Herbert Lumsden

Herbert Lumsden

Herbert Lumsden was born in 1894. He joined the British Army and in 1939 was sent with General John Gort and the British Expeditionary Force to France. Colonel Lumsden's Armoured Car Regiment played a significant role in the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940.

In January 1942 Lumsden joined the Desert War when he was appointed commander of the 1st British Armed Division. Soon after arriving he was badly wounded in an air attack and was replaced by Frank Messervy.

Lumsden returned to duty in May, 1942, and serving under Neil Richie, suffered defeat at Gazala in June. This military disaster resulted in the appointment of General Bernard Montgomery as commander of the Eighth Army. Montgomery immediately removed most of the senior officers who had been fighting in Egypt under General Claude Auchinleck. As Lumsden had only just arrived he was promoted to commander of the new 10th Corps.

Lumsden suffered heavy losses in the battle at Kidney Hill (27th October - 4th November) but still managed to break through the lines of the Deutsches Afrika Korps and reached El Agheila.

General Bernard Montgomery and Lumsden disagreed about the tactics being used in the Desert War and this led to several arguments. On 13th December 1942 Montgomery sacked Lumsden and replaced him with Brian Horrocks. Afterwards Lumsden commented that "There just isn't room in the desert for two - like Montgomery and me."

Lumsden was liked and respected by Winston Churchill and in 1944 he was sent to join the staff of General Douglas MacArthur. On 6th January 1945 Lumsden was observing the bombardment of Lingayen Gulf on board New Mexico when it was hit by a kamikaze pilot. Herbert Lumsden died from his injuries and was buried at sea.

Primary Sources

(1) Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (1947)

Last spring the Germans had constructed huge tents in an open space in the Lager. For the whole of the good season each of them had catered for over 1,000 men: now the tents had been taken down, and an excess 2,000 guests crowded our huts. We old prisoners knew that the Germans did not like these irregularities and that something would soon happen to reduce our number.