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Auchinleck Papers

Date range: 1919-1971 (bulk 1940–48)

Number of items:

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

Following the evacuation from Dunkirk and the fall of Norway, in July 1940 Auchinleck 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, where he played a key, if controversial, part in the early stages of the Desert War.

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 in the archive 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);
  • 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 major importance for the military history of the Second World War, particularly the Desert Campaign. There is significant material on the high politics of military strategy, and for the relationships between politicians and senior military personnel, as well as the last years of British rule in India, the transition to independence, and the Partition of India and Pakistan.

See also:

Further Information:

  • 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.
  • Catalogue of additional (post-World War II) material available via Special Collections reading rooms.
  • A separate collection of correspondence between Sir Syed Maratib Ali and Auchinleck, 1937-61: catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • Papers of Robin Ridgway, Private Secretary to Auchinleck, covering the years 1939-44 are uncatalogued.

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