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13 November 2014

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You are in: Bristol > History > Historic Figures > The Greatest Commander of the 20th Century?

The Greatest Commander of the 20th Century?

A plaque honouring Field Marshall Lord Slim and those who fought with him in the "Forgotten" Fourteenth Army during WW2 has been unveiled at the Cenotaph in Bristol.

Field Marshall Lord Slim

By permission of the Burma Star Assoc.

It honours not only Field Marshal Lord Slim, but also the hundreds of thousands of men under his command in the 14th Army who fought back the Japanese during the Burma Campaign.

Slim's soldiers became known as the Forgotten Army because people back home in Britain were more focused on events in Europe.

The war hero's son, Lord Slim, has said: "They came from every culture and creed you can think of: Indians, Gurkhas, Nepalese, Chinese, West African, Burmese, Australian, Canadian, as well as Britons."

"If my father was here, he would say this plaque is a memorial to his soldiers."

William Slim was born in Bishopston in 1897. He joined the British Army at the outbreak of World War I.

Although he joined as a private, his superiors soon discovered his military and leadership potential.

He rose through the ranks and was promoted to full general, becoming commander of the Allied Ground Forces in Southeast Asia in WW2.

After the war, he returned to England, where he became head of the Imperial Defence College and in 1948 he was appointed Chief of the Imperial Staff.

Bristol plaque honouring Field Marshall Lord Slim and those who fought with him

The plaque at The Cenotaph in Bristol

He also served as Governor General of Australia between 1953 and 1960, before being raised to the peerage as the 1st Viscount Slim in 1960.

Field Marshall Lord Slim - known to his troops as Uncle Bill - died in London on December 14, 1970.

Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely described him as "...perhaps the Greatest Commander of the 20th Century."

He is largely described as a superb logistician, imaginative in his tactics and operational concepts, and - unusually - very popular with his troops.

Military historian Max Hastings said: "In contrast to almost every other outstanding commander of the war, Slim was a disarmingly normal human being, possessed of notable self-knowledge."

"He was without pretension, devoted to his wife, Aileen, their family and the Indian Army. His calm, robust style of leadership and concern for the interests of his men won the admiration of all who served under him."

Detail of the plaque in Bristol

Detail of the plaque in Bristol

"His blunt honesty, lack of bombast and unwillingness to play courtier did him few favours in the corridors of power. Only his soldiers never wavered in their devotion."

The spirit of comradeship Slim created within The 14th Army lived on after the war in the Burma Star Association, of which Slim was a co-founder and first President.

During the ceremony in Bristol to unveil the memorial plaque, wreaths were laid by representatives of Bristol's Sikh, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim communities, the Burma Star Association, amongst others.

Helen Hewitt, spokeswoman for Bristol City Council, said: "The unveiling of a plaque...will mark the outstanding achievements of Field Marshall Lord Slim and those brave soldiers, including many local Bristolians, who served under him in the 'forgotten' 14th Army."

There are now moves to have a statue in Bristol, to honour Field Marshall Lord Slim and those who fought with him.

last updated: 19/09/2008 at 11:57
created: 19/09/2008

You are in: Bristol > History > Historic Figures > The Greatest Commander of the 20th Century?

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