Sir George Erskine

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General Erskine

General Sir George Watkin Eben James Erskine (1899–1965) was a senior British Army officer during the Second World War and later Lieut-Governor of Jersey.

Family

He was the son of Major-General George Elphinstone Erskine by his second wife Eva Constance Sarah, daughter of Canon Ebenezer Wood Edwards. He was a descendant of the noted 18th century jurist John Erskine of Carnock.

He married Ruby de la Rue, daughter of Sir Evelyn de la Rue, 2nd Baronet, in 1930. They had two sons and one daughter.

General Erskine

Early career

He was commissioned into the King's Royal Rifle Corps. He served during World War I in France and Belgium. During the 1930s he served in India and returned to Britain in 1937 to become Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General at Eastern Command. In 1939 he became a General Staff Officer for 1st London Division of the Territorial Army. In 1941 he was appointed Commander of 2nd Bn King's Royal Rifle Corps who were then part of 69th Infantry Brigade and deployed to North Africa, where he earned his DSO in 1942.

He was then appointed General Officer Commanding 7th Armoured Division and served in North Africa, Italy and Normandy between 1943 and 1944.

Normandy

During the Battle of Normandy Second Army commander Miles Dempsey was unimpressed with 7th Armoured Division's performance and VIII Corps commander, Richard O'Connor, considered his direction of the division during Operation Goodwood as excessively cautious. Shortly afterwards, in the difficult bocage country during Operation Bluecoat, the division failed to gain its objectives and Erskine was replaced.

In spite of his indifferent performance as a field commander Erskine had qualities which suited him to other roles so that this episode proved only a temporary setback to his career. He became Head of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force Mission to Belgium in 1944 and then GOC of 43rd Wessex Division in 1945.

General Erskine in Kenya

Kenya

After the war Erskine was Commander of British Forces in Hong Kong in 1946, Director General of the Territorial Army in 1948 to 1949 and GOC British Troops, Egypt and Mediterranean Command in 1949. Returning to the United Kingdom, he became GOC-in-Chief, Eastern Command in 1952. In 1953 he was appointed GOC-in-Chief, East Africa Command where he was responsible for managing the response to the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya and led Operation Anvil in Nairobi in April 1954. He was GOC-in-Chief, Southern Command from 1955 to 1958 when he retired. He was an ADC General to the Queen from 1955 to 1965.

Jersey

General Erskine was appointed KBE in 1950, KCB in 1952 and GCB in 1955. From 1958 to 1963 he was Lieut-Governor of Jersey.

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