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date: 22 September 2023

Brooke, Alan Francis, first Viscount Alanbrookefree


Brooke, Alan Francis, first Viscount Alanbrookefree

  • D. W. Fraser
  • , revised

Alan Francis Brooke, first Viscount Alanbrooke (1883–1963)

by Yousuf Karsh, 1943

© Karsh / Camera Press, London; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

Brooke, Alan Francis, first Viscount Alanbrooke (1883–1963), army officer, was born at Bagnères de Bigorre, France, on 23 July 1883, the ninth and youngest child and sixth son of Sir Victor Alexander Brooke, third baronet (1843–1891), of Colebrooke in co. Fermanagh, and his wife, Alice Sophia Bellingham (d. 1920), second daughter of Sir Alan Edward Bellingham, third baronet, of Castle Bellingham in co. Louth. On both sides of the family his roots lay deep in the Irish protestant ascendancy. The first Brooke of Colebrooke, Sir Henry Brooke of Donegal, was the son of an Elizabethan captain of Cheshire origin, and had been rewarded for his part in suppressing the native rising of 1641 by the grant of Colebrooke and 30,000 acres of co. Fermanagh. From that time until Alan Brooke's the natural tastes and aptitudes of the men of the family were for the soldier's life. They fought campaign after campaign, often achieving high rank and distinction in the service of the crown. Twenty-six Brookes of Colebrooke served in the First World War; twenty-seven in the Second World War.

Early military career

Alan Brooke was born and brought up at or near Pau in the south of France where his family owned a villa and periodically took a small house in the neighbouring hills in the heat of summer. His mother preferred life at Pau, where there was a flourishing and fashionable English society, excellent hunting and shooting, and an agreeable climate, compared to the rigours of Colebrooke; some consequences of this were that Alan Brooke spoke French—and German—before he spoke English, never underwent a conventional English schooling, and, though he was an excellent horseman, shot, and fisherman, he first entered communal British life on joining the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich at the age of eighteen largely ignorant of the team games and the usual mores of the English schoolboy. From so comparatively solitary an upbringing—he had been to a small local school in Pau, was by some years the youngest of the family, and his father had died when he was eight—he was, by his own account, shy and unsure of himself. He was also delicate and introspective. Nevertheless he passed out of Woolwich well—not high enough to become a royal engineer, but sufficiently well to join a battery of Royal Field Artillery in Ireland and to be earmarked early as a likely candidate for the coveted jacket of the Royal Horse Artillery.

Brooke's first four years of army life were spent in Ireland; then, from 1906, in India where he entered with enthusiasm into every aspect of his profession, caring for his men and his horses and his guns with a meticulous thoroughness and an eye for detail which were his abiding hallmark. He was a noted big-game hunter in India, just as he was a noted race rider there and in Ireland. If early he had thought of himself as uncertain and hesitant, diffidence dissolved in the warmth of regimental life. He became the best of companions, quick-witted and amusing, an excellent draughtsman and caricaturist, and a skilled mimic. He early showed, however, a deep vein of seriousness about both life and his profession which found expression in long letters to the mother he adored. He was highly efficient and incisive, and received outstanding reports at every step. In 1909 he joined N battery, Royal Horse Artillery, in India, and in 1914 he found himself commanding the artillery brigade ammunition column in France.

The First World War saw Brooke's progress from lieutenant to lieutenant-colonel, at all times on the western front and in artillery appointments. In each he shone, and his name as an intelligent, thoughtful, and, in some respects, innovatory, gunner came to stand very high. He was brigade major, Royal Artillery, in the 18th division during the Somme battle, and was credited with the production of the first ‘creeping barrage’ to ensure that the ground between the enemy's trench lines was covered and the exposure of our advancing infantry to unsilenced machine-gun fire was minimized. Brooke attributed the idea to the French; whatever its provenance it was highly successful and both in the 18th division battles and in the great Canadian attacks of 1917—he was posted as chief artillery staff officer to the Canadian corps in 1917—ground was gained with fewer casualties than in other engagements in the same period. The artillery support in all formations in which Brooke served and where his ideas accordingly prevailed was widely praised and trusted absolutely.

Military thinking

It was natural that Brooke should be selected for the first post-war course at the Staff College at Camberley where he met the best of his contemporaries in the army—men like Viscount Gort, John Dill, Bernard Freyberg, J. F. C. Fuller, and others whose careers or ideas were to coincide with or cross his own. He was an outstanding student and after a few years on the staff of a Northumbrian division of the Territorial Army he was brought back to Camberley as an instructor in 1923. There he distilled his experience of artillery in the recent war and drew lessons which found expression in a series of lectures and published articles. He believed, unequivocally, that firepower dominated movement, which was itself impossible in modern war without the production of massive and effective supporting fire. He also believed that the effect of firepower tended to be underestimated in peacetime, because of the difficulties of simulation, and therefore tended to slip from men's calculations; whereas movements, because they could actually be performed, were practised with inadequate regard to the dominant effect of fire.

This was the period when the British prophets of armoured warfare were singing different songs. They claimed that mechanization would restore mobility to the battlefield, a perception elusive in the First World War, whose opportunities in major tank battles were therefore lost; and that the tank would facilitate deep penetration and great operational movements because it would nullify the tactical stalemate apparently imposed by machine-gun, cannon, and barbed wire. Nevertheless the tank was not yet reliable and its operational effectiveness was probably as much circumscribed by mechanical factors as by unimaginative handling. Brooke pondered the matter deeply. He was initially unconvinced, and he was certainly not one of the pioneers of armoured warfare such as P. C. S. Hobart, G. M. Lindsay, and G. le Q. Martel who looked to Fuller as in some ways their most original mind and to Liddell Hart as their most articulate spokesman. Nevertheless Brooke's ideas moved a great deal between 1926 when he left the Staff College as instructor and 1937 when, to the surprise of some and the displeasure of those who felt that the appointment should go to a tank expert rather than to a gunner, he became the first commander of the mobile division—prototype of the later armoured divisions—on Salisbury Plain.

Meanwhile Brooke went in 1927 as one of the first students to the new Imperial Defence College (IDC), to which he returned in 1932 for two years as an instructor. There he first studied in depth questions of imperial strategy, joint service co-operation, and the higher politico-military direction of war—and of preparations for or prevention of war—with which his life was to be so intimately concerned. He was, by now, a man who inspired no little awe. As at the Staff College, he made a profound impact through the speed and incisiveness of his mind, the clarity and brevity of his speech, and—not least—the gift of friendship, all the more profound because never lightly given. He was a generous and delightful companion to those who got to know him. He was invariably thoughtful and a good listener. He retained his wide interests, his capacity to amuse and for repartee, and his immense knowledge and love of all things connected with nature. Sport, at which he was invariably skilful, had to some extent yielded to ornithology among his loves. He was passionately interested in all sorts of birds, particularly waders; loved photographing them, at which he made himself an expert; and started to collect books and pictures connected therewith. As an ornithologist he has been placed by the highest experts as 'of the very first rank of non-professionals'. Brooke retained this enthusiasm to the end, and it provided solace in many dark hours of the war which was to come. Brooke was twice married: first, on 28 July 1914, to Jane Mary (d. 1925), the daughter of Colonel John Mercyn Ashdall Carleton Richardson, of Rossfad in co. Fermanagh. They had a daughter and a son. The first Mrs Brooke died tragically after a car accident in which her husband was driving. On 7 December 1929 he married Benita Blanche (d. 1968), daughter of Sir Harold Pelly, fourth baronet, of Gillingham in Dorset, and widow of Sir Thomas Evan Keith Lees, second baronet, of Lytchet Manor. They had a daughter and a son.

Before his time as instructor at the IDC, Brooke, now a brigadier, commanded the school of artillery at Larkhill between 1929 and 1932. He made his usual mark as a meticulous and absolutely determined superior, a man of clear and original ideas, and a dedicated gunner. He commanded an infantry brigade from 1934—a widening experience he greatly enjoyed and was the first to say found highly educative. After a short spell as inspector, Royal Artillery, in the rank of major-general in 1935, he had an equally brief tour as director of military training. It was from that post that he was selected to command the mobile division.

Two contentious issues lay at the heart of policy. First was the principle and the pace of mechanization and the whole future of horsed cavalry. Second was the proper operational employment—and thus the size and shape—of armoured formations. This second question contained another: whether such formations should be virtually 'all tank' or whether the needs of the tactical battle, whatever the scale of the operational movement, would require the combination—and therefore the mobility and the protection—of all arms. Brooke was by now a convinced supporter of rapid mechanization, and his tact and understanding did much to reconcile the sentiment of the dedicated cavalrymen to the stubborn facts of technology. On the operational and tactical issues he stood four-square behind those who believed that future battle would, as before, demand the co-operation of all arms and that therefore all arms must have appropriate equipments in the armoured formations of the future.

From 1938 until shortly before war broke out Brooke was moved to a completely different but no less vital sphere. He was taken from the mobile division, promoted lieutenant-general, and placed in command first of a newly reshaped anti-aircraft corps and then of the whole anti-aircraft command. British air defences were in a state of inadequacy which the European situation and the rate of growth of the Luftwaffe forced upon the government's tardy attention. The first necessity was a sufficiency of fighter aircraft, a requirement supervised by the chief of Fighter Command, Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, alongside whose headquarters Brooke established his own and with whom he developed a warm rapport. Next was the need for a great increase in the number of searchlights and anti-aircraft guns—and the volunteers to man them. A huge expansion was under way, and Brooke had to organize this, to ensure that manning kept pace with production and that organization and operational requirements matched the need of the hour. This was in harmony with RAF doctrine and pursued as fast as money and bureaucracy permitted. Brooke achieved much and laid foundations on which others successfully built for the test to come.

Onset of war

In August 1939 Brooke was made commander-in-chief, southern command, and nominated to command the 2nd corps of a British expeditionary force (BEF) on mobilization. It was not long delayed. In September he moved with his largely untrained and ill-equipped corps to France, taking over a part of the line on the Franco-Belgian frontier and, because of the unexpected pause before the Germans attacked in the west, profiting in such a way as to get his corps into as good a shape as conditions permitted. After much debate it had been agreed (plan D) that if the Germans attacked through Belgium and Holland—the repetition of Schlieffen's ‘giant wheel’ of 1914 which the allies anticipated albeit at a mechanized rate—the allied left wing, including the BEF under Gort, would advance into Belgium and prolong the French Maginot line defences northwards on the line of the Meuse and thence from Namur to Wavre and Antwerp, meeting and following the River Dyle.

From the first Brooke disliked the concept of moving from prepared positions and meeting the German army in open warfare, for which he believed neither the allied left wing's equipment nor its tactical expertise to be adequate. He had two further doubts. He knew the French well, and had not only seen much of them in the First World War but had grown up among them and loved them. He saw enough of them in 1939 now to have profound misgivings about their quality and morale. And though he deeply respected the courage and energetic character which Gort as a leader radiated throughout the army, Brooke did not believe he had the strategic vision required in a commander-in-chief. For his part Gort regarded Brooke as showing pessimism where duty demanded the reverse whether justified or not. The two men were too different to do justice to each other, and throughout the war after Dunkirk Gort felt that Brooke was unfair in his apparent determination to keep him from another field command. Others, including Alexander but not Montgomery (and both were protégés of Brooke), were disposed to feel with Gort on that issue. Brooke was sharp and ruthless in judgements: however, he had what he certainly believed was a sound nose for success.

When the German attack came in May 1940 Brooke's corps took part in the series of withdrawals forced on the BEF by the disintegration of the front in the French sector around Sedan and the rapid advance of the German spearheads. The surrender of the Belgian army soon left his left wing in the air—a gap which he closed by a series of hazardous manoeuvres of great ingenuity and boldness—while in the south the deep flank of the British army had already been bypassed by the virtually unopposed westward advance of the German armoured forces. Gort, on his own initiative and (at the time) contrary to the instructions of the British government, cancelled a joint counter-attack with the French which he rightly saw would be futile and withdrew his army and as many French troops as possible to Dunkirk whence the majority were safely embarked. On 29 May Brooke himself was recalled to England and after a few days' rest was sent to Cherbourg to make contact with General Weygand, who had assumed the supreme command from General Gamelin, and to build a new British army in France on the foundations of the numerous line-of-communication troops between Normandy and the Loire.

Brooke soon saw that any plan to hold an allied bridgehead in Brittany, as was the declared intention, was impracticable for lack of troops. He was also certain that the French lacked the will to continue fighting. He therefore urgently persuaded the British authorities to cancel plans for sending new formations to Europe. Meanwhile he organized the evacuation of the many remaining troops from the various northern and western ports still available. On his second return to England on 19 June he reverted to his previous post at southern command. After a brief interval there, organizing his sector of the English coast against invasion, he became commander-in-chief, home forces.

Invasion was expected daily, and throughout the last two months of 1940 and the early part of 1941, counter-invasion measures and the reorganization and re-equipment of the army were pursued with the greatest energy. Brooke believed that invasion should meet light beach defences, then be dealt with by the strongest and most concentrated counter-attack by mobile troops which could be mounted. Meanwhile, however, the battle for air supremacy, the winning of which Hitler had laid down as a prerequisite for invasion, was won by the Royal Air Force. Operation Sea Lion—the German invasion project—was postponed, and finally abandoned. In June 1941 the German army invaded Russia. British isolation was over.

Head of the army

Thereafter it was clear that the function of the British army would be to prepare for overseas operations, a task upon which Brooke had directed increasing emphasis through the early months of 1941. He was untiring in his visits and unsparing in his scrutiny of every part of the expanding army which would soon again, it became clear, be able to resume the offensive. In December the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The axis powers thereafter declared war on America. Japanese forces invaded British possessions or treaty states in Hong Kong and Malaya, and the war became global. In December 1941, also, Brooke became chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) in place of Dill, who had been no match for Winston Churchill. Soon thereafter Brooke became, in addition, chairman of the chiefs of staff committee and effectively the principal strategic adviser to the war cabinet as well as the professional head of the army.

The issue which dominated the early part of Brooke's tenure of office was to obtain agreement on an allied strategy—co-ordinated between very disparate allies—one of which (the Soviet Union) was unconcealedly hostile and about whose ultimate intentions he had few illusions. The Red Army had been very nearly extinguished by the brilliance and speed of the initial German operations, and great sacrifices by Britain were regarded as imperative to keep Russia combatant. These sacrifices took the form of huge quantities of British and American war matériel, and a series of hazardous convoys in northern waters, expensive in ships and casualties with no gratitude from the recipient. Stalin's sole concern was to procure the earliest possible offensive against Germany in the west to take the pressure off Russia—and later to ensure that no western allied theatre of operations would be opened in the Balkans, as this might interfere with long-term Soviet plans when the German tide ultimately ebbed.

With the United States—and in the early years of Brooke's chairmanship the United States had comparatively small forces engaged, and the Americans were not yet the senior partners—the first issue was to agree overall priorities: it was determined that the war against Germany would be treated as paramount. Next, the question of theatres of engagement. Against Germany and Italy the Americans, with some reluctance, were persuaded to co-operate in a Mediterranean campaign, including landings in north Africa, linking up with the British Eighth Army which would take the offensive and advance westwards along the north African coast, and a subsequent invasion of Italy. This strategy inevitably postponed the cross-channel invasion of France which the Americans regarded as the most expeditious route to Germany and to victory. They were persuaded that it could be successfully contemplated only after German strength had been drawn off by a Mediterranean campaign with consequent release of shipping resources, and after the further prosecution of an intensive strategic air offensive.

In the event this strategy was carried out. north Africa was cleared, Italy was invaded and made independent peace, the Anglo-American armies invaded France in June 1944, and Germany capitulated unconditionally eleven months later. Meanwhile the campaign against Japan was conducted by a successful defence of India, followed by a counter-offensive in Burma; and by a maritime and 'island-hopping' Pacific strategy progressively reconquering territory taken by Japanese armies, culminating in Japan's surrender in August 1945 after two atomic bombs had been dropped. All this was accompanied by a savage Russian war of attrition on Germany's eastern front which ultimately bled her white.

If the course of events appeared rational, if not inevitable, in retrospect, at the time they were highly debatable. 1942, Brooke's first year as CIGS, started with allied fortunes at a low ebb. The key to strategy lay in shipping resources and their provision and protection were necessary in support of every existing or projected Anglo-American front. Because of their shortage, offensive plans were inevitably delayed and preliminary steps had to be taken to lessen the strain on and threat to shipping without which even direct defence on land would be inadequate. Meanwhile Japan's entry into the war increasingly menaced the British empire. Hong Kong and Singapore fell, the latter the greatest single blow to the British arms and prestige for centuries. India was directly threatened by land and sea, communications with Asia equally threatened by Japanese maritime concentration in the Indian Ocean. In north Africa there were serious and profoundly disappointing reverses. Promising allied offensives petered out and were turned by the ever-resourceful German command into what too easily appeared triumphs of German boldness and professionalism over British infirmity of purpose and uncertain grasp of the principles of war. In June, Tobruk fell to Rommel's forces. In Russia the Germans advanced to the Volga and invaded the Caucasus. Throughout all this the amount of work Brooke got through astonished his staff, yet he always found time to think, and think ahead.

Turn of the tide

Ahead the tide would undoubtedly turn, since the material resources of the western allies and the geographic extent of Russia would, after the first shocks and reverses, overstretch the axis powers. In the summer of 1942 Brooke agreed with Churchill to certain changes in the high command in Egypt which brought Alexander and Montgomery to the direction of affairs in the desert and which immediately preceded the great victory of El Alamein in November. In north Africa in the same month there occurred the allied landings under General Eisenhower which were to culminate in the surrender of the German forces in Africa, the invasion of Sicily and Italy, and Italian capitulation in 1943. In February 1943 the German Sixth Army surrendered at Stalingrad, and the Germans began to extricate their army from the Caucasus so as to contract their front. The long withdrawal in the east had begun.

Brooke had himself been offered high command instead of Alexander. The temptation was sore but he believed, certainly with justice, that he could best serve his country and the allied cause as CIGS and that he must remain in Whitehall.

Meanwhile the battle of the Atlantic was still the overwhelming anxiety of the British government and chiefs of staff. At the conference held with the Americans at Casablanca in February 1943 defeat of the German submarine offensive was agreed as the first allied operational priority, followed by the invasion of Sicily, the clearance of the Mediterranean, and any step which might bring Turkey into the war. Yet another priority was to be the remorseless bombing of Germany, creating a new front in a third dimension.

The first six months of 1943 were probably the most critical in the battle of the Atlantic. By the second half of the year the menace had been largely mastered by a brilliant combination of maritime and aerial operations. By the end of the year the enemy was withdrawing everywhere. For Brooke the year was dominated by inter-allied conferences. Casablanca, Washington in May, Quebec in August, Moscow in October, and Cairo were followed by Tehran at the end of the year. At each of these, hard talking and hard bargaining took place, and at each Brooke's business was to ensure that, from the British point of view, plans were realistic in scope and in timing, that resources matched aspirations, and—not least, and with increasing difficulty—that British strategic and military interests were safeguarded. In all this, and by universal consent, no military man at Churchill's elbow could have been more intelligent, more robust, more zealous, or more loyal.

In 1944 the allied triumphs began which were to end in the total rout of those who had attacked them in 1939 and 1941. France was successfully invaded in June, and by September had been completely liberated. From that point the only serious setbacks were the remarkably (albeit temporarily) successful German offensive in the Ardennes in December 1944, and the allied airborne operation at Arnhem. In May 1945 the German armed forces surrendered unconditionally, and in August so did those of Japan.

In chairing the chiefs of staff committee and in his dealings therein with his naval and RAF colleagues, Brooke combined personal charm and sufficient tact with the vigorous conviction that on no account should there be compromise on essentials except from genuine conviction. If the chiefs could not agree—and he spent long and patient hours seeking honest agreement on the many contentious issues which arose from simultaneous demands on scarce resources—then he was invariably sure that the matter could be resolved only at the political level and by the prime minister himself who should hear all the arguments in the case. He never wavered in this belief and practice, just as he never wavered in his certainty that no ‘neutral’ military chairman should preside over the chiefs of staff committee, and that the votes should be those and only those of the men personally and individually responsible for the armed services whose chiefs they were (though he supported the concept of a joint commander-in-chief of an operational theatre). Brooke's colleagues during this time as chairman were first Dudley Pound (who died in October 1943), then Andrew Cunningham, first sea lords, and ‘Peter’ Portal, chief of the air staff; and the system worked the better for the fact that, sharp though professional disagreement often was, these men had deep personal affection for each other. They shared many tastes as well as qualities. Portal like Brooke was a dedicated ornithologist, and like both Brooke and Cunningham, a keen and skilful fisherman.

Relations with Churchill

Brooke's chief concerns throughout were to procure and maintain (but only at the appropriate price) sufficient allied harmony to achieve the great design; to ensure that the British army in its various war theatres—Far Eastern, north African, Italian, and north-west European—was properly organized, equipped, reinforced, and, above all, commanded; to achieve consensus in the chiefs of staff committee between the three British services about the right operational policy to follow, particularly over such matters as the appropriate application of air power; and, often above all, to contrive that Churchill's indispensable and magnificent energies were not misdirected towards unsound and erratic strategic schemes.

In his dealings with the war cabinet, and with Churchill in particular, Brooke succeeded splendidly, though not without many sharp exchanges and a good deal of passing acrimony. He always said exactly what he thought, and, in the face of even the most unremitting determination by Churchill to hear something palatable rather than true, he stuck to his guns. Brooke, as chairman of the committee, was its spokesman on joint matters and it fell to him to enforce in stubborn argument the compulsion of strategic facts upon Churchill's restless genius without losing its astonishing impetus and fertility. Churchill never overruled the chiefs of staff, when united, on a professional matter. He goaded them and girded at their constraints but he respected their robust integrity. Neither Churchill nor Brooke could have done so much without the other—yet each found the other abrasive as well as stimulating and indispensable. That they were able to work together—Brooke wrote of the prime minister as someone whom he 'would not have missed working with for anything on earth' (The Times, 18 June 1963); Churchill firmly rejected the idea that he ever contemplated replacing Brooke—was a tribute at once to Churchill's perspicacity and Brooke's strength of mind, character, and physique. It was a high-spirited, high-tempered, exhausting, and astonishingly successful partnership. An indispensable figure in all this was General H. L. (Pug) Ismay, chief staff officer to the minister of defence, capable as few have been of softening obduracy and interpreting strong men to each other.


Brooke was not an easy man—his brain moved too fast for him to suffer fools gladly and he was impatient, sometimes to a fault, with slower wits than his own. In his dealings with ministers, with colleagues, and with subordinates alike he could appear intolerant. Junior officers were always struck by the considerable awe in which their seniors held the CIGS—the man, not just the office. Clearly they recognized ‘Brookie’ as the best soldier of them all, straight as a die, uncompromising and unambiguous and entirely devoid of pomposity or self-seeking. In his demanding and abrupt efficiency he knew when to scold, when to encourage, when to protect. He was admired, feared, and liked: perhaps in that order. He became, in particular, the conscience of the army: a dark, incisive, round-shouldered Irish eagle. To those who worked for him he was a tower of strength, a man whose own inner power radiated confidence. All were grateful that he was where he was. Only to his diary, intended for the eyes of his wife alone, did he confide the irritations, anxieties, self-questionings, and uncertainties of a deeply sensitive mind and heart. To all others he was calm, energetic, and indomitable. Those who knew the man rather than just the soldier were to discover an almost unexpected gentleness within the undoubted authority. He had unfailing power to interest and amuse and he was intensely sympathetic to those with whom he had real affinity.

At first Brooke's speed of thought and speech—his abrupt, staccato, and very positive method of expression—led the Americans to regard him with some reserve, in succession to the exceptionally popular and courteous Dill. Soon, however, they appreciated Brooke's worth for what it was: that of a first-class and utterly professional mind. Even the redoubtable Admiral King came to recognize that he was biting on granite. The British and American combined chiefs of staff became a remarkable, indeed unique, example of allied co-operation. With the Russians it was inevitably different. As the war drew closer to its obvious end Russian intransigence grew as their fears receded and their ambitions loomed more naked. Churchill and Brooke saw with unwilling clarity what President Roosevelt and the American chiefs of staff chose to ignore or treat as a distraction: the shape of post-war Europe and the new tyranny by which allied victory would be succeeded.

In his second responsibility, the professional leadership of the British army, Brooke's influence and effectiveness lay largely in his selection of commanders; he delegated to Sir Archibald Nye, vice-chief, much of the running of the general staff in the War Office, concentrating only on major issues and senior personalities. He trusted, and brought to high positions, Alexander, Montgomery, and Slim, among others. They, in turn, respected him as one whose opinion was almost invariably justified in the event and whose word, once given, was law.

After the war Brooke handed over office as soon as could be arranged, ensuring only that Montgomery, his successor, did not appoint his own favourites. He had been promoted field marshal in 1944. Now additional honours were conferred upon him. He became master gunner of St James's Park in 1946, an exacting chancellor of Queen's University, Belfast, in 1949, lord lieutenant of the county of London and constable of the Tower in 1950. At the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 he was nominated lord high constable of England and commander of the parade. He was created Baron Alanbrooke of Brookeborough in September 1945 and Viscount Alanbrooke in January 1946. In 1946 too he received the freedom of Belfast and of London.

Alanbrooke had been appointed to the DSO and had received the bar and six mentions in dispatches in the First World War. Having been appointed KCB in 1940, he received the grand cross of both the Bath (1942) and the Royal Victorian Order (1953). In 1946 he was created KG and admitted to the Order of Merit. After giving up active service he became a director of the Midland Bank and numerous companies, engaged in a number of philanthropic activities, and pursued his beloved ornithology. From 1950 to 1954 he was president of the Zoological Society. He died on 17 June 1963 at his Hampshire home, Ferney Close, Hartley Wintney, shortly before his eightieth birthday, and was buried at Hartley Wintney.

Alanbrooke's son from his first marriage became second viscount and died without children. His daughter from his second marriage had died as a result of a riding accident in 1961, while his son from that marriage, Victor, became third Viscount Alanbrooke in 1972.


  • D. Fraser, Alanbrooke (1982)
  • King's Lond., Alanbrooke MSS
  • A. Bryant, The turn of the tide (1957)
  • A. Bryant, Triumph in the West, 1943–1946 (1959)
  • The Economist (23 Feb 1957)
  • personal knowledge (1981)
  • private information (1981)
  • The Times (18 June 1963)


  • CUL, corresp. with Sir Peter Markham Scott
  • JRL, corresp. with Sir Claude Auchinleck
  • NHM, letters to David Armitage Bannerman
  • TNA: PRO, corresp. with Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, CAB 127/47




  • R. G. Eves, oils, 1940, Staff College, Camberley
  • W. Stoneman, photograph, 1941, NPG
  • photographs, 1942–1945, Hult. Arch.
  • Y. Karsh, photograph, 1943, NPG [see illus.]
  • J. Gunn, oils, 1957, Royal Artillery Mess, Woolwich
  • P. Phillips, oils, 1957, Queen's University, Belfast
  • J. Pannett, chalk drawing, 1961–3, NPG
  • O. Birley, portrait, Royal Regiment
  • H. Coster, photographs, NPG
  • A. Devas, portrait, Royal Regiment
  • R. G. Eves, portrait, Hon. Artillery Company, London
  • J. Gunn, portrait, Royal Regiment
  • L. Lee, stained-glass memorial window, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst

Wealth at Death

£50,580: probate, 9 Sept 1963, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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