Lieutrnant General Bucknall, pictured here on the left with Brigadier Harold Pyman, sometime in 1944.
|Born||14 September 1894|
Rock Ferry, Cheshire, England
|Died||7 December 1980 (aged 86)|
Cheam, London Borough of Sutton, London, England
|Years of service||1914-1948|
|Commands held||2nd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment|
138th Infantry Brigade
53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division
5th Infantry Division
Northern Ireland District
|Battles/wars||World War I|
World War II
|Awards||Companion of the Order of the Bath|
Mentioned in dispatches
Lieutenant-General Gerard Corfield Bucknall (14 September 1894 - 7 December 1980) was a senior British Army officer who served in both World War I and World War II, where he commanded the 5th Infantry Division and later XXX Corps during the Battle of Normandy in mid-1944.
Gerard Bucknall was born on 14 September 1894 in Rock Ferry, Cheshire, England, the son of Harry Corfield Bucknall and Alice Frederica Oakshotta. He was educated at Repton School and West Downs School. Entering the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1913, Bucknall was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Middlesex Regiment on 25 February 1914. During World War I Bucknall, promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant on 5 October 1914 (made permanent on 11 December 1914), served with the 1st Battalion, Middlesex in France and Belgium with some distinction, in particular during the Battle of the Somme on 25 August 1916 where he took command of the battalion and was awarded the Military Cross (MC). From 16 June 1917 he served as a brigade major with the 114th Brigade, part of the 38th (Welsh) Division, until war's end, and in 1918 he was awarded a Bar to his MC and mentioned in dispatches.
During the interwar period he served initially with his old battalion in Germany, the Egyptian Army (Egypt was then de facto part of the British Empire). He then returned to the 1st Middlesex and remained with the battalion until he attended the Staff College, Camberley from 1928 to 1929. His fellow students there included John Harding, Gerald Templer, Richard McCreery, Gordon MacMillan and Alexander Galloway. After returning to his regiment he was made a GSO3 at the War Office from 21 January 1931, until 30 August 1932, when he returned to the RMC Sandhurst, to command a company of gentlemen cadets.
He was promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel on 1 January 1936, and attended the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. From 13 March 1937until 12 April 1939 he served as an instructor at the Royal Military College of Canada, taking over from Gordon MacMillan, where he came into contact with some of the Canadian generals of the next war, such as Harry Crerar, the college Commandant, and E. L. M. Burns and Guy Simonds, both fellow instructors. He returned to the United Kingdom in 1939 and became CO of the 2nd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. He was only with the battalion for a few short months, however, before receiving promotion to colonel on 1 August (with seniority backdating to 1 January 1939) and being made an Assistant Quartermaster-General at the War Office.
He was still in this post by the outbreak of the Second World War, in September 1939, by the time the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) left for France. He then commanded the 138th Infantry Brigade and, promoted to acting major general on 29 July 1941, was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division. His rank of major general was made temporary on 29 July 1942. He was promoted to the acting rank of lieutenant general on 12 September 1942 and succeeded Lieutenant General John Crocker as GOC XI Corps in East Anglia. He held this command until April 1943 when he succeeded Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan as GOC of I Corps, which was earmarked as an assault formation for the invasion of Normandy. With the 3rd Canadian Division and the British 3rd and 49th (West Riding) Infantry Divisions, along with, under command, I Corps . He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) on 2 June 1943.
Frustrated at training troops and wishing to command troops in battle in an overseas theatre of war, he requested demotion in rank, to temporary major general, so he could command a division. Sent to the Mediterranean, his chance came on 3 August 1943 when he was ordered to be GOC of the 5th Infantry Division during the final stages of the Allied invasion of Sicily. He later led the division during the Allied invasion of Italy and in the early stages of the Italian Campaign. His rank of major general was made permanent on 21 December 1943.
Bucknall impressed General Sir Bernard Montgomery, the 21st Army Group commander, and when he was chosen to command Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy, he appointed Bucknall to command XXX Corps - Bucknall took command on 27 January 1944, and was made an acting lieutenant general. On 11 March his rank of lieutenant general was made temporary. However, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), General Sir Alan Brooke believed Bucknall to be unsuitable for command at that level. By August 1944 Bucknall was removed from his command, due to the relatively poor performance of XXX Corps (see Operation Perch), to be replaced by Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks. Montgomery conceded that it had been a mistake to appoint him and, in November 1944, Bucknall, reverting to his permanent rank of major general, was given command of Northern Ireland, a post which he held until his retirement from the army on 4 March 1948, and was granted the honorary rank of lieutenant general.
| GOC 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division
| GOC XI Corps
| GOC I Corps
| GOC 5th Infantry Division
Sir Oliver Leese
| GOC XXX Corps
Sir Alan Cunningham
| GOC Northern Ireland District
Sir Ouvry Roberts
| Colonel of the Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own)
Sir John Willoughby
Sir John Crocker
| Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex