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William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim

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Title: William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim  
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Subject: Fourteenth Army (United Kingdom), Burma Campaign, Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, Operation U-Go, 10th Indian Infantry Division
Collection: 1891 Births, 1970 Deaths, Australian Peers, British Army Personnel of World War I, British Field Marshals, British Roman Catholics, Chief Commanders of the Legion of Merit, Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff, Governors-General of Australia, Indian Army Generals of World War II, People Associated with the University of Birmingham, People Educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham, People from Birmingham, West Midlands, Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers Officers, Viscounts in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, West India Regiment Officers
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William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim

Field Marshal The Right Honourable
The Viscount Slim
William Slim in 1950
13th Governor-General of Australia
In office
8 May 1953 – 2 February 1960
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Robert Menzies
Preceded by Sir William McKell
Succeeded by The Viscount Dunrossil
Personal details
Born William Joseph Slim
(1891-08-06)6 August 1891
Bishopston, United Kingdom
Died 14 December 1970(1970-12-14) (aged 79)
London, United Kingdom
Resting place Cremated
Memorial plaque in St Paul's Cathedral
Spouse(s) Aileen, Viscountess Slim (née Robertson)
(1926–1970, his death)
Children 2nd Viscount Slim
Una Mary Slim
Alma mater Indian Staff College, Quetta
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Nickname(s) Uncle Bill
Allegiance  British Empire
Service/branch  British Army
 British Indian Army
Years of service 1914–1948
Rank Field Marshal
Commands Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Commandant of the Imperial Defence College
Allied Land Forces South East Asia
Fourteenth Army
XV Corps
Burma Corps
10th Indian Infantry Division
10th Indian Infantry Brigade
2nd Bn 7th Gurkha Rifles

First World War

Second World War

Awards Knight of the Garter
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Knight of the Order of St John
Mentioned in Despatches
Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)

GCMG, GCVOGBEDSOMCKStJ (6 August 1891 – 14 December 1970), usually known as Bill Slim,[1] was a British military commander and the 13th Governor-General of Australia.

Slim saw active service in both the Burma campaign. After the war he became the first British officer who had served in the Indian Army to be appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff. From 1953 to 1959 he was Governor-General of Australia and is regarded by many Australians as an authentic war hero who had fought with the Anzacs at Gallipoli.[2]

In the early 1930s, Slim also wrote novels, short stories, and other publications under the pen name Anthony Mills.


  • Early years 1
  • First World War 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Interwar career 4
  • Second World War 5
    • East African Campaign 5.1
    • Middle East 5.2
    • Burma campaign 5.3
  • After the Second World War 6
    • Retirement from the Army 6.1
    • Return to the Army 6.2
    • Governor-General of Australia 6.3
    • Allegations 6.4
    • Retirement 6.5
  • Legacy 7
  • Relations with troops 8
  • Slim's place in history 9
  • List of honours 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • Footnotes 12
  • References 13
  • Further reading 14
  • External links 15

Early years

William Slim was born at 72 Belmont Road, St Andrews, Bristol, the son of John Slim by his marriage to Charlotte Tucker, and was baptised there at St Bonaventure's Roman Catholic church, Bishopston. He was brought up first in Bristol, attending St Bonaventure's Primary School, then St Brendan's College, before moving to Birmingham in his teens. In Birmingham, he attended St Philip's Grammar School, Edgbaston, and King Edward's School (also in Birmingham). After leaving school, his father's failure in business as a wholesale ironmonger meant that the family could afford to send only one son, Slim's older brother, to the University of Birmingham, so between 1910 and 1914 Slim taught in a primary school and worked as a clerk in Stewarts & Lloyds, a metal-tube maker.[3]

First World War

Despite having no other connection to the university,[3] in 1912 Slim joined the Birmingham University Officers' Training Corps, and he was thus able to be commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 22 August 1914, on the outbreak of the First World War; in later life, as a result of his modest social origins and his unpretentious manner, he was sometimes wrongly supposed to have risen from the ranks. He was badly wounded at Gallipoli. On return to England, he was granted a regular commission as a second lieutenant in the West India Regiment. In October 1916, he rejoined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in Mesopotamia. On 4 March 1917, he was promoted to lieutenant (with seniority back-dated to October 1915).[4] He was wounded a second time in 1917. Having been previously given the temporary rank of captain, he was awarded the Military Cross on 7 February 1918 for actions in Mesopotamia.[5]

Evacuated to India, he was given the temporary rank of Major in the 6th Gurkha Rifles on 2 November 1918.[6] He was formally promoted to captain and transferred to the Indian Army on 22 May 1919.[7]

Personal life

Slim married Aileen Robertson in 1926, later Viscountess Slim, by whom he had one son and one daughter.[8]

Interwar career

He became battalion adjutant with the 6th Gurkha Rifles in 1921. In 1926, Slim was sent to the Indian Staff College at Quetta. On 5 June 1929, he was appointed a General Staff Officer, Second Grade[9] On 1 January 1930, he was given the brevet rank of major,[10] with formal promotion to this rank made on 19 May 1933.[11] His performance at Staff College resulted in his appointment first to Army Headquarters India in Delhi and then to Staff College, Camberley in England (as a General Staff Officer, Second Grade),[12] where he taught from 1934 to 1937. During this period, he also wrote novels, short stories, and other publications under the pen name of Anthony Mills, in order to further his literary interests, as well as to supplement his then modest army salary. In 1938, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel[13] and given command of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles. In 1939 he was briefly given the temporary rank of brigadier as commander of his battalion.[14] On 8 June 1939, he was promoted to colonel (again with temporary rank of brigadier)[15] and appointed head of the Senior Officers' School, Belgaum in India.[16]

Second World War

East African Campaign

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Slim was given command of the 10th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 5th Indian Infantry Division and was sent to Sudan. He took part in the East African Campaign to liberate Ethiopia from the Italians. Slim was wounded again during the fighting in Eritrea. On 21 January 1941, Slim was hit when his position was strafed during the advance on Agordat.[17]

Middle East

Recovering from his wounds but still unfit for active service, Slim was temporarily employed on the General Staff at GHQ in Delhi. He was involved in the planning for potential operations in Iraq where trouble was expected. By early May 1941 Slim had been appointed Brigadier General Staff (chief staff officer) to Edward Quinan the commander designate for operations in Iraq, arriving in Basra on 7 May.[18] Not long afterwards, Major-General Fraser, commanding Indian 10th Infantry Division, fell ill and was relieved of his command, and Slim was promoted to take his place on the 15 May 1941[19] in the acting rank of major-general.[20] He led the Indian 10th Infantry Division as part of Iraqforce during the Anglo-Iraqi War, the Syria-Lebanon Campaign (where the division advanced up the river Euphrates to capture Deir ez-Zor), and the invasion of Persia. He was twice mentioned in despatches during 1941.[21]

Burma campaign

Portrait of General Slim as commander of the Fourteenth Army, commissioned by the Ministry of Information.
See South-East Asian Theatre of World War II and Burma Campaign

In March 1942, Slim was given command of Burma Corps, also known as BurCorps, consisting of the 17th Indian Infantry Division and 1st Burma Division. Slim was made acting lieutenant-general on 8 May 1942.[22] The corps was under attack in Burma by the Japanese and, heavily outclassed by the more mobile and flexible Japanese, was soon forced to withdraw to India. On 28 October 1942, Slim was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[23]

Slim then took over XV Corps under the command of the Eastern Army. His command covered the coastal approaches from Burma to India, east of Chittagong. He had a series of disputes with Noel Irwin, commander of Eastern Army and, as a result, Irwin (although an army commander) took personal control of the initial advance by XV Corps into the Arakan Peninsula. The operations ended in disaster, during which Slim was restored to command of XV Corps, albeit too late to salvage the situation. General Irwin and Slim blamed each other for the result, but in the end Irwin was removed from his command, and Slim was promoted to command the new Fourteenth Army—formed from IV Corps (United Kingdom) (Imphal), XV Corps (Arakan) and XXXIII Corps (reserve) – later joined by XXXIV Corps. On 14 January 1943, Slim was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his actions in the Middle East during 1941.[24]

Slim quickly got on with the task of training his new army to take the fight to the enemy. His basic premise was that off-road mobility was paramount: much heavy equipment was exchanged for mule- or air-transported equipment, and motor transport was kept to a minimum and restricted to vehicles that could cope with some of the worst combat terrain on Earth. The new doctrine dictated that if the Japanese had cut the lines of communication, then they too were surrounded. All units were to form defensive 'boxes', to be resupplied by air and assisted by integrated close air support and armour. The boxes were designed as an effective response to the tactics of infiltration practised by the Japanese in the war. Slim also supported increased offensive patrolling and night training, to encourage his soldiers to lose both their fear of the jungle and their belief that Japanese soldiers were better jungle fighters. He also instructed them to hold their positions once outflanked.[17]

At the start of 1944, Slim held the official rank of colonel with a war-time rank of major-general and the temporary rank of lieutenant-general.[25] In January 1944, when the Second Arakan Offensive was met by a Japanese counter-offensive, the Indian 7th Infantry Division was quickly surrounded along with parts of the Indian 5th Infantry Division and the 81st (West Africa) Division. The 7th Indian Division's defence was based largely on the "Admin Box" formed initially from drivers, cooks, suppliers, and such. They were supplied by air, thus negating the importance of their lost supply lines. The Japanese forces were able to halt the offensive into Arakan but were unable to decisively defeat the allied forces or advance beyond the surrounded formations.[26]

In early 1944, Slim was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB).[27] Later in 1944 the Japanese launched an invasion of India aimed at Imphal, hundreds of miles to the north. Slim airlifted two entire veteran divisions (5th & 7th Indian) from battle in the Arakan, straight into battle in the north. Desperate defensive actions were fought at places such as Imphal, Sangshak and Kohima, while the RAF and USAAF kept the forces supplied from the air. While the Japanese were able to advance and encircle the formations of 14th Army, they were unable to defeat those same forces or break out of the jungles along the Indian frontier. The Japanese advance stalled. The Japanese, who had a contempt for British and Indian troops based on their performance in 1941–42, refused to give up even after the monsoon started and large parts of their army were wrecked by conducting operations in impossible conditions. The initial Japanese plan was to capture Allied stocks of food, medicine and fuel to sustain their advance, but they failed to capture any stockpiles. As a result, their units took unsupportable casualties and were finally forced to retreat in total disorder in July 1944, leaving behind many dead from hunger and disease as well as their injured. On 8 August 1944, Slim was promoted to lieutenant-general,[28] and, on 28 September 1944, he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).[29] In December 1944, during a ceremony at Imphal in front of the Scottish, Gurkha and Punjabi regiments, Slim and three of his corps commanders (Christison, Scoones and Stopford) were knighted by the viceroy Lord Wavell and invested with honours. Slim was presented with his insignia as KCB, and the others with their KBEs. Slim was also mentioned in despatches.[30]

In 1945, Slim launched an offensive into Burma, with lines of supply stretching almost to breaking point across hundreds of miles of trackless jungle. He faced the same problems that the Japanese had faced in their failed 1944 offensive in the opposite direction. He made the supply of his armies the central issue in the plan of the campaign. The Chindwin River was spanned with the longest Bailey bridge in the world at the time. After crossing the Irrawaddy the town of Meiktila was taken, followed by Burma's second city, Mandalay. Slim's plan was a masterpiece of operational art, and the capture of Meiktila left most of Japan's troops stranded in Burma without supplies. The Allies had reached the open plains of central Burma, sallying out and breaking Japanese attacking forces in isolation, maintaining the initiative at all times, backed up by air-land cooperation, including resupply by air and close air support, performed by both RAF and USAAF units.[31]

In combination with these attacks, Force 136 helped initiate a countrywide uprising of the Burmese people against the Japanese. In addition to fighting the allied advance south, the Japanese were faced with heavy attacks from behind their own lines. Toward the end of the campaign, the army raced south to capture Rangoon before the start of the monsoon. It was considered necessary to capture the port because of the length of the supply lines overland from India and the impossibility of supply by air or land during the monsoon. Rangoon was eventually taken by a combined attack from the land (Slim's army), the air (parachute operations south of the city) and a seaborne invasion. Also assisting in the capture of Rangoon was the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League led by Thakin Soe with Aung San (the future Prime Minister of Burma and father of Aung San Suu Kyi) as one of its military commanders.[32]

As the Burma campaign came to an end, Slim was informed in May by Oliver Leese, the commander of Allied Land Forces South-East Asia (ALFSEA) that he would not be commanding Fourteenth Army in the forthcoming invasion planned for Malaya but would take command of the new Twelfth Army being formed to mop up in Burma.[33] Slim refused the appointment, saying he would prefer to retire. As the news spread, Fourteenth Army fell into turmoil and Alan Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, furious at not having been consulted by Leese, and Claude Auchinleck, the C-in-C India who was at the time in London, brought pressure to bear.[34] The Supreme Allied Commander of the Southeast Asia Theatre, Louis Mountbatten was obliged to order Leese to undo the damage. On 1 July 1945, Slim was promoted to general[35] and was informed that he was to succeed Leese as C-in-C ALFSEA. However, by the time he took up the post, having taken some leave, the war was at an end.[33]

After the Second World War

Retirement from the Army

At the end of 1945 Slim returned to the UK. On 1 January 1946, he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the King.[37] At the end of his two-year appointment at the Imperial Defence College Slim retired as ADC and from the army on 11 May 1948.[38] He had been approached by both India and Pakistan to become C-in-C of their respective armies post independence but refused and instead became Deputy Chairman of the Railway Executive.[39]

Return to the Army

However, in November 1948 the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee rejected the proposal by Viscount Montgomery that he should be succeeded as Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) by John Crocker and instead brought back Slim from retirement in the rank of field marshal in January 1949[40] with formal appointment to the Army Council from 1 January 1949.[41] Slim thus became the first Indian Army officer to be become CIGS.[39]

On 2 January 1950, he was promoted to Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Bath (GCB)[42] and later that year was made a Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit by the United States[43] having previously, in 1948, been awarded the lower ranking Commander of the Legion of Merit.[44] On 1 November 1952, he relinquished the position of Chief of the Imperial General Staff.[45]

Governor-General of Australia

On 10 December 1952 Slim was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Governor-General of Australia[46] which post he took up on 8 May 1953. On 2 January 1953, he was appointed a Knight of the Order of St. John (KStJ).[47]

Slim was a popular choice for Governor-General since he was an authentic war hero who had fought alongside Australians at Gallipoli and in the Middle East. In 1954 he was able to welcome Queen Elizabeth II on the first visit by a reigning monarch to Australia. For his services to the Queen during the tour, he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) on 27 April 1954.[48] Liberal leader Robert Menzies held office throughout Slim's time in Australia. His Official Secretary throughout his term was Murray Tyrrell.[49]


Slim's duties as Governor-General were entirely ceremonial and there were no controversies during his term. However, during his tenure he was patron of the Fairbridge Farms child migration homes in Australia. Thirty-seven years after Slim's death, allegations were made (2007) by three former residents that as young boys Slim had

Military offices
Preceded by
H. R. C. Lane
Commander, 10th Brigade of the Indian 5th Infantry Division
September 1939 – January 1941
Succeeded by
Bernard Campbell Fletcher
Preceded by
William Archibald Kenneth Fraser
Commander, Indian 10th Infantry Division
May 1941 – March 1942
Succeeded by
Thomas Wynford Rees
Preceded by
Lieutenant-General Noel Beresford-Peirse
Commander, XV Corps
June 1942 – October 1943
Succeeded by
Lieutenant-General Philip Christison
New title Commander, Fourteenth Army
October 1943 – August 1945
Succeeded by
Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey
Title last held by
Vice Admiral Hugh Binney
Commandant of the Imperial Defence College
1 January 1946 – 11 May 1948
Succeeded by
Air Chief Marshal Sir John Slessor
Preceded by
The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Succeeded by
Sir John Harding
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir William McKell
Governor-General of Australia
Succeeded by
The Viscount Dunrossil
Honorary titles
Title last held by
The Earl of Athlone
Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle
Succeeded by
The Lord Elworthy
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Slim
Succeeded by
John Douglas Slim
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Viscount Slim
  • : "The joint winners of Britain's Greatest General, as decided by the audience at [the National Army Museum] celebrity speaker event on Saturday 9 April 2011, were William Slim and The Duke of Wellington".

External links

Further reading

  • (Stone & Stone, 1 August 1997. NOTE: The original edition contains more detailed description of operations than does the 1961 edition.)


  1. ^ "No one called him William" (Hastings 2008, p. 68).
  2. ^ Biography Digger History Australia
  3. ^ a b c Heathcote 1999, p. 259.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30183. p. 7076. 14 July 1917. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  5. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30514. pp. 1800–1802. 7 February 1918. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31993. p. 7835. 26 July 1920. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31574. p. 12035. 30 September 1919. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  8. ^ Heathcote 1999, p. 260.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33544. p. 6620. 18 October 1929. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33576. pp. 726–727. 4 February 1930. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33952. p. 4205. 23 June 1933. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34017. p. 541. 23 January 1934. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34527. p. 4249. 1 July 1938. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
    The London Gazette: no. 34547. p. 5610. 2 September 1938. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34625. p. 3194. 12 May 1939. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
    The London Gazette: no. 34647. p. 5036. 21 July 1939. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34656. p. 5676. 18 August 1939. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34651. pp. 5408–5409. 4 August 1939. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  17. ^ a b Heathcote 1999, p. 261.
  18. ^ Mead 2007, p. 418.
  19. ^ Mead 2007, p. 419.
  20. ^ The London Gazette: no. 35183. p. 3243. 6 June 1941. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  21. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35120. p. 1871. 1 April 1941. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
    The London Gazette: no. 35396. p. 7353. 30 December 1941. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35550. p. 2021. 5 May 1942. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  23. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35763. p. 4687. 28 October 1942. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  24. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35862. p. 321. 14 January 1943. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  25. ^ The London Gazette: no. 36331. p. 319. 14 January 1944. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  26. ^ Heathcote 1999, p. 262.
  27. ^ a b The CB was awarded prior to 31 March 1944 when Slim is recorded with this honour in the London Gazette, but the record of the award appears to be unpublished.
  28. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36642. p. 3659. 8 August 1944. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  29. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36720. p. 4473. 28 September 1944. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  30. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36753. p. 4794. 17 October 1944. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  31. ^ McLynn 2011, p. 379.
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b Mead 2007, p. 425.
  34. ^ Alanbrook in his diary entry of 17 May wrote "...(met) with Auk about appointment of Slim to Burma Command. Leese is going quite wild and doing mad things, prepared a fair rap on the knuckles for him!"
  35. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37239. p. 4319. 28 August 1945. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  36. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 37407. p. 17. 28 December 1945. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  37. ^ The London Gazette: no. 37875. p. 662. 4 February 1947. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  38. ^ The London Gazette: no. 38289. p. 2935. 14 May 1948. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
    The London Gazette: no. 38321. p. 3470. 11 June 1948. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  39. ^ a b Mead 2007, p. 426.
  40. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38500. p. 49. 31 December 1948. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  41. ^ The London Gazette: no. 38553. p. 1127. 4 March 1949. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  42. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38797. p. 2. 2 January 1950. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  43. ^ a b The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38973. p. 3741. 21 July 1950. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  44. ^ The London Gazette: no. 38359. p. 4189. 20 July 1948. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  45. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39706. p. 6331. 28 November 1952. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  46. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 39716. p. 6544. 12 December 1952. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  47. ^ The London Gazette: no. 39743. p. 94. 2 January 1953. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  48. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 40159. p. 2500. 27 April 1954. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  49. ^
  50. ^ Leech & Box 2007.
  51. ^ ABC staff 2009.
  52. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 41691. p. 2687. 24 May 1959. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  53. ^ The London Gazette: no. 42094. p. 4925. 15 July 1960. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  54. ^ The London Gazette: no. 43360. p. 5337. 19 June 1964. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  55. ^
  56. ^ Home from home Defence Management Journal, Issue 32
  57. ^ Plaque in Slim's honour unveiled at Bristol cenotaph on 7 September 2008
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^ Slim 1961, p. 153.
  61. ^ Fraser 1995, pp. 35–36.
  62. ^ Fraser 1995, p. 37.
  63. ^ The Defence Academy: The Director's Reading List
  64. ^ Hastings 2008, p. 69.
  65. ^ Burma Star Association history
  66. ^ UK attractions: Statue of Viscount Slim
  67. ^ Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge
  68. ^
  69. ^


  • Defeat into Victory by Field Marshal Sir William Slim; Originally published 1956. More recent editions are NY: Buccaneer Books ISBN 1-56849-077-1, Cooper Square Press ISBN 0-8154-1022-0; London: Cassell ISBN 0-304-29114-5, Pan ISBN 0-330-39066-X.
  • Other publications include Courage and Other Broadcasts (1957); and Unofficial History (1959).


Knight of the Order of the Garter (KG) 24 April 1959[52]
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) 2 January 1950[42]
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) 28 September 1944[29]
Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) 1944[27]
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) 10 December 1952[46]
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) 16 February 1954[48]
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) 1 January 1946[36]
Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) 28 October 1942[23]
Knight of the Order of St John (KStJ) 2 January 1953[69]
Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) 14 January 1943[24]
Military Cross (MC) 7 February 1918[5]
Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)[43]

List of honours

Slim's papers were collected by his biographer, Ronald Lewin, and given to the Churchill Archives Centre by Slim's wife, Aileen, Viscountess Slim, and son, John Slim, 2nd Viscount Slim, and other donors, 1977–2001.[67] Lewin's biography, Slim: The Standardbearer, was awarded the 1977 WH Smith Literary Award.[68]

A statue of Slim on Whitehall, outside the Ministry of Defence, was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990. Designed by Ivor Roberts-Jones, the statue is one of three of British Second World War military leaders (the others being Alan Brooke and Montgomery).[66]

The spirit of comradeship Slim created within 14th Army lived on after the war in the Burma Star Association, of which Slim was a co-founder and first President.[65]

In contrast to almost every other outstanding commander of the war, Slim was a disarmingly normal human being, possessed of notable self-knowledge. He was without pretension, devoted to his wife, Aileen, their family and the Indian Army. His calm, robust style of leadership and concern for the interests of his men won the admiration of all who served under him ... His blunt honesty, lack of bombast and unwillingness to play courtier did him few favours in the corridors of power. Only his soldiers never wavered in their devotion.[64]

Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely has recommended Slim's memoirs (Defeat into Victory) (1956) describing Slim as "perhaps the Greatest Commander of the 20th Century" and commenting on Slim's "self-deprecating style"[63] Military historian Max Hastings stated:

Statue of General Slim on Whitehall

Slim's place in history

But the biggest boost to morale was the burly man who came to talk to the assembled battalion … it was unforgettable. Slim was like that: the only man I've ever seen who had a force that came out of him...[61] British soldiers don't love their commanders much less worship them; Fourteenth Army trusted Slim and thought of him as one of themselves, and perhaps his real secret was that the feeling was mutual.[62]

In 1959, Slim retired and returned to Britain, where he published his memoirs, Unofficial History. He had already published his personal narrative of the Burma Campaign, The Flashman Papers

After Slim dismissed a few officers for high unit malaria rates, the others realised he was serious and malaria treatment was enforced, dropping the rate to less than 5%. The combat effectiveness of his army was thus greatly enhanced. It was this physical and mental turnaround in the army under him that was a contributing factor to the eventual defeat of the Japanese in Burma.

Slim had a unique relationship with his troops – the "Defeat into Victory, he tells of the malaria rates among his units being 70%, largely due to noncompliance by his soldiers with the foul-tasting quinine medication they refused to take. Slim did not blame his medics for this problem, but placed the responsibility on his officers. "Good doctors are no use without good discipline. More than half the battle against disease is fought not by the doctors, but by the regimental officers".[60]

Relations with troops

  • The road Viscount Slim Avenue, in Whyalla, South Australia is named after him.[58]
  • On 7 September 2008, a plaque in Slim's memory, and those who served with him, was unveiled at the Cenotaph in his native Bristol. Fr Robert King of the Diocese of Clifton was joined by faith leaders from the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities at the ceremony, which was led by the Lord Mayor of Bristol's chaplain, the Rev. Prebendary Harold Clarke.[57]
  • The SLAM (Single Living Accommodation Modernisation) Officers' Mess at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is named after him and was opened in August 2004 by his son.[56]
  • The road William Slim Drive, in the district of Belconnen, Canberra is named after him.[55]


[3] series of novels, then a nineteen-year-old lance corporal, recalled:



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