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About Gerald Walter Robert Templer
Field Marshal Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer KG, GCB, GCMG, KBE, DSO (11 September 1898–25 October 1979) was a British military commander who fought in both World Wars. He is best known for his defeat of the guerrilla rebels in Malaya between 1952 and 1954. He later advised the British Government on the response to the Suez Crisis.
Born the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Francis Templer and Mabel Eileen Templer (née Johnston) and educated at Wellington College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Templer was commissioned into his father's regiment, the Royal Irish Fusiliers, on 16 August 1916 and fought in World War I. Promoted to lieutenant on 16 February 1918, he was a reserve for the Olympic team as a 120 yard hurdler in 1924 before transferring to the Loyal (North Lancashire) Regiment on promotion to captain on 11 August 1928. He became a staff officer with the 3rd Division on Salisbury Plain in 1931 and a staff officer at Headquarters Northern Command in York in 1933 before returning to his Regiment to be a company commander at Tidworth in April 1935. In 1936 he was deployed to Palestine during the Arab revolt there for which he was awarded the DSO on 6 November 1936. He was promoted to major on 1 August 1938 and posted to the War Office as a staff officer in military intelligence.
Second World War
At the outbreak of World War II he was an acting lieutenant-colonel in military intelligence, serving on the staff of the British Expeditionary Force. After evacuating from France he oversaw the raising of the 9th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and then commanded the 210th Infantry Brigade in Dorset from November 1940. He was assigned as a staff officer to V Corps in May 1941 and promoted to colonel on 6 October 1941.
In April 1942 he took over command of 47th Infantry Division based in Winchester as an acting major-general, five months later taking command of II Corps as the Army's youngest acting lieutenant-general. Then in April 1943 he took command of XI Corps based in East Anglia. He then requested a field command and was reduced to major-general and posted to command the 1st Infantry Division in North Africa in July 1943 before commanding the 56th Infantry Division in October 1943 during the Italian Campaign. His division got as far as Monte Camino before suffering heavy losses and being withdrawn. He was appointed CB on 24 August 1944 in recognition of his services in Italy.
He briefly commanded the 6th Armoured Division before being severely injured by a land mine in August 1944. Promoted to major-general on 17 April 1945, he spent the rest of the war on intelligence duties in 21st Army Group HQ as well as briefly heading the German Directorate of the Special Operations Executive. He was mentioned in despatches on 8 November 1945 in respected of his services in North West Europe.
He was awarded the Legion of Merit in the Degree of Commander by the President of the United States for his conduct during the War on 17 October 1946. He was also appointed a Commander of the Order of Leopold II of Belgium and Croix de Guerre and a Knight Grand Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau of the Netherlands with Swords.
He served as Deputy Chief of Staff for the British Element of the Allied Control Commission in Germany after World War II for which he was appointed CMG in the King's Birthday Honours 1946. He first came to public notice after firing the mayor of Cologne, the later German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, for "laziness and inefficiency".
Templer became Director of Military Intelligence at the War Office in March 1946 and Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff in February 1948 and, having been promoted to lieutenant-general on 5 April 1948 and appointed KBE in the New Year Honours 1949, moved on to be General Officer Commanding Eastern Command on 18 February 1950. He was promoted to full general on 4 June 1950, advanced to KCB in the King's Birthday Honours 1951 and appointed ADC to the King on 30 August 1951. He also became a Knight of the Venerable Order of Saint John.
High Commissioner of Malaya
On 22 January 1952 Winston Churchill appointed him British High Commissioner in Malaya to deal with the Malayan Emergency. Working closely with Robert Thompson, the Permanent Secretary of Defence for Malaya, Templer's tactics against the communists were held up as a model for counter-insurgency. In military terms Templer concentrated his efforts on intelligence. Templer famously remarked that, "The answer [to the uprising] lies not in pouring more troops into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the people." He demanded that newly built villages, where ethnic Chinese were resettled away from the jungles and beyond the reach (and influence) of the guerrillas, look inviting. To further gain the "hearts and minds" of the non-Malays, who were the main source of communist support, Templer fought to grant Malayan citizenship to over 2.6 million Malayan residents, 1.1 million of whom were Chinese. Templer sought "political and social equality of all" Malayans.
He instituted incentive schemes for rewarding surrendering rebels and those who encouraged them to surrender and used strict curfews and tight control of food supplies to force compliance from rebellious areas and flush out guerillas. Crops grown by the communists in response to these measures were sprayed with herbicide. These restrictions were lifted on so-called White Areas which had been found to be free of communist incursion.
When he left Malaya in 1954 the situation had dramatically improved, though the rebels remained a force to be reckoned with. In response to an article in Time Magazine that "the jungle had been stabilised", he declared "I'll shoot the bastard who says that this emergency is over". The Malayan government eventually declared the Emergency over in 1960. He was advanced to GCMG for his work as High Commissioner in the Coronation Honours List in June 1953.
The Malaysian Government arranged for the Main Hall at the Royal Military College, Kuala Lumpur in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur, which had been established in 1952, to be named the "Tun Templer Hall" after him. They also named Templer's Park, a nature reserve established in 1955 in Rawang, after him.
Later military career
Advanced to GCB in the Queen's Birthday Honours 1955, Templer was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff on 29 September 1955. In this capacity he advised the British Government on the response to the Suez Crisis. He was promoted to field marshal on 27 November 1956 and retired on 29 September 1958.
He was also appointed Colonel of the Royal Irish Fusiliers from 1946, Colonel of the Malay Federation Regiment from 1954, Colonel of the 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles from 25 May 1956, Colonel of the Royal Horse Guards from 1963 and Colonel of the Blues and Royals from 1969.
In retirement he focussed on his main passion which was establishing the National Army Museum in London. The Malaysian Government conferred on him the award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Defender of the Realm, which carries with it the title Tun, on 13 October 1960. He also appointed a Knight of the Garter on 16 September 1963, Constable of the Tower on 1 August 1965 and Lord Lieutenant of Greater London on 28 December 1966. He died of cancer of the lung at his home in Chelsea in London on 25 October 1979.
In 1982 the University of Birmingham Centre for First World War Studies established the Templer Medal to commemorate his life and achievements and to mark his Presidency of the Society for Army Historical Research between 1965 and 1979.
In 1926 he married Edith Margery Davie; they had a daughter and a son.