John Winthrop Hackett Junior (1910 - 1997) was born on 5 November 1910 in Perth, Western Australia, the son of Sir John Winthrop Hackett Senior, an Australian judge and owner of two newspapers. His father's family was originally from Tipperary. He went to Geelong Grammar School (where Prince Charles briefly went) and then to New College, Oxford which later made him an honorary fellow, reading both greats and modern history under Richard Crossman. He had hoped to become a don but his degree wasn't quite good enough and so joined his great grandfather's old regiment, the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars in 1931. He served in Palestine (where he was mentioned in despatches in 1936) and then joined the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force from 1937 - 41 and was mentioned in despatches twice. He then served in Syria (where he was wounded and received the MC), meeting his Austrian wife Margaret on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and marrying her in St George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. The Western Desert followed, where he was wounded again, receiving the DSO, and while recuperating at GHQ helped in the formation of the Long Range Desert Group, SAS and Popski's Private Army. Next, he was selected to raise the 4th Parachute Brigade and commanded it in Italy where he was wounded again. This was followed by Operation Market Garden, where he was seriously wounded and taken prisoner during the Battle for Arnhem but escaped and was taken in by a courageous Dutch family and then ferried to freedom by the Dutch resistance. He received a bar for his DSO for his exploits at Arnhem.
By that point he had realised that the very top job, Chief of the Defence Staff would be denied him – he was too clever for politicians and perhaps the Army as well, also being a little abrasive at times, having a lack of subtlety when compared to others who have filled the role. Retiring from the Army in 1968 led him to become the Principle of King's College, London and he made the transition from soldier to academic very easily. He participated in the student marches in 1973 over the erosion of student grants, a move that earned him some criticism from senior academics but showed he still had the courage of his convictions when he had to stand up for something he believed was right. He was equally at ease with undergraduates as he was with subalterns. After his retirement from King's (to which he returned in 1977 as a Visiting Professor in Classics) he devoted himself to writing and lecturing, being always in demand as an after dinner speaker as he was clear and forthright but not pompous. He became known on a much wider basis through his appearances on radio and television. In 1977 he wrote 'I Was A Stranger' recalling his exploits at Arnhem while in 1978 he co-authored 'The Third World War', a novel about a possible global conflict in 1985 and in 1982 followed with a companion volume, 'The Third World War: The Untold Story' which predicted the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the strategic importance of oil in the Middle East. The following year he wrote a book on the British Army entitled 'A Profession of Arms' (which was produced as a television programme) and edited 'Warfare in the Ancient World' in 1989. He died on 9 September 1997.
Awards: MBE (1938), MC (1941), DSO (1942) and Bar (1945), CBE (1953), CB (1958), KCB (1962), GCB (1967).
Arthur, Max. 'Obituary – General Sir John Hackett' located as of 15 July 2007 at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_19970911/ai_n14132264, was originally in The Independent, 11 September 1997, p. 12.
http://www.nntk.net/arnhem_1944/hackett_times_obit.html - an obituary of General Sir John Hackett (as of 15 July 2007), originally in The Times, 10 September 1997, p. 21.
Barker, Dennis. 'Obituary – General Sir John Hackett' located as of 15 July 2007 at http://www.nntk.net/arnhem_1944/hackett_guardian_obit.html, originally in The Guardian, 10 September 1997, p. 15.
Pictures courtesy of http://www.nntk.net.