Oliver Leese

Oliver Leese

Oliver Leese was born in London on 26th October, 1884. Educated at Eton College he was commissioned into the British Army in 1914. During the First World War he served on the Western Front in France and was wounded three times.

Leese remained in the British Army and became commander of the Coldstream Guards. He was also chief instructor at the Quetta Staff College in India (1938-40).

In 1940 joined General John Gort and the British Expeditionary Force in France. After Dunkirk he commanded the 29th Brigade that defended Dover during Operation Sealoin.

Leese served under General Bernard Montgomery in North Africa and took part in the successful El Alamein campaign against General Erwin Rommel and the Deutsches Afrika Korps. General Harold Alexander now wanted to give him command of the 1st Army but Montgomery, who considered Leese the best soldier in North Africa, refused to release him.

Leese also served with General Bernard Montgomery and General George Patton in Sicily. In December 1943 Leese replaced Montgomery as commander of the 8th Army. After successfully forcing Albrecht Kesselring to retreat from Italy, he became Commander in Chief of the Allied Land Forces in Southeast Asia.

After the war Leese was Commander in Chief of the Eastern Command (1945-46) before retiring from the British Army. Oliver Leese died on 22nd January, 1978.

Primary Sources

(1) Bernard Montgomery, The Memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery (1958)

I decided it was necessary to replace Ramsden in 30 Corps and I asked for Major-General Sir Oliver Leese who was commanding the Guards Armoured Division in England. He was flown out at once and I never regretted that choice; he was quite first class at Alamein and all through the campaign to Tunis and later in Sicily.