Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell

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I can only say that I have always believed in doing everything possible in war to mystify and mislead one’s opponent…
No amount of study or learning will make a man a leader unless he has the natural qualities of one.

Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell, GCB, GCSI, GCIE, CMG, MC, KStJ, PC (5 May 1883 – 24 May 1950) was a senior officer of the British Army.

Quotes[edit]

  • Let us be clear about three facts. First, all battles and all wars are won in the end by the infantryman. Secondly, the infantryman always bears the brunt. His casualties are heavier, he suffers greater extremes of discomfort and fatigue than the other arms. Thirdly, the art of the infantryman is less stereotyped and far harder to acquire in modern war than that of any other arm…. The infantryman has to use initiative and intelligence in almost every step he moves, every action he takes on the battle-field. We ought therefore to put our men of best intelligence and endurance into the Infantry.
    • In Praise of Infantry, The London Times, Thursday, 19 April 1945.
  • I can only say that I have always believed in doing everything possible in war to mystify and mislead one’s opponent….
    • Introduction by Wavell to…
    • Clarke D. (1948). Seven Assignments. Jonathan Cape. p. 7.

"Generals and Generalship" (1939)[edit]

"Generals and Generalship" The Lees Knowles Lectures, Trinity College, Cambridge, February 1939.

  • No amount of study or learning will make a man a leader unless he has the natural qualities of one.
    • I – The Good General.
  • A bold general may be lucky, but no general can be lucky unless he is bold.  The general who allows himself to be bound and hampered by regulations is unlikely to win a battle.
    • I – The Good General.
  • A general may succeed for some time in persuading his superiors that he is a good commander: he will never persuade his army that he is a good commander unless he has the real qualities of one.
    • II – The General and His Troops. 
  • The higher commander who goes to Field Service Regulations for tactical guidance inspires about as much confidence as the doctor who turns to a medical dictionary for his diagnosis.
    • III – The Soldier and the Statesman. 
  • The British have been a free people and are still a comparatively free people; and though we are not, thank Heaven, a military nation, this tradition of freedom gives to our junior leaders in war a priceless gift of initiative.  So long as this initiative is not cramped by too many regulations, by too much formalism, we shall, I trust, continue to win our battles – sometimes in spite of our higher commanders.
    • III – The Soldier and the Statesman. 

Quotes about Wavell[edit]

  • All his life Wavell had been not only a student of the art of modern war, but a student of the art of war throughout the ages.  He had used various ruses both on the strategic and tactical planes to deceive the Italians in the Abyssinian War, and he was convinced that the study and application of this art were essential elements in the duties of a commander’s planning staff.  But he went further, he knew and foresaw, that the Second World War would be a world war in all its implications, controlled centrally by the two great antagonists, the Axis and the Allies.  Every operation in every part of the world, however distant, and however disparate the conditions, would have its effect on every other operation. Therefore he argued that if it were possible to deceive the enemy in one theatre, that deception, especially on the strategic plane, could not be effective and might even be dangerous if its effects on operations in other theatres were not controlled.
    • Wingate, Sir Ronald. Not in the Limelight. London. Hutchinson 1959. p. 189.
  • Behind an inarticulate and ruggedly orthodox exterior Wavell concealed one of the most fertile minds ever possessed by a British senior officer.
    • Howard. M. (1990). British Intelligence in the Second World War. Vol V (Strategic Deception). HMSO. p. 32.  ISBN 0-521-40145-3

External links[edit]