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Auchinleck Papers

Date range: 1919–71 (bulk 1940–48).

Papers of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck (1884–1981), who commanded Allied campaigns in Norway and North Africa during the Second World War.

Auchinleck assumed command of Allied operations in northern Norway in May 1940. After the evacuation from Dunkirk and the fall of Norway, in July 1940 he became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command, responsible for planning the defence of the south coast of England against the expected German invasion.

After a brief period as Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army in 1941 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Middle East.

Early gains in the ‘Crusader’ offensive were quickly reversed during the first half of 1942, and Auchinleck’s forces suffered a series of defeats, culminating in the loss of Tobruk in June 1942. In the aftermath of this disaster Auchinleck assumed direct command of the 8th Army, and succeeded in stabilizing the defensive line at the First Battle of El Alamein. However, he was summarily dismissed by Churchill in August 1942, a decision that continues to generate debate.

He returned to India as Commander-in-Chief in 1943, first overseeing the expansion of the Indian armed forces and military production for the war effort, and later preparing the Indian Army for independence and partition.

Auchinleck’s papers include: typescript and autograph letters, cipher messages, telegrams, dispatches, reports, military orders, memoranda and the texts of speeches by Auchinleck.

Correspondents include:

  • Leo Amery, Secretary of State for India and Burma (1940–5)
  • Clement Attlee, Deputy Prime Minister (1942–5), Prime Minister (1945–50)
  • Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (Viscount Alanbrooke), Chief of the Imperial General Staff (1941–6)
  • Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister (1940–5)
  • Field Marshal Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff (1940–1), Head of the British Joint Staff Mission, United States (1941–4)
  • Victor Hope, Viscount Linlithgow, Viceroy of India (1936–43)
  • Muhammed Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, Governor-General of Pakistan (1947–8)
  • Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia (1943–6), Viceroy of India (1947)
  • Jawaharlal Nehru, President of the Congress Party, Prime Minister of India (1947–63)
  • Field Marshal Jan Smuts, Prime Minister of South Africa (1939–48)
  • and Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief, Middle East (1939–41), Commander-in-Chief, India (1941–3), Viceroy of India (1943–7)

The collection is of central importance for students of military history, particularly the Desert Campaign, and for research into the final years of British rule in India, the rise of the nationalist independence movement, the transfer of power from Britain to India, and the formation of Pakistan.

See also

The papers of Major-General Eric Edward Dorman O'Gowan, (formerly Dorman Smith), who for a brief period in 1942 was Auchinleck's Chief-of-Staff during the Desert Campaign.

Finding aids

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • Published catalogue, M.M. Wright, 'The Military Papers, 1940-48, of Field-Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck: a Calendar and Index', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 70, no. 2 (1988), pp. 143-393.
  • Unpublished handlist of additional (post-World War II) material.


The John Rylands Library

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