Sir Desmond Fitzpatrick

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General Sir Geoffrey Richard Desmond Fitzpatrick (1912–2002) was a senior British Army officer who served as commander of the British Army of the Rhine and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe. After his retirement from the army he was appointed Lieut-Governor of Jersey and later held a ceremonial position in the Royal Household.

Early life

He was born on 14 December 1912 in Aldershot, the son of Sir Richard Fitzpatrick, a Brigadier-General. He attended Eton College and then the Royal Military College Sandhurst, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Dragoons on 1 September 1932. He was promoted lieutenant three years later. In 1938 his regiment was sent to Palestine to suppress the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, and on 22 December 1939 he received the Military Cross for his role in operations there.

Second World War

He was promoted captain on 1 September 1940. In 1941 his regiment was dispatched to Syria, with him as adjutant, to join Operation Exporter, the allied invasion of territory controlled by Vichy France in the Middle East. His regiment then participated in the Western Desert Campaign, in the reconnaissance role. After the operations there he attended the British staff college at Haifa, and in June 1942 he became brigade major of the 2nd Armoured Brigade, helping to plan the Second Battle of El Alamein. After the battle, by which time he was a temporary major, he was mentioned in despatches on 24 June 1943, and later appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire while an acting Lt-Col.

The recommendation for the MBE credits his planning for he successful deployment of 2nd Armoured Brigade during the battle, and also comments on his "personal example, often under heavy shell fire" while at the Tactical HQ during the battle itself, from where he passed back valuable information to the higher-level formations which had a material effect on the outcome of the battle.

He next served as a staff officer with the US First Corps and in a position at the War Office, before rejoining his regiment in Holland in 1944 and taking command of one of its squadrons. In 1945 he took command of the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars, which served as the reconnaissance regiment of the 7th Armoured Division. While commanding the regiment, he helped capture the heavily-defended town of Tostedt, personally leading several reconnaissance missions. His regiment also liberated the concentration camp at Fallingbostel, freeing 10,000 allied prisoners of war and 12,000 other prisoners, and Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Post-war

After the war he was promoted Major on 1 July 1946, and held several staff assignments and became an instructor at the Staff College, Camberley. He was promoted brevet Lt-Col on 1 July 1951, and then assumed command of the 1st Royal Dragoons in the Suez Canal Zone. He was promoted Lt-Col on 8 October 1952 and Colonel on 31 December 1953.

In 1957 he became the Chief of Staff of the 1st Corps with the rank of temporary brigadier. On 20 February 1959 he was appointed an Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, and later in the year Lord Mountbatten of Burma selected him to serve as the first Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff. He took up the post on 29 October 1959 with the temporary rank of major general, and the rank was made substantive on 11 December 1959.

In this position he became known as a "master tactician in the corridors of power" and distinguished himself as an expert in both the political and military realms. He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 1961 Queen's Birthday Honours. He became Director of Military Operations at the Ministry of Defence in 1962. In that role, he helped prepare the British intelligence estimate for the Cuban missile crisis and played an important role in various defence policy debates, including those over the Polaris Missile.

On 25 March 1964 he became the Chief of Staff of the British Army of the Rhine and General Officer Commanding Rhine Army Troops. On 24 April 1965 he became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Ireland Command. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 1965 Queen's Birthday Honours, by which time he had also been appointed honorary colonel of the Royals.

He left Northern Ireland on 9 July 1966, and succeeded Geoffrey Baker as Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff on 25 July. On 1 May 1968 he relinquished that post, and on 10 July he was given the local rank of general and appointed to command the British Army of the Rhine and the NATO Northern Army Group, his rank became substantive on 1 October. During his time with the Northern Army Group, he became well respected among his NATO colleagues "for his intellectual capabilities and for his finesse in dealing with international problems" and acquired a reputation as a soldier with particular skill for diplomacy.

His appointment as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR) was announced in April 1970, and he took up the post on 1 December 1970,and was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in the 1971 New Year Honours. He was appointed Colonel Commandant of the Royal Armoured Corps on 1 April 1971. He served as DSACEUR until 12 November 1973, and retired from the Army on 26 January 1974.

Retirement

He was appointed to a five-year term Lieut-Governor of Jersey in 1974. He died on 12 October 2002 at the age of 89.

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