Richard Gale (British Army officer)

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Sir Richard Nelson Gale
Richard Gale in Normandy June 1944 IWM B 5352.jpg
Gale as GOC 6th Airborne Division, 10 June 1944.
Nickname(s) Windy[1]
Born (1896-07-25)25 July 1896
Wandsworth, London, England
Died 29 July 1982(1982-07-29) (aged 86)
Kingston upon Thames, London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1915–1957
Rank General
Unit Worcestershire Regiment
Commands held 2/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment
1st Parachute Brigade
6th Airborne Division
I Airborne Corps
1st Infantry Division
British Troops in Egypt
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Other work Aide-de-camp (general) to Elizabeth II (1954–7), Colonel of the Worcestershire Regiment (1950–61), and Colonel-Commandant of the Parachute Regiment (1956–67).

General Sir Richard Nelson "Windy" Gale GCB KBE DSO MC (25 July 1896 – 29 July 1982) was a senior officer in the British Army who served in both world wars. In the First World War he was awarded the Military Cross in 1918 whilst serving as a junior officer in the Machine Gun Corps. During the Second World War he served with 1st Parachute Brigade and then the 6th Airborne Division during the D-Day landings and Operation Tonga in 1944. After the end of the conflict, Gale remained with the Army and eventually became the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

Early life

Gale was born on 25 July 1896 in London, England.[2] The early years of his life were spent in Australia and New Zealand due to his father gaining employment in insurance, but the Gale family returned to England in 1906.[3] He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood, a foundation school in the City of London, gaining an average academic record but becoming a prolific reader.[3] After this, he attended further education at Aldenham School in Hertfordshire.[2] For a time, he was a boarder at King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon.[4] When Gale left Aldenham he wanted to become an officer in the Royal Artillery, but did not possess the academic qualifications or physical grades required for entry into the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. Instead he followed in his father's footsteps and gained employment as an insurance agent, but rapidly grew to dislike the job; determined to enter the British Army, he attended regular physical training classes and studied hard to improve his academic grades.[5]

First World War

When the Great War broke out in 1914, Gale was still below the medical standards required for a recruit and failed to join a Territorial Force unit in London. He finally gained entry to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in the summer of 1915 and was commissioned into the Worcestershire Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant on 22 December.[6][7] When Gale joined the regiment, he put his name forward for a course on training with machine guns and was accepted, being transferred to the Machine Gun Training Centre at Grantham; there he discovered that he had not applied to join a course, but to actually join the Machine Gun Corps. Appointed to the Corps on 13 March 1916, in short order he was posted to the Western Front.[8] He was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant on 1 November,[9] and to the substantive rank on 1 July 1917.[10] It was during his service as a subaltern in France that he won the Military Cross.[11] During the Spring Offensive launched by the German Army in mid-March 1918, Gale was awarded his Military Cross for 'conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty'. He covered the retreat of a British infantry unit with his machine gun section, and when an artillery shell landed by a gun limber, he unhitched the killed and wounded horses under heavy fire to allow the limber to be moved away.[12]

Inter-war years

When the war ended in 1918, Gale volunteered to go to India and serve with the British Indian Army, remaining in the Machine-Gun Corps until it was disbanded in 1922 and then reverting to serving with the Worcestershire Regiment.[2] During his time in India he gained entry to the Staff College at Quetta and after two years in the institution he graduated as a staff officer.[13] Promotion prospects in the inter-war years were limited, and although he received above average grades in his annual reports, he remained a subaltern for fifteen years, until he was promoted to the rank of Captain in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry on 26 February 1930.[2][14]

In February 1932, Gale was seconded for service as a GSO3 in India.[15][16] He was appointed a brigade major on 1 January 1934.[17] Gale left India in January 1936 and returned to England to serve with the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, receiving a brevet promotion to major on 1 July.[18] In February 1937 he was transferred to the War Office as a General Staff Officer 2, with responsibilities for the creation of training pamphlets and publications.[19] He transferred to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 13 October.[20] In December 1938 he was promoted to Major and moved to the Staff Duties (Planning) section of the General Staff.[21]

Second World War

Gale talking to troops of 5th Parachute Brigade, in front of an Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle, June 1944.

By 1940 Gale had been promoted to the acting rank of lieutenant colonel and given command of the 2/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, a Territorial Army unit attached to the 138th Brigade, 46th Division.[2] Then in the summer of 1941, the 1st Parachute Brigade was formed as part of the expansion of the British airborne forces, and Gale was offered command of the Brigade by Lieutenant-General Sir Alan Brooke, who was impressed with the high morale and standards in the battalion; Gale accepted the command.[2][22] After a period spent organizing the Brigade, choosing officers and devising new training schemes,[23] Gale, by now a war-substantive lieutenant-colonel, was posted to the War Office in 1942 as Deputy Director of Staff Duties, and subsequently promoted to Director of Air.[24] Gale's remit as Director of Air was to attempt to formulate a clear policy about the use of airborne forces between the Army and the Royal Air Force, as well as to solve the aircraft shortages that stymied many attempts to conduct further airborne operations. There was a great deal of rivalry between the two services, with the RAF sure that large-scale bombing would win the conflict, and therefore unwilling to transfer any aircraft to the Army for use by airborne forces.[24]

In May 1943, Gale was promoted to the acting rank of Major-General and assumed command of the newly formed 6th Airborne Division.[25][26] Gale had just under a year to organize and train the division before it was due to participate in Operation Tonga, the British airborne landings in Normandy in June 1944. The division was initially understrength due to trained airborne troops being transferred to North Africa and Sicily to replace the losses suffered by the 1st Airborne Division during its operations, but it was soon expanded with the arrival of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, joining the 3rd Parachute Brigade, as well as the formation of the 5th Parachute Brigade and 6th Airlanding Brigade.[27] No British airborne division had ever been deployed into battle entirely through aerial means, and devising plans and formulating tactics for the operation placed a great deal of pressure on Gale.[2][27] However, Gale's thoroughness paid off when the division successfully landed in Normandy in June 1944, with Gale accompanying the division and landing by glider.[28] For his part in planning and taking part in Operation Tonga, Gale was awarded the DSO on 29 August 1944; in May, he had been promoted to colonel (war-substantive), and also to the temporary rank of major-general.[29][30] On 5 September the division was taken out of the frontlines and returned to England for rest and recuperation; Gale did not remain with the division, instead being appointed to the headquarters of First Allied Airborne Army.[31] In the last months of the conflict, he was given command of I Airborne Corps.[2] He was promoted to major-general on 7 January 1945, with the acting rank of lieutenant-general from 24 May.[32][33]

Later life

On 4 December 1946, Gale was promoted to the substantive rank of lieutenant-general.[34] Between 1946-1947 Gale was given command of the 1st Infantry Division when it served in the Middle East, and in 1948 he was appointed General Officer Commanding British Troops in Egypt. Then in 1949 he was transferred and became Director-General of Military Training. He was promoted to general on 6 June 1952 and appointed Commander-in-Chief, Northern Army Group, Allied Land Forces Europe and British Army of the Rhine on 24 September; he held the post until retiring in 1957.[35][36][37]

Gale initially retired in 1957, but early in 1958 he was recalled to serve with NATO and replaced Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe;[2] he retired permanently in 1960 after three years in the post.[38] During the post-war years, Gale also held a number of ceremonial and non-military posts; he was aide-de-camp (general) to the Queen Elizabeth II between 1954–7, Colonel of the Worcestershire Regiment between 1950–61, and Colonel-Commandant of the Parachute Regiment between 1956–67.[2] Gale died in a hospital in Kingston upon Thames on 29 July 1982, four days after his 86th birthday.[2]

Military thinking

Gale addressing the 6th Airborne Division in early June 1944

Gale's approach to military affairs emerged from both his personal history and personality. Gale, a 'tall, bluff, ruddy'[39] individual, with a reputation as 'a bit of a buccaneer'[40] but allegedly possessing a 'hectoring manner and a loud voice',[41] was one of a number of Great War veterans to challenge the military status quo that had led to the terrible losses on the Western Front. Events such as the losses on the Somme heavily influenced Gale's thinking,[42] and he emerged from the war with a suspicion of predominantly firepower-led operations.[43] Looking back, Gale was to remember the 'wonderful panorama' of the infantry successfully advancing using modern infiltration tactics on a clear day in the spring of 1918,[44] contributing to his embracing the interwar manoeuvrist theorists during his time at Staff College. Gale saw a narrative in the sequence of developments from the creation of the new infantry tactics of 1918, through to the tanks and airborne forces of the 1940s, that demonstrated the 'fundamental necessity of mobility on the battlefield', and the importance of surprise at all levels of warfare.[45]

During the Second World War, Gale applied these principles to the development of airborne forces. An advocate of shock manoeuvre with elite forces, Gale stressed extensive training, the use of the latest battlefield technologies and strong personal leadership.[46] For Gale, the quality of one's military forces were as important as their number, and he drew additional lessons on the disproportionate effect that surprise manoeuvre had on a 'demoralised or unprepared enemy', as opposed to a 'well-trained opposition', from the operations of the 6th Division in Normandy.[47] Later in life, Gale examined the issues of war in the nuclear age. Still an advocate of manoeuvre and high-quality forces, Gale was to stress the importance of achieving mobility and flexibility in the face of the Soviet threat,[48] foreshadowing in many ways the evolution of the AirLand battle doctrine of the 1980s.

Honours and awards


  • With the 6th Airborne Div in Normandy (Sampson Low, Marston & Co, London, 1948)
  • Infantry in Modern Battle: Its Organization and Training (Canadian Army Journal 8, no. 1, 1955: 52-61)
  • Generalship and the art of Command in this Nuclear Age (RUSI Journal 101, no. 603, 1956: 376-384)
  • Call to arms. An autobiography (Hutchinson, London, 1968)
  • Great battles of biblical history (Hutchinson, London, 1968)
  • The Worcestershire Regiment, the 29th and 36th Regiments of foot (Leo Cooper, London, 1970)
  • Kings at arms: The Use and Abuse of power in the Great Kingdoms of the East (Hutchinson, London, 1971)


  1. Mead, p. 154
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dover, p. 27
  4. Watkins, Leslie (1953). The Story of Shakespeare's School, 1853-1953, Stratford-upon-Avon: Herald Press, & Edward Fox, p. v.
  5. Dover, p. 28
  6. Dover, p. 29
  7. The London Gazette: no. 29409. p. 12693. 21 December 1915. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 29769. p. 9481. 29 September 1916. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  9. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29833. p. 11393. 21 November 1916. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  10. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30642. p. 4811. 19 April 1918. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  11. Dover, pp. 30-31
  12. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30813. p. 8800. 26 July 1918. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
  13. Dover, p. 31
  14. The London Gazette: no. 33591. p. 1891. 25 March 1930. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  15. The London Gazette: no. 33813. p. 2142. 1 April 1932. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  16. The London Gazette: no. 33884. p. 7344. 18 November 1932. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  17. The London Gazette: no. 34033. p. 1781. 16 March 1934. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  18. The London Gazette: no. 34301. p. 4228. 3 July 1936. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  19. The London Gazette: no. 34368. p. 789. 5 February 1937. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  20. The London Gazette: no. 34451. p. 6896. 5 November 1937. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  21. Dover, pp. 31-32
  22. Dover, pp. 26-27
  23. Dover, p. 32
  24. 24.0 24.1 Dover, p. 105
  25. Dover, p. 109
  26. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36023. p. 2257. 18 May 1943. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Dover, p. 110
  28. Dover, pp. 115-116
  29. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36679. p. 4043. 29 August 1944. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  30. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36509. p. 2171. 9 May 1944. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  31. Dover, p. 118-119
  32. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37056. p. 2282. 27 April 1945. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  33. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37140. p. 3255. 19 June 1945. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  34. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37811. p. 6007. 6 December 1946. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  35. Dover, p. 177
  36. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39612. p. 4121. 29 July 1952. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  37. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39671. p. 5451. 14 October 1952. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  38. Dover, pp. 178-179
  39. "Horizon Unlimited". Time Magazine (2 April 1945). 2 April 1945. Retrieved 28 April 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. Crookenden, p.51
  41. Lovat, p.325
  42. Gale, 1956 p.377
  43. Gale, 1955, p.54
  44. Gale, 1968, p.41
  45. Gale, 1968, p.41, 156
  46. Gale, 1948
  47. Gale, 1968, pp.132
  48. Gale, 1956
  49. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34893. p. 4251. 9 July 1940. Retrieved 2 October 2015.


  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  • Dover, Major Victor (1981). The Sky Generals. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-30480-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Farrar-Hockley, Anthony; revised (2004). "Gale, Sir Richard Nelson (1896–1982)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 January 2009. (Subscription required (help)).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  • Gale, Richard (1955). Infantry in Modern Battle: Its Organization and Training, (Canadian Army Journal 8, no. 1, 1955: 52-61)
  • Gale, Richard (1956). Generalship and the art of Command in this Nuclear Age, (RUSI Journal 101, no. 603, 1956: 376-384)
  • Gale, Richard (1968). Call to arms: an autobiography. London (UK): Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-086430-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lovat, Lord (1978). March past : a memoir. London (UK): Weidenfeld and Nicholson. ISBN 0-297-77456-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
New Post
General Officer Commanding the 6th Airborne Division
Succeeded by
Eric Bols
Preceded by
Frederick Browning
General Officer Commanding the 1st Airborne Corps
Succeeded by
Post Disbanded
Preceded by
Charles Loewen
General Officer Commanding the 1st Division
Succeeded by
Horatius Murray
Preceded by
Sir Charles Allfrey
GOC the British Troops in Egypt
Succeeded by
Sir George Erskine
Preceded by
Sir John Harding
Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine
Succeeded by
Sir Alfred Ward