Vyvyan Evelegh

Vyvyan Evelegh
The British Army in North Africa, January 1943 TR636.jpg
Major General Vyvyan Evelegh (centre) with Lieutenant General Kenneth Anderson (right) and Brigadier C. B. McNabb (left).
Nickname(s)Santa Claus
Born(1898-12-14)14 December 1898
Died27 August 1958(1958-08-27) (aged 59)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1917–1950
RankMajor general
Service number15272
UnitDuke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Commands held42nd (Lancashire) Division (1948–50)
North-West District (1947–48)
6th Armoured Division (1943–44)
78th Infantry Division (1942–43)
11th Infantry Brigade (1941)
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)

Major General Vyvyan Evelegh, CB, DSO, OBE (14 December 1898 – 27 August 1958) was a senior officer of the British Army during the Second World War, commanding the 78th Infantry Division (otherwise known as the Battleaxe Division) and the 6th Armoured Division in Tunisia and Italy.

Early life and military career[edit]

After passing out from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Evelegh was commissioned into the British Army as a second lieutenant in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI) on 1 May 1917, during the First World War. He served on the Western Front with the 1st Battalion of his regiment, a Regular Army unit that was part of the 95th Brigade of the 5th Division. He was promoted to lieutenant on 1 November 1918,[1][2] just ten days before the war came to an end on 11 November 1918.

Between the wars[edit]

Remaining in the army during the interwar period, he was promoted to captain on 8 July 1927.[3] He was appointed brigade major of the 130th (Devon and Cornwall) Infantry Brigade of the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, a Territorial Army (TA) formation, on 1 April 1935, then brigade major of the 6th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division on 23 May 1937 and seconded to the staff.[4][5] He was brevetted to major on 1 July and promoted to the substantive rank of major on 14 October.[6][7]

Evelegh was brevetted to lieutenant colonel on 1 January 1939, relinquishing his appointment as brigade major on 16 April and was appointed a general staff officer grade 2 (GSO2) on 3 July.[8][9][10]

Second World War[edit]

On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, he was promoted to war substantive lieutenant colonel. He saw active service during the Battle of France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), serving on the staff of II Corps, then commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Alan Brooke, and being made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, for "distinguished services in the field", on 11 July 1940.[11][12]

Evelegh then served as an instructor at the Staff College, Camberley, was promoted to brigadier and commanded the 11th Infantry Brigade, part of the 4th Infantry Division, from January to November 1941, before returning to the Staff College to serve as assistant commandant.[13] He was promoted to colonel on 18 May 1942 (with seniority from 1 January) and on 13 June was promoted to the acting rank of major general and the following day was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 78th "Battleaxe" Infantry Division, formed specifically for Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa, in November 1942.[14][15][13] Included in the 78th Division's composition was his former command, the 11th Infantry Brigade.

Evelegh commanded the 78th Division in North Africa as part of Lieutenant General Charles Allfrey's V Corps, itself part of the British First Army, seeing action in the Tunisian Campaign and receiving promotion to temporary major general on 13 June 1943.[16] On 5 August he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Tunisia" and soon after was granted permission to wear the insignia of a Commander of the Legion of Merit, which had been conferred on him by the United States.[17][18]

The 78th Division took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Italian Campaign. In December 1943, Evelegh exchanged commands with Major General Charles Keightley, the commander of the 6th Armoured Division.[13] From 16 February to 18 March 1944, during the Battle of Anzio, he served as a deputy commander of the US VI Corps under Major General John P. Lucas, later replaced by Major General Lucian Truscott. On 23 March 1944 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field".[19]

He returned to the command of the 6th Armoured upon its piecemeal arrival in Italy (the 1st Guards Brigade had already arrived in Italy in February) and commanded it during Operation Diadem, the Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino. On 24 July 1944 he relinquished command of the 6th Armoured, due to a perceived poor performance, over to Major General Gerald Templer, to serve as Assistant Chief of the General Staff from August 1944 to May 1945.[13][20]

Postwar career[edit]

Evelegh was promoted to the substantive rank of major general on 29 December 1946 (with seniority from 19 July 1944).[21] He served as GOC North-West District in 1947–1948 and then GOC 42nd (Lancashire) Division from March 1948 to October 1950 before retiring from the army on 13 November 1950.[13][22] He was briefly recalled to the Active List to be specially employed between 2 April and 9 October 1951.[23][24]

He was colonel of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry from 1953 until his sudden death in 1958.[25]


  1. ^ "No. 30040". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 April 1917. p. 4081.
  2. ^ "No. 31053". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 December 1918. p. 14467.
  3. ^ "No. 33303". The London Gazette. 16 August 1927. p. 5333.
  4. ^ "No. 34149". The London Gazette. 9 April 1935. p. 2441.
  5. ^ "No. 34403". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 June 1937. p. 3512.
  6. ^ "No. 34414". The London Gazette. 2 July 1937. p. 4250.
  7. ^ "No. 34456". The London Gazette. 19 November 1937. p. 7264.
  8. ^ "No. 34586". The London Gazette. 3 January 1939. p. 59.
  9. ^ "No. 34617". The London Gazette. 18 April 1939. p. 2588.
  10. ^ "No. 34650". The London Gazette. 1 August 1939. p. 5311.
  11. ^ "Recommendation for Award for Evelegh, Vyvyan". The National Archives. 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  12. ^ "No. 15725". The Edinburgh Gazette. 16 July 1940. pp. 432–433.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Biography of Major-General Vyvyan Evelegh (1898–1958), Great Britain". generals.dk. 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  14. ^ "No. 35582". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 June 1942. p. 2423.
  15. ^ "No. 35633". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 July 1942. p. 3141.
  16. ^ "No. 36071". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 June 1943. p. 2938.
  17. ^ "No. 36120". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 August 1943. p. 3521.
  18. ^ "No. 36125". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 August 1943. p. 3579.
  19. ^ "No. 36436". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 March 1944. p. 1367.
  20. ^ Mackie, Colin (2011). "Senior Army Appointments" (PDF). gulabin.com. p. 15. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  21. ^ "No. 37848". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 January 1947. p. 221.
  22. ^ "No. 39066". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 November 1950. p. 5675.
  23. ^ "No. 39200". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 April 1951. p. 2056.
  24. ^ "No. 39352". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 October 1951. p. 5221.
  25. ^ "The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry: Succession of Colonels 1702–1958". britisharmedforces.org. 2005. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
Military offices
New title GOC 78th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Charles Keightley
Preceded by
Charles Keightley
GOC 6th Armoured Division
Succeeded by
Gerald Templer
Preceded by
John Kennedy
Assistant Chief of the General Staff
Succeeded by
Frank Simpson