Lathbury, Gerald William "Legs"

    Date of birth:
    July 14th, 1906 (Murree, India)
    Date of death:
    May 16th, 1978 (Mortimer/Berkshire, United Kingdom)
    Service number:
    34834
    Nationality:
    British (1801-present, Kingdom)

    Biography

    Gerald Lathbury, who was born into a military family, was educated at Wellington College and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Lathbury was commissioned into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1926.
    He served in France in 1940 where he was awarded an MBE.
    Lathbury raised the 3rd Parachute Battalion in 1941 and the 3rd Parachute Brigade in 1943 and then taking command of the 1st Parachute Brigade in North Africa. During the landings in Sicily Lathbury was tasked with the capture of the Primasole Bridge where he was wounded in the back and both thighs, although he remained in command until reinforcement arrived.
    Lathbury was still in command of the 1st Parachute Brigade during the Battle of Arnhem, part of Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. On 18 September 1944 he was cut off from his command while in the company of Major-General Roy Urquhart when he was badly wounded in the left leg and his spine was chipped, leaving him temporarily paralysed. He was then placed in the care of a Dutch couple who later had him placed in a field hospital. He concealed his rank, pretending to be a Lance Corporal. He escaped by simply walking out of the main doors of the hospital in which he was held. The Dutch resistance put him in touch with other hiding British soldiers. Lathbury, along with Lieutenant Colonel David Dobie and Major Digby Tatham-Warter, organised an escape across the Rhine. Lathbury and Digby crossed the Rhine on 22 October with one hundred and thirty-seven men linking up with Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.
    After the War he went to Palestine for several years and then went on to the Imperial Defence College in 1948. He was appointed General Officer Commanding 16th Airborne Division in 1948 and then Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley in 1951. He went on to be Commander-in-Chief East Africa in 1955 and Director General of Military Training at the War Office in 1957. He became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Eastern Command in 1960 and Quartermaster-General to the Forces in 1961. He was also an ADC General to the Queen from 1962 to 1965 as well as Colonel Commandant of both the 1st Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd) and the Parachute Regiment from 1961 to 1965. Finally he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar in 1964; he retired in 1969.
    In 1965 he participated in the third of the series of Harold Hall Australian ornithological collecting expeditions.

    Promotions:
    04.02.1926: 2nd Lieutenant
    04.02.1929: Lieutenant
    21.03.1938: Captain
    29.02.1940: Acting Major
    29.05.1940: Temporary Major
    06.04.1941: Major (War sub)
    04.02.1943: Major
    06.01.1941 Acting Lieutenant Colonel
    06.04.1941: Temporary Lieutenant Colonel
    08.06.1943: Lieutenant Colonel (war sub)
    08.12.1942: Acting Colonel
    08.06.1943: Temporary Colonel
    13.01.1949: Colonlel
    08.12.1942: Acting Brigadier
    08.06.1943: Temporary Brigadier
    28.07.1949: Brigadier
    15.12.1948: Tempray Major-General
    14.12.1949: Major-General
    02.05.1955: Temporary Lieutenant-General
    07.07.1955: Lieutenant-General
    29.04.1960  (retired 25.02.1965, re-instated 24.08.1965; retired 20.06.1969)

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    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Temporary Major
    Unit:
    Generale Staf, British Army
    Awarded on:
    September 3rd, 1940
    Action:
    Citation
    "As G.S.O. II organized and controlled the work of the General Staff so that it functioned with high efficiency at all times. He was resolute and clear in his reconnaissances; cheerful and accurate in his liaison work with forward Brigades and unsparing of himself at all times."
    Details:
    WO 373/75/663
    Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Acting Brigadier
    Unit:
    1st Parachutist Brigade, British Army
    Awarded on:
    December 23rd, 1943
    Awarded for:
    Operation Husky
    Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
    Action:
    Citation:
    "This officer organised and led the attack by the 1st Parachute Brigade on a vital river crossing South of Catania in Sicily on the night 13th/14th July 1943. Although dropped by parachute 1.5 miles away, from a height of only 100 feet Brigadier Lathbury reached the objective, took part in its capture and directed the consolidation, during which he was wounded. Later, during a heavy counterattack by German parachutists, he remained at the bridge where he fought alongside his troops and provided an example and inspiration which contributed in no small degree to the success of the operation."
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Temporary Brigadier
    Unit:
    1st Parachute Brigade, British Army
    Awarded on:
    November 14th, 1947
    Awarded for:
    Operation Market Garden
    Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
    Action:
    Citation:
    "On 17th September at Arnhem, Brigadier Lathbury commanded the 1st Parachute Brigade whose task was to seize the main road bridge in the town.
    He conducted the advance of his Brigade from the Drop Zone, some 8 miles away, with great vigour until he was cut off from his Headquarters. He then took part in street fighting with one of his Battalions until he was wounded on 18th September and taken to hospital.
    During the night 24/25th September, seeing that those who were wounded and fit to move, were being evacuated from the hospital to Germany, Brigadier Lathbury although not fully recovered left the hospital and tried to rejoin the Division. He was unable to do this as the latter had been withdrawn to the south bank of the river that night. With the aid of the Dutch Resistance Movement he evaded capture and remained in hiding until he escaped across the river with the party which reached our lines on the 23rd October.
    The leadership which this officer displayed during the advance and his determination to escape capture is worthy of the highest praise."
    Rank:
    Colonel
    Awarded on:
    1949
    Mentioned in Despatches
    Rank:
    Colonel
    Awarded on:
    1950
    Companion of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB)
    Rank:
    Lieutenant-general
    Awarded on:
    1959
    Knights/Dames Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (K/DBE)
    Period:
    Second World War (1939-1945)
    Rank:
    Lieutenant-general
    Awarded on:
    1962
    Grand Cross of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (GCB)

    Sources

    • Photo 1:
    • Photo: The Pegasus Archive
    • - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 34936 published on the 30 August 1940
      - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 36297 published on the 21 December 1943
      - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 38122 published on the 11 November 1947
      - Copy of the original recommendation for the MBE - STIWOT-archive
      - Unit Histories
      - The Pegasus Archive
      - Paradata
      - Findagrave