathetic manner reassured the Poles, the visit may have unintentionally given the impression that Britain was intending to provide direct military assistance. He returned able to report that the Polish Government was unlikely to provoke Germany into war, but warned that the country would be quickly overrun and that no Eastern Front was likely to exist for long.
His warnings, however, were broadly ignored. I had rather come to terms with Hitler". Then Ironside, fearful of this alternative, changed his standpoint. He emphasized that Poland would not be abandoned, and that the Allies would provide her with concrete help. Among others, he fabled that squadrons of the Royal Air Force would be sent to Poland, and that a British aircraft carrier would anchor at Gdynia Furthermore, Ironside promised that half of British Army units concentrated in Egypt would be transferred to Poland, via the Black Sea ".
The reorganisation was politically driven; Hore-Belisha had fallen out heavily with Viscount Gort during , and the outbreak of war provided an excellent pretext for Gort to leave Whitehall. However, this force would be broadly defensive, acting to support the French Army, and he aimed to influence the course of the war by forming a second strong force in the Middle East, which would be able to operate in peripheral operations in the Balkans.
Both Ironside and Churchill supported the plan enthusiastically, but it met with opposition from many other officers, including from Gort — who saw his forces in France being depleted of resources — and from Newall , the Chief of the Air Staff. On 12 March, however, Finland sued for peace , and the expedition had to be abandoned. Flaws in the command system quickly began to show.
He was not well-qualified for this task, having a deep dislike and distrust for the French, whom he considered "absolutely unscrupulous in everything". He wrote: "I lost my temper and shook Billotte by the button of his tunic. The man is completely defeated. They are considering my appointment I am to be made a Field Marshal later. Not at once, because the public may think that I am being given a sop and turned out.
An honour for me and a new and most important job, one much more to my liking than C. However, all of these were deficient in training and organisation, as the operational units had already been sent to France. They were also lacking in equipment; the force as a whole had almost no modern artillery or anti-tank guns, and the armoured division had just a small number of light tanks.
As a result, the only way they could practically be used would be to commit them to static defence; Ironside planned to steadily pull units away from the coast and into a central mobile reserve, but this was not possible until they were trained and equipped for the role. On 25 June, he was called to the War Cabinet to brief them on the plans for Home Defence; his system of defence in depth provided for: A defensive "crust" along the coast, able to fight off small raids, give immediate warning of attack, and delay any landings.
Home Guard roadblocks at crossroads, valleys, and other choke points, to stop German armoured columns penetrating inland. Static fortified stop lines sealing the Midlands and London off from the coast, and dividing the coastal area into defensible sectors A central corps-sized reserve to deal with a major breakthrough Local mobile columns to deal with local attacks and parachute landings The plan was "on the whole" approved by the Cabinet,  and by the Chiefs of Staff later in the week.
Finally, on 17 July, Churchill had a long drive with Lieutenant-General Alan Brooke , the commander of Southern Command , whose views on creating mobile reserves held close to possible landing sites were in accordance with his own. The formal reason was that the Cabinet wished to have someone with recent combat experience in command, and Ironside accepted the dismissal gracefully — "I was quite prepared to be released.
I had done my best Cabinets have to make decisions in times of stress. He never received another military posting, and ostracised by the Army establishment,  rarely visited London, and never spoke in the House of Lords. After almost two decades in retirement, having survived a driving accident, he was injured in a fall at his home; he was taken to Queen Alexandra Military Hospital in London where he died on 22 September , aged His coffin was escorted to Westminster Abbey with full military honours,  and he was buried near his home at Hingham, Norfolk.
These were written directly into bound foolscap volumes, a page or more a day, each night; throughout his life, he totalled some twelve volumes and the best part of a million words. He did not ask for these to be destroyed on his death, though their content was sometimes quite contentious, but did write a will — in — asking that they not be published.
In the late s, however, a former colleague persuaded him to allow extracts to be published as part of an account of the run-up to the Second World War, although he died shortly before it saw print. This was published as The Ironside Diaries: —, edited by Colonel Roderick Macleod and Denis Kelly, in ; the material was selected from May to his retirement in June , and published as numbered daily entries with editorial notes.
The book was assembled by Ironside shortly before his death and, whilst it drew heavily on the diaries, it was written in a more conventional narrative form rather than as a strict day-by-day account, with editorial remarks kept to a minimum.
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