William Slim, 1950

This person is on display in the Contributing Wrap in the People Gallery

(1891 – 1970)

William Slim was born and raised in Bristol, and in Birmingham as a teenager. He joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a second lieutenant in August 1914. Slim served in Gallipoli, where he was wounded and later in Mesopotamia. By 1918, he was promoted formally to Captain in the British Indian Army.

During World War II, as commander of the 10th Indian Brigade, Slim took part in the conquest of Abyssinia where he was also wounded. Promoted to major-general in June 1941, he led the 10th Indian Division in East Africa, and the Middle East.

In March 1942, he was given command of the Burma Corps, fighting Japanese soldiers in Rangoon. He then took over XV Corps of the Eastern Army in the Arakan in April 1943. The campaign was a disaster, partly because General Noel Irwin, the Eastern Army’s commander who side-lined Slim. The subsequent fall-out led to Slim’s appointment as commander of the 14th Army.

He was a very human and charismatic leader. Slim undertook a partially successful attack in the Arakan in February 1944, and then, in the battles of Imphal and Kohima, repelled a Japanese invasion of north-east India. Slim lead other successful missions in World War II.

After the war he was Commandant of the Imperial Defence College from 1946 to 1948 and Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1948 to 1952. Between 1953 and 1960 Slim was governor-general of Australia. Slim is remembered fondly in Australian history as having a good relationship with Prime Minister Robert Menzies. On his return to the UK, he was given peerage as Viscount Slim of Yarralumla and Bishopston (Bishopston is a suburb in Bristol). He published many well received books and has held a number of prestigious posts including, deputy-constable and lieutenant-governor of Windsor Castle in 1963, then constable and governor in 1964. He was also chairman of the council of the Fairbridge Society, director of the National Bank of Australasia Ltd and Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. After his death, he was commemorated by a plaque in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral and a statue at Whitehall unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990.

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