Sidney Kirkman

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Sir Sidney Kirkman
Sir Sidney Kirkman.jpg
General Sir Sidney Kirkman, pictured here in the 1960s.
Nickname(s) "Kirkie"[1]
Born (1895-07-29)29 July 1895
Bedford, Bedfordshire, England
Died 29 October 1982(1982-10-29) (aged 87)
Southampton, Hampshire, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1915–1950
Rank General
Unit Royal Artillery
Commands held I Corps (1945)
Southern Command (1945)
XIII Corps (1944–45)
50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (1943–44)
65th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery (1940–41)
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath[2]
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Legion of Merit (United States)

General Sir Sidney Chevalier Kirkman, GCB, KBE, MC (29 July 1895 – 29 October 1982) was a senior British Army officer, who served in both the First World War and Second World War. During the latter he commanded the artillery of the Eighth Army during the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942, following which he commanded the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division during the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and XIII Corps throughout most of the Italian Campaign from 1944 to 1945. He later became Director General of Civil Defence in the Civil Defence Department from 1954 to 1960.

Early life and military career

Born in Bedford, Bedfordshire on 29 July 1895, the son of Judge John P. Kirkman and the eldest of two sons, Sidney Kirkman was educated at Bedford School, and later at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.[3] During the First World War, Kirkman joined the British Army and, after passing out from Woolwich, was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Royal Artillery on 10 February 1915[4] and was awarded the Military Cross during his time at the Western Front and later on the Italian Front[5] and attained the rank of acting major while commanding a battery.[6][7][4]

Between the wars

Between 1919 and 1930, Kirkman remained in the army and served throughout the British Empire in Palestine, Malta[8] and India during the interwar years. He married in 1923, promoted to captain in January 1925[9] and major in March 1935.[10] Between 1931[11] and 1932 he attended the Staff College, Camberley.[3] His fellow students included Brian Horrocks, Cameron Nicholson, Nevil Brownjohn, Thomas Rees, Frank Simpson, Keith Arbuthnott, Arthur Dowler, Joseph Baillon and Ian Jacob.[1] He completed a two-year staff posting in the rank of major to the RAF School of Co-operation in January 1938.[12][13]

Second World War

During the Second World War, Kirkman served as commanding officer (CO) of the 65th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery from 1940–1941 in the acting rank of brigadier (he held the substantive rank of major at the time, being promoted to lieutenant colonel in May 1942[14] colonel in March 1944[15] and major general in December 1944[16]). Later in 1941 and 1942 he held the position of Commander, Royal Artillery (CRA) successively in I Corps, VII Corps, XII Corps and 56th (London) Infantry Division[17] and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire.[3]

Left to right: Brigadier R. H. Senior, Captain P. S. Smith and Major General S. C. Kirkman on the bridge and watching the early stages of the invasion of Sicily on board the troop transport WINCHESTER CASTLE, July 1943.

In September 1942, Kirkman was appointed CRA of the British Eighth Army (its chief gunnery officer) serving under Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery during the Second Battle of El Alamein in the North African Campaign, in late 1942, a fact paid tribute to in Montgomery’s memoirs,[5] and for which he was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire.[17] Continuing in this role until early 1943, he was appointed, upon Montgomery's recommendation, as General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, succeeding Major General John Nichols, who he had attended the Staff College, Camberley with (although Nichols had been in the year senior to Kirkman), on promotion to acting major general in mid-April 1943.[18][19] The division − understrength with only two infantry brigades (69th and 151st) instead of the usual three − was then engaged in the final stages of the Tunisian Campaign, serving in the Eighth Army's X Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks, one of Kirkman's fellow students at the Staff College, Camberley in the early 1930s.[19] After leading the division to Enfidaville it was relieved by elements of the newly arrived 56th Division, and was withdrawn into Eighth Army reserve, later moving to Egypt, where it commenced training in amphibious warfare, having been selected for participation in the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky). While there the division was reinforced with the addition of the 168th Brigade, detached from its parent 56th Division, bringing the 50th up to a strength of three brigades. Kirkman's division, originally a first line Territorial Army (TA) formation recruiting from Northern England, was, by the time Kirkman became GOC, a highly experienced formation, having served in France in 1940, in the Middle East from 1941 to 1942, and in many battles in North Africa in 1942 (there losing its 150th Brigade). For the invasion the division was part of XIII Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey, who Kirkman knew from the Staff College, although Dempsey had, like Nichols, been in the year senior to him, attending from 1930 to 1931.[19]

He led the division during the Allied invasion of Sicily in July–August. After the Sicilian campaign was over the division was sent to the United Kingdom to prepare for the Allied invasion of Normandy, planned for the spring of 1944.[20]

Lieutenant General Leese, GOC Eighth Army, with his corps commanders, including Kirkman, GOC XIII Corps, standing closest to the camera, watching an Allied bombing raid on Cassino, Italy, 15 March 1944.

In January 1944 Kirkman was promoted to acting lieutenant general (he was still only a substantive lieutenant colonel)[21] and appointed commander of the Eighth Army's XIII Corps, succeeding Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey, then fighting in Italy.[20] XIII Corps, under Eighth Army, now commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Oliver Leese (who, as Kirkman's corps commander in Sicily, thought highly of him), played a key role in the fourth and final battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944 and later came under command of the U. S. Fifth Army, under Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, fighting on its right wing in the assaults during the autumn and winter of 1944 on the Gothic Line and central Apennines. XIII Corps later returned to Eighth Army command in January 1945 but Kirkman himself was invalided back to the United Kingdom with severe arthritis in March,[22] command of XIII Corps going to Lieutenant General Sir John Harding.


Throughout the period of 1945 to 1950, Kirkman was a member of the Army Council, initially as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of Southern Command, then as of GOC-in-C I Corps in Germany[3] and then as Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff (DCIGS) in the War Office. From 1947 he was Quartermaster-General to the Forces until 1950 when he retired from the British Army.[23] He was promoted to full general in August 1947.[24] Kirkman was honorary Colonel Commandant Royal Artillery from July 1947[25] until July 1957.[26]

Kirkman became Special Financial Representative in Germany from 1951 until 1952. In 1954 he became Director General of Civil Defence and held this post until 1960. From 1957 until 1960 he was also Chairman of the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council for England and Wales. He died 29 October 1982.[5]


  1. ^ a b Smart, p. 179
  2. ^ "No. 39104". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1950. p. 2. 
  3. ^ a b c d Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives King's College London
  4. ^ a b "British Army officer histories". Unit Histories. Retrieved 2017-09-13. 
  5. ^ a b c New York Times archive November 7, 1982 retrieved on 13 March 2007
  6. ^ "No. 31317". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 April 1919. p. 5427. 
  7. ^ "No. 30981". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 October 1918. p. 12786. 
  8. ^ "No. 33447". The London Gazette. 14 December 1928. p. 8253. 
  9. ^ "No. 33022". The London Gazette. 20 February 1925. p. 1237. 
  10. ^ "No. 34148". The London Gazette. 5 April 1935. p. 2317. 
  11. ^ "No. 33682". The London Gazette. 20 January 1931. p. 458. 
  12. ^ "No. 34280". The London Gazette. 1 May 1936. p. 2801. 
  13. ^ "No. 34479". The London Gazette. 4 February 1938. p. 735. 
  14. ^ "No. 35579". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 May 1942. p. 2367. 
  15. ^ "No. 36437". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 March 1944. p. 1373. 
  16. ^ "No. 36929". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 February 1945. p. 805. 
  17. ^ a b Mead, p. 234
  18. ^ "No. 35988". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 April 1943. p. 1849. 
  19. ^ a b c Mead, p. 235
  20. ^ a b Blaxland, pp.22–23
  21. ^ "No. 36350". The London Gazette. 25 January 1944. p. 523. 
  22. ^ Blaxland, p.248
  23. ^ "No. 38973". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 July 1950. p. 3741. 
  24. ^ "No. 38051". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 August 1947. p. 3933. 
  25. ^ "No. 38024". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 July 1947. p. 3481. 
  26. ^ "No. 41140". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 July 1957. p. 4555. 


  • Gregory Blaxland (1979). Alexander's Generals (the Italian Campaign 1944–1945). London: William Kimber & Co. ISBN 0-7183-0386-5. 
  • Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: a biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0. 
  • Smart, Nick (2005). Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Barnesley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 1844150496. 

External links

  • British Army Officers 1939−1945
  • Generals of World War II
Military offices
Preceded by
John Nichols
GOC 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Douglas Graham
Preceded by
Miles Dempsey
Succeeded by
John Harding
Preceded by
Sir William Morgan
GOC-in-C Southern Command
March–June 1945
Succeeded by
Sir John Crocker
Preceded by
Sir John Crocker
GOC I Corps
June–September 1945
Succeeded by
Sir Ivor Thomas
Preceded by
Sir Ronald Weeks
Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Succeeded by
Sir Kenneth Crawford
Preceded by
Sir Daril Watson
Quartermaster-General to the Forces
Succeeded by
Sir Ivor Thomas
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