'A Very Fine Commander': The Memoirs of General Sir Horatius Murray, ed. John Donovan

'A Very Fine Commander': The Memoirs of General Sir Horatius Murray, ed. John Donovan

General Sir Horatius Murray may not be a particularly well known commander, but he served at increasingly high rank in many theatres during the Second World War, commanding troops in battle in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, Italy and Austria, and rising from junior rank to command a battalion, then a brigade and finally a division. His post-war career was

What makes this autobiography particularly interesting is that Murray isn't one of the better known officers or highest ranked generals, but instead was one of the surprisingly large number of generals who commanded brigades and divisions during the Second World War (hundreds in the British army alone). He was also much closer to the 'norm' than most generals who later produced autobiographies or who have been the subject of biographies. He didn't kick against the system like Wingate or stand out like Montgomery. He enjoyed the social life of the army officer (including hunting, which he defends as a useful bonding exercise for officers), and in some respects resembles the sort of officer who the more 'awkward' men would condemn in their own autobiographies. Despite this he was clearly a very capable commander, rising to the command of a division in Italy in 1944, after commanding a brigade during the Normandy campaign. If he hadn't suffered a serious injury early in his command career in North Africa he may well have risen to higher command during the war, and in the post-war period he reached the rank of full general and was a very senior figure within NATO.

Murray's status gives us a different perspective on the army. People like Alan Brooke or Eisenhower, who feature as colleagues and (at least perceived) equals in many memoirs here appear as somewhat distant figures, rarely encountered and even then only briefly. Montgomery appears more often, as Murray served under him in North Africa and Normandy. Murray started the war as a Major, so we also get to see the earlier years of the war through the eyes of a relatively junior officer,

Murray comes across as a modest man, but a very capable one. He was an excellent observer of events, although sometimes his modesty has forced the editor to add supporting information.  

Part 1- The Early Years 1903-1939
1 - Childhood
2 - Peter Symonds School
3 - Sandhurst
4 - Aldershot and the General Strike
5 - China
6 - Catterick and Egypt
7 - India
8 - Hamilton and Staff College

Part 2 - The War Years, 1939-1945
9 - The War Office and 3rd Division
10 - Northern Island
11 - GHQ Home Forces
12 - The Middle East
13 - Sicily
14 - Interlude in the United Kingdom
15 - Normandy
16 - Italy and Austria

Part 3 - Generalship 1946-1989
17 - The Victory Parade
18 - Palestine and the Mediterranean
19 - Catterick
20 - Korea
21 - Scottish Command
22 - Scandinavia
23 - Envoi


Author: Sir Horatius Murray, ed. John Donovan
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 310
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010

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