|Born||21 Aug 1889|
|Died||17 Jun 1981|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseRichard Nugent O'Connor was born in the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, British India in 1889. His father was a major in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and his mother was the daughter of a former governor of India's central provinces. In England, United Kingdom, he attended Tonbridge Castle School in 1899 in Tonbridge, Kent; The Towers School in 1902 in Crowthorne, Berkshire; Wellington College in 1903 in Crowthorne, Berkshire; and the Royal Military College in 1908 in Sandhurst, Berkshire. He was commissioned a junior officer with the 2nd Battalion of the Cameronians regiment of the British Army in Sep 1909. In Jan 1910, he was assigned to Colchester, Essex, England for signals and rifle training. Between 1911 and 1912, he was assigned to Malta as a Regimental Signals Officer. During WW1, he served with the 7th Division, seeing action at Arras and Bullecourt in France and Piave River area in Italy, and was awarded the Military Cross, the Distinguished Service Order with Bar, and the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor. After WW1, he was reverted to his permanent rank of captain. Between Apr 1919 and Dec 1919, he served as a regimental adjutant. In 1920, he attended Staff College, Camberley, Surrey, England. Between 1921 and 1924, he was a brigade major with the 5th Brigade, also known as the Experimental Brigade; in this role he tested new combined arms tactics involving traditional infantry and artillery advancing in conjunction with tanks and aircraft. Between Feb 1924 and 1925, he served as the adjutant of Cameronians regiment. Between 1925 and 1927, he served as a company commander at Sandhurst. Betwen Oct 1927 and Jan 1930, he was an instructor at the Staff College at Camberley. In 1930, he served with the 1st Battalion of The Cameronians in Egypt, then with the same unit between 1931 and 1932 in Lucknow, India. Between Apr 1932 and Jan 1935, he was attached to the War Office in London, England. In 1935, he attended the Imperial Defence College in London. In Apr 1936, he was promoted to the rank of colonel and was made a temporary brigadier to take command of the Peshawar Brigade in northwestern India. In Sep 1938, he was promoted to the rank of major general and was made the commanding officer of the British 7th Division in Palestine; he was also concurrently made the military governor of Jerusalem. In Aug 1939, the 7th Division was transferred to Mersa Matruh, Egypt, where he would be located with the European War began.
ww2dbaseShortly after the Italian entry into the war in Jun 1940, O'Connor was made the commanding officer of the Western Desert Force. The Italians attacked Egypt on 13 Sep 1940, moving 60 miles into Egypt and capturing Sidi Barrani. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general in Nov 1940. Through Operation Compass launched in Dec 1940, however, he was able to push the Italians back into Libya, capturing large numbers of prisoners meanwhile. In early Jan 1941, the Western Desert Force was redesignated XIII Corps, and on 9 Jan he continued the offensive, capturing Tobruk on 22 Jan and then securing a surrender from a large group of surviving Italians on 7 Feb. The offensive campaign he orchestrated advanced 800 miles, captured 130,000 prisoners, captured 400 tanks, and captured 1,292 guns, all at the cost of only about 1,800 casualties (500 killed). For his achievement, he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. In Feb 1941, after the offensive was halted due to the situation in Greece, he was made the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief the British Troops in Egypt. In Mar, newly arrived German General Erwin Rommel launched an offensive toward Egypt, and O'Connor moved forward to advise Lieutenant General Philip Neame on defenses. On 6 Apr, O'Connor and Neame, while travelling to their headquarters which had been withdrawn from Maraua to Timimi in Libya, were captured by a German patrol near Martuba. He would spend the following two and half years as a prisoner of war, being held at Castello di Vincigliata near Florence, Italy for a large portion of that time. After failing to escape by climbing the castle walls, he was punished with a month's solitary confinement. Although he was initially successful with his second attempt by using a tunnel he and others dug between Oct 1942 and Mar 1943, he and Major General Adrian Carton de Wiart were captured at Bologna, Italy; this resulted in another month's solitary confinement. In Sep 1943, he made his third escape attempt while being transferred to another place of imprisonment, reaching General Harold Alexander at Bari, Italy on 21 Dec 1943. O'Connor was given command of VIII Corps in Jan 1944. With this corps, he arrived in Normandie, France on 11 Jun 1944 and directed Operation Epsom, Operation Jupiter, and Operation Goodwood. The VIII Corps was placed in reserve in Aug 1944, but he remained an unofficial adviser to Bernard Montgomery. VIII Corps played a minor role in Operation Market Garden, during which it indirectly supported the XXX Corps. In Nov 1944, he was relieved of his command of VIII Corps and was made the commanding officer of Eastern Command in India. It was said that Montgomery was not entirely pleased with O'Connor's performance, and either made no protest when Field Marshal Alan Brooke made the transfer, or that Montgomery might have initiated this transfer himself. O'Connor's transfer to India marked an end to his combat career.
ww2dbaseIn Apr 1945, O'Connor was promoted to the rank of general. In Oct 1945, he was made the commanding officer of North Western Army in India. Between 1946 and 1947, he was the Adjutant-General to the Forces and Aide de Camp General to the King. He resigned in Sep 1947 after a disagreement over a canceled demobilization for troops in the Far East; Montgomery later wrote that O'Connor was sacked rather than having resigned. In consolation, he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Bath. He retired from the British Army in 1948. Between 1948 and 1959, he was the Commandant of the Army Cadet Force in Scotland, United Kingdom. Between 1951 and 1954, he was the honorary colonel of the Cameronians regiment. Between 1955 and 1964, he was the Lord Lieutenant of Ross and Cromarty. His wife Jean died in 1959. In 1963, he married Dorothy Russell. In 1964, he was the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In Apr 1971, he was made a Knight of the Order of the Thistle. He passed away in 1981.
Last Major Revision: Dec 2014
Richard O'Connor Interactive Map
Richard O'Connor Timeline
|21 Aug 1889||Richard O'Connor was born in Srinagar, Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, India.|
|17 Feb 1915||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|18 Feb 1915||Richard O'Connor was awarded the Military Cross.|
|1 Jan 1916||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|4 Jan 1917||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|15 May 1917||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|16 Aug 1917||Richard O'Connor was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.|
|18 Dec 1917||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|30 May 1918||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|4 Dec 1918||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|6 Jan 1919||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|5 Jun 1919||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|15 Sep 1939||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|11 Jul 1940||Richard O'Connor was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.|
|4 Mar 1941||Richard O'Connor was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.|
|1 Apr 1941||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|3 Apr 1941||Winston Churchill recommended Richard O'Connor as the new British commander in Libya, but O'Connor declined.|
|6 Apr 1941||British and Australian troops hurriedly evacuated Barce and Derna, Libya, falling back toward Tobruk to avoid being cut off by the advancing German troops. On the same day, Axis troops captured Msus, Libya, a major fuel and supply dump; the fuel was destroyed by the Allies before German capture. German troops besieged Mechili by 1700 hours. After dark, British generals General Neame and O'Connor began evacuating themselves to Tmimi west of Tobruk.|
|7 Apr 1941||Before dawn, a motor column containing British military governor of Cyrenaica, Libya Lieutenant General Philip Neame and British Lieutenant General Richard O'Connor got lost and became captured by a German patrol between Mechili and Derna. During the day, Axis troops captured Derna, Libya. 50 miles to the south, British, Australian, and Indian troops prepared their defenses at Mechili, which had been surrounded by Axis troops since the prior day. The Axis forces had not yet attacked Mechili due to sandstorms; Rommel ordered that an attack must be launched on the next day.|
|30 Nov 1943||Shortly after midnight, US destroyers USS Ralph Talbot & Helm along with Australian destroyers HMAS Arunta & Warramunga shelled the Ring Ring Plantation area of Gasmata, New Britain with the aid of flares dropped by PBY Catalina "Black Cat" aircraft..|
|21 Dec 1943||Richard O'Connor, having escaped imprisonment, arrived at Bari, Italy and met with Harold Alexander.|
|21 Jan 1944||Richard O'Connor was made the commanding officer of British VIII Corps, which included the Guards Armoured Division, 11th Armoured Division, 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, 6th Guards Tank Brigade, 8th Group Royal Artillery, and 2nd Household Cavalry Regiment.|
|27 Jan 1944||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|11 Jun 1944||Richard O'Connor and his British VIII Corps arrived at Normandie, France.|
|27 Nov 1944||Richard O'Connor stepped down as the commanding officer of VIII Corps and was made the commanding officer of Eastern Command in India.|
|22 Mar 1945||Richard O'Connor was Mentioned in Despatches.|
|12 Jun 1947||Richard O'Connor was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.|
|3 Mar 1964||Richard O'Connor was made Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.|
|26 Apr 1971||Richard O'Connor was made a Knight of the Order of the Thistle.|
|17 Jun 1981||Richard O'Connor passed away in London, England, United Kingdom.|
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Visitor Submitted Comments
5 Jul 2012 03:25:44 PM
Why wasn't General Mark clark disciplined after his blatant disobeyance of orders from Gen Alexander. Thank you.
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14 Sep 2007 02:21:10 AM
Lt Gen OConnor was captured by the Germans in North Africa. Placed in an Italian POW camp, he escaped three times, reaching the allied lines on the final attempt. He went on to command a Corps in North West Europe.