Reference code: GB99 KCLMA Alanbrooke
Title: BROOKE, FM Alan Francis, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke of Brookeborough (1883-1963)
Dates of creation of material: -1994
Level of description: individual item and file level
Extent: 0.87m3 or 87 boxes of papers
FM Alan Francis Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke of Brookeborough, was born at Bagnères-de-Bigorre, near Pau, France, on 23 July 1883. He was educated by governesses and at the local school in Pau, and at the age of eighteen joined the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. In December 1902 he was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery and he went on to spend the next three years serving with a battery in Ireland. In 1906 he volunteered for service in India and at the end of that year he joined the 30 Royal Field Artillery Battery at Meerut, in the Punjab. In the next eight years in India he became a noted big-game hunter and race rider. In 1909, having been posted to the Royal Horse Artillery, he was sent to join N Battery (known as the Eagle Troop) at Ambala. He remained with the Eagle Troop until 1914, when he was appointed to command a Royal Horse Artillery ammunition column in France.
In 1915, as Staff Captain, Royal Artillery, 2 (Indian) Cavalry Division, Alanbrooke took part in the battles of Neuve Chapelle, March 1915, and Festubert, May 1915. Subsequently, as Brigade Major, Royal Artillery, 18 Division, he played a key part in the artillery preparation and conduct of the battle of the Somme, July-November 1916, in the 18 Division sector of attack. He was credited with the production of the first creeping barrage, a system of supporting fire which aimed to ensure that the ground between the enemy's trench lines was covered and reduce the exposure of advancing infantry to enemy attack. In February 1917 he was posted as Staff Officer, Royal Artillery to Canadian Corps, and helped in the preparations for the attack on Vimy Ridge on 9 April 1917. He was also present at end of third battle of Ypres, October-November 1917. At the beginning of 1918 Brooke returned to Britain for a short Staff Course at Cambridge, but he returned to the Western Front in June as temporary General Staff Officer Grade 1, Royal Artillery at 1 Army Headquarters.
In 1919 Alanbrooke was selected for the first post-war course at the Staff College at Camberley. He was an outstanding student and after a few years on the staff of 50 Northumbrian Division, Territorial Army, he returned to Camberley in 1923 as an instructor. He held this position for the next four years, during which time he lectured and published articles on the evolution of artillery, giving voice to some of the theories that he had developed during his service in World War One. At the beginning of 1927, he became one of the first students at the new Imperial Defence College. He went on in 1929 to command School of Artillery at Larkhill, but returned to the Imperial Defence College as an instructor in 1932. This posting was followed by brief tours as Commander of 8 Infantry Brigade (1934-1935), as an inspector, Royal Artillery (1935-1936), as Director of Military Training (1936-1937), and as Commander, Mobile Division, (1937-1938).
In 1938 Alanbrooke was placed in command of newly reorganised Anti-Aircraft Corps and later the whole of Anti-Aircraft Command, with responsibility for building up Britain's air defences. In August 1939 he was made Commander-in-Chief, Southern Command, but on mobilisation in September 1939 he assumed command of 2 Corps of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). He played an important role in ensuring the successful retreat and evacuation of British troops from North West Europe after the German invasions of Holland, Belgium and France in May 1940, and in June 1940, was appointed General Officer Commanding, British Troops in France. His main achievements in this post were managing to persuade the British authorities against the idea of establishing an Allied bridgehead in North West France and organising the evacuation of the remaining British troops in France.
On his return to Britain he reverted to his previous post at Southern Command, but was soon appointed as Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, responsible for the planning and implementation of counter invasion measures and the reorganisation and reequipment of the Army in preparation for overseas operations. In December 1941 he assumed the appointment of Chief of the Imperial General Staff and soon after became Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. For the rest of World War Two he was the senior military figure in command of the British war effort, responsible for ensuring the proper organisation, equipment, reinforcement and command of the British troops in all theatres. He also played a vital role in advising the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet on military matters, in procuring and maintaining consensus between the Allied nations on overall strategy, and in ensuring cooperation between the Army, Navy and Air Force, particularly with regard to the application of air power. He remained as Chief of the Imperial General Staff until June 1946.
After retirement he was appointed to a number of honorary positions. He became Master Gunner of St James's Park in 1946, Chancellor of Queen's University, Belfast, in 1949 and Lord Lieutenant of the County of London and Constable of the Tower of London in 1950. At the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 he was nominated Lord High Constable of England and Commander of the Parade. He was created Baron Alanbrooke of Brookeborough in September 1945, and Viscount in January 1946. In 1946 he received the Freedom of the Cities of Belfast and of London. He also served as a director in a number of companies, including Midland Bank, Hudson's Bay Company, and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and was President of the Zoological Society. He died on 17 June 1963 at his home in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire.
He was appointed to the DSO in World War One, to the KCB in 1940, the KG and OM in 1946, and the GCB and GCVO in 1953.
Brooke was married twice. In 1914 he married Jane Mary Richardson. They had a daughter and a son, Tom, who became the second Viscount Alanbrooke in 1963, but died without issue. The first Mrs Brooke died in 1925 in a car accident in which Brooke was driving. In 1929 he married Benita Blanche, widow of Sir Thomas Evan Keith Lees, second baronet. They had a daughter, who died as a result of a riding accident in 1961, and a son, Victor, who became the third Viscount Alanbooke in 1972. The second Mrs Brooke died in 1968.
The collection consists of papers created or collected by Brooke and his wife Benita Blanche Brooke, -1968, along with biographical notes on Brooke made by Marian C ( 'Buster') Long, [1951-1958], research assistant to the Royal Regiment of Artillery and Sir Arthur Wynne Morgan Bryant, and correspondence concerning the erection of the statue of Brooke in Whitehall, London, collected by FM (Richard) Michael (Power) Carver, Baron Carver, in 1990-1994.
Most of the papers collected by Brooke and his wife remained in the family until they were deposited in the Centre in 1971. However, some sections - the diaries (see 5/1), 'Notes for my memoirs'(see 5/2), Brooke's Chief of the Imperial General Staff semi-official files (see 6/2), and Brooke's letters to his mother (see 2/1) - were used for research purposes by Sir Arthur Wynne Morgan Bryant and his assistant, Marian C ('Buster') Long. In 1951 the Royal Regiment of Artillery commissioned Bryant to write an official full-length biography of Brooke and appointed Mrs Long to collect and prepare research material for it, although it was not actually to be written until after Brooke's death. Long made notes from published sources and official records, as well as interviewing and writing to a number of Brooke's friends and colleagues. She was also given access to some of Brooke's own papers, and made typescript copies of his 'Notes for my memoirs' and his letters to his mother and added typescript notes to some of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff semi-official files.
In 1954 Bryant agreed with Brooke that, as well as writing the biography for the Royal Regiment after Brooke's death, he would also write a study of World War Two based on Brooke's diaries and memoirs for immediate publication. He originally envisaged writing just one volume, The turn of the tide, on the first half of the war, but soon decided that he would like to write a second volume, Triumph in the West, to cover the remaining years. The Royal Regiment of Artillery gave Bryant permission to use the material already collected by Mrs Long for the official biography, while Mrs Long was instructed to continue her research work, but to concentrate on material relating to Brooke's service in World War Two. The family also lent him Brooke's diaries and Chief of the Imperial General Staff semi-official files. Bryant returned the diaries after he had finished his World War Two study, and these were deposited in the Centre in 1971, as were the rest of Brooke's papers and the research notes made by Mrs Long (which Brooke had purchased from the Royal Regiment of Artillery). The Chief of the Imperial General Staff semi-official files remained with Bryant, although in [1980-1981] he granted Gen Sir David (William) Fraser access to them for research for his official biography, Alanbrooke (Collins, London, 1982). He finally agreed to allow them to be transferred to the Centre in 1982. After Bryant's death in 1985, a few additional documents belonging to Brooke were found amongst his papers and these were added to the rest of the collection in the Centre in 1988.
The correspondence on the erection of the statue of Brooke in Whitehall, London, was given to the Centre by FM (Richard) Michael (Power) Carver, Baron Carver, in 1994.
In 2005, the Centre acquired the Alanbrooke papers with generous assistance from The National Heritage Memorial Fund, The MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, The Friends of the National Libraries, The King's College London Annual Fund and 61 alumni of King's College London.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
The centrepiece of the collection is a series of Brooke's diaries covering World War Two and its immediate aftermath (see 5/1), including his service as Commander, 2 Corps, British Expeditionary Force (BEF), France and Belgium, Sep 1939-Jun 1940, as Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, Jul 1940-Nov 1941, and as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Dec 1941-Jun 1946. These diaries give a day-by-day account of Brooke's work during this period, and demonstrate the significance of his role in the withdrawal of Allied troops to Dunkirk, May 1940, in the organisation of counter-invasion measures and the preparation of Army for overseas operations, 1940-1941, and, most importantly of all, in the formulation of Allied strategy against the Axis powers, 1941-1945. They give the reader a rare inside view of the top-level direction of the war, with descriptions of Chiefs of Staff and War Cabinet meetings and details of informal conversations and official meetings with Allied army commanders and members of British, US and Russian High Commands. The collection also includes manuscript and typescript versions of Brooke's memoirs, compiled in , which are largely composed of transcripts from the diaries, with additional notes commenting on the original diary entries.
These diaries and memoirs are supplemented by the semi-official files kept by Brooke as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, which include semi-official correspondence with FM Archibald Percival Wavell, FM Sir John Claude Auchinleck, FM Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander, 1st Viscount Alexander of Tunis, FM Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, FM Henry Maitland Wilson, 1st Baron Wilson of Libya and Stowlangtoft, AF Louis (Francis Albert Victor Nicholas) Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Gen Sir Kenneth Arthur Noel Anderson (see 6/2). This series also contains files inherited from Sir John Greer Dill, Brooke's predecessor as Chief of the Imperial General Staff (see 6/2/1, 6/2/4-5, 6/2/9-11). There are also several boxes of photographs of Brooke as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, 1941-1946 (see 13/4-8). Other papers relating to this period include Marian C Long's copies of the diaries of inter-Allied conferences kept by Brig (Edward) Ian (Claud) Jacob, Military Assistant to the War Cabinet, 1941-1943 (see 6/7), printed minutes of Combined Chiefs of Staff conferences and meetings, 1943-1945 (see 6/1). There are a few additional papers relating to Brooke's earlier service in World War Two, notably memoranda on his discussions with French High Command on the possibility of establishing a new British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in North West France, Jun 1940 (see 4/3), and photographs of Brooke as Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, 1940-1941 (see 13/2-3).
Although Brooke may have kept a diary during his early life, only one, that for 1915, survives. However, letters written by Brooke to his mother between 1906 and 1920 have been preserved, and provide a valuable source of information on his military service with the Royal Artillery in India, 1906-1914, and on the Western Front in World War One, 1914-1918 (see 2/1). Other papers relating to Brooke's pre-World War Two career consist mainly of essays and lecture notes relating to both his own military training and his work as a trainer of others. The most interesting of these are probably the texts of Brooke's Staff College lectures on the evolution and handling of artillery, and texts of Imperial Defence College lectures on the higher direction of war by Sir Herbert (James) Creedy, Maj Gen John Frederick Charles Fuller, Sir Maurice Pascal Alers Hankey and Rt Hon Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane of Cloan, 1927-1933 (see 3/8-12).
A large part of the collection relates to the military, business and philanthropic activities undertaken by Brooke following his retirement from active service in June 1946. These include papers relating to his work as Chancellor, Queen's University of Belfast, 1949-1963, as Master Gunner, St James's Park, 1946-1956, as Col Commandant, Honourable Artillery Company, 1946-1954, as Commander of Parade for Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Parade and Lord High Constable of England in Coronation Abbey Ceremonies, 1953, and as a director of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1948-1959 (see 7/2-24, 9/2, 10/8). Retirement also left Brooke more time to pursue his favourite hobby of bird-watching, and there are several files of correspondence and papers relating to ornithological expeditions made by Brooke during the 1950s (see 7/25-38).
The collection also includes correspondence and papers relating to Sir Arthur Wynne Morgan Bryant's books on Brooke (see 12/1-14). These provide useful background details both on the writing and publication of The turn of the tide (Collins, London, 1957) and Triumph in the West (Collins, London, 1959), and on the research work done by Mrs Long. A quantity of Mrs Long's notes have also been preserved and provide additional information from a variety of sources on all aspects of Brooke's life and career (see 11/1-93). Her notes on interviews with Brooke's friends and former colleagues are of particular interest as they give some idea of how other people regarded him and related to him.
The collection was arranged and catalogued soon after its deposit at the Centre in 1971. Much of the material - Brooke's letters to his mother, his diaries and autobiographical notes, the texts of his speeches, Mrs Long's notes and the correspondence about Bryant's books - naturally formed discrete sections, but there were also large numbers of loose papers and it was decided to arrange these in groups according to chronology and subject matter. The collection was recatalogued in 1997-1998 and was substantially rearranged at the same time. This was done in order to incorporate personal files and other additional accessions, to give a more defined structure to the loose papers and to clarify the relationship between diaries and autobiographical notes. A full concordance between old and new reference numbers has been provided.
CONDITIONS OF ACCESS AND USE
A small number of files are closed. The rest of the collection is open, subject to signature of reader's undertaking form.
Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Trustees of the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, attention of the College Archivist.
Mainly English, some French.
The Public Record Office holds papers created by Brooke as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, principally official correspondence, 1941-1946 (Ref: WO 216), notably including correspondence with Rt Hon Winston (Leonard Spencer) Churchill concerning Middle East strategy, administration and appointments, 1941 (Ref: WO 216/1), the appointment of Gen Sir Henry Maitland Wilson as Commander-in-Chief, Middle East Land Forces, Feb 1943 (Ref: WO 216/32), strategy in North Africa, Mar-Apr 1943 (Ref: WO 216/35) and Burma, Mar-Apr 1943 (Ref: WO 216/34); Chief of the Imperial General Staff tour notes and reports of discussions on British defence policy in the Middle East, 1945-1946 (Ref: WO 216/40); directive on the appointment of Gen John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort, as Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Malta, May 1943 (Ref: WO 216/132); semi-official correspondence with Lt Gen Sir Henry Royds Pownall, Mar-Aug 1943 (Ref: WO 216/131); correspondence with FM Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, 1945 (Ref: CAB 127/47). Letters by Brooke are also to be found in a number of collections of papers of other institutions. For example, the papers of AF Louis (Francis Albert Victor Nicholas), 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma at the University of Southampton Library include correspondence with Alanbrooke relating to combined operations, 1942-1943 (Ref: MB1/B17), and correspondence relating to South East Asia Command, 1943-1945 (Ref: MB1/C50); John Rylands Library, Manchester University, holds correspondence with Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, 1940-1946, and the British Museum (Natural History) holds letters to David Armitage Bannerman, ornithologist, 1943-1962.
Sir Arthur Wynne Morgan Bryant used the papers for his biographies The turn of the tide (Collins, London, 1957) and Triumph in the West (Collins, London, 1959), both of which quote extensively from Brooke's diaries and memoirs. The collection was also used by Gen Sir David (William) Fraser for his biography Alanbrooke (Collins, London, 1982).