Review of Reviews

Sir John Dill

Commander in Chief of the British Army Has Enormous Responsibility

April 15 1941
Review of Reviews

Sir John Dill

Commander in Chief of the British Army Has Enormous Responsibility

April 15 1941

Sir John Dill

Commander in Chief of the British Army Has Enormous Responsibility

TODAY the Commander in Chief of the British Army, General Sir John Dill, has responsibilities greater than those of Marlborough or Wellington or any of the other great generals who preceded him. In the London magazine, Illustrated, Major E. V. Sheppard tells us something about him.

It is probable that if you were to ask the man or woman in the street for the name of the chief British soldier today, few of them would give the right answer. Fewer still would know much more than the name.

First then, the chief British soldier of today is General Sir John Greer Dill, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. He holds

the highest military post in the War Office.

The official title of the post is Chief of the Imperial General Staff, but in effect Sir John Dill is the Commander in Chief of the British Army, today several million of men strong.

He is the legal and official heir of the long line of commanders in chief whose portraits adorn the wall of his room. That line includes many great soldiers.

Marlborough, Amherst, Wellington, Hill, Wolseley, Roberts. But great as these men were and great as were their deeds, Sir John Dill’s responsibilities are greater than any of theirs.

The armies he controls number millions, whereas those under their charge numbered thousands only. His outlook must be world-wide, and must cover troops and campaigns in every quarter of the globe. And if he should fail in any sphere the results might be the dissolution of the British Empire and the ruin of Britain.

If the war is to be run by the right and wise use of the British Army, that use will have been devised and watched over by Sir John, and if it is lost—But it will not be lost, because the British Army is in his strong capable hands.

Let us take an instance of the sort of vital decision that Sir John Dill has to take in his capacity as head of the British Army. Last summer the greatest army in the world, flushed with recent victory, stood on the farther shore of the Channel ready to invade us. All the world thought it could and would do so, and many thought it would do so successfully.

Every available British soldier, and every available British weapon—and we had none too many of either—would surely be needed here to resist that mighty onslaught.

But thousands of miles away to the east another great army under a famous leader stood on the frontier of Egypt—Egypt which has been called the Clapham Junction of the British Empire and which the Empire could hardly lose and survive.

Here, too. reinforcements and arms were urgently needed. But could they be spared from Britain in her hour of supreme peril? It might be fatal to send them. It might be little less fatal not to send them.

If they were sent, they would have to go round by the Cape—a long voyage during which they would be of no use either at home or to General Wavell in Egypt. Suppose they left here too soon and arrived in Egypt too late, as well they might. Sir John Dill had to decide.

We know how he decided, and how right he was. The reinforcements and arms were sent to General Waved. They got to him in time. Germany did not attempt to invade us, so they were not missed here. But General Waved made the most excellent use of them in Egypt to smash the Italians to pieces in a series of great victories. Those victories have made his name a household word.

But as he would be the first to ted you, he could never have gained them if Sir

John Did had not decided he could have the wherewithal to win them—and sent it.

Sir John Did was bom on Christmas Day, exactly sixty years ago this year. He was educated at Cheltenham and Sandhurst. He entered the Army just in time to fight at the end of the Boer War. He ended the Great War as a very young colonel on the staff.

He has held every command in the army—Aldershot, the Staff College, the Imperial Defense College, where only the best is good enough. He has been righthand man to one of his predecessors in his present high post as Director of Operations and Intelligence.

He was in charge in Palestine in the troubles where one of the rebel chiefs put a price on his head—a price which was never claimed. He held a corps commission in France at the beginning of this war.

He came home just before the great German thrust began in the spring, to be Vice Chief of Staff to Field Marshal Sir Edmund Ironside, then Chief of the Imperial General Staff. A few weeks later he succeeded him. He has been there ever since.

In himself he gives you first and foremost the impression of a man who thoroughly knows a job for which he has been preparing for years and years and in which he is quite at home.

Sir John Dill has in fact, few, if any, interests outside his job. He works at it for long hours and with undiminished energy. He neither needs nor takes rest or relaxation. He is in his extreme element and happy in it.

He is a scientific soldier in the best sense of the term—as scientific as any German, with the technique of modem war at his finger ends.

Yet though he knows all about guns and tanks and aircraft, he never forgets that these things are handled by men, and that men" are more important than weapons. He is a student of military human nature and knows how to get the best out of it.

So long as he is at the helm the British Army will never be a soulless machine.

Sir John Dill is not a man of spectacularly snap decisions. He likes to look all around a problem before making up his mind. But once he has made it up, it is made up for good. It is also made up for the best.