Major-General Merton Beckwith-Smith DSO MC MA

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Merton Beckwith-Smith

Birthplace: 24 Walton Street, Chelsea, London, Middlesex, England UK
Death: Died in Hualien, Taiwan (Formosa)
Cause of death: diphtheria
Immediate Family:

Son of Beckwith Beckwith-Smith and Georgina Butler Moore
Husband of Honor Dorothy Leigh, OBE
Father of Peter Merton Beckwith-Smith; Rosemary Honor Beckwith-Smith; Sarah Katherine Beckwith-Smith and John Moore Beckwith-Smith
Brother of Muriel Georgina Beckwith-Smith

Managed by: Ric Dickinson
Last Updated:

About Major-General Merton Beckwith-Smith DSO MC MA

Major-General Merton Beckwith-Smith DSO MC MA (11 July 1890 – 11 November 1942) was a British Army officer during the First and Second World Wars.


Early career

Beckwith-Smith was born on 11 July 1890, and educated at Eton and Oxford. In 1910 he was commissioned into the Coldstream Guards. He served with the Guards throughout the First World War, eventually becoming a staff officer in the Guards Division.

On 14 March 1918 he married Honor Dorothy Leigh. They had two sons and two daughters. His son Major Peter Merton Beckwith-Smith served in France, North-west Europe and Palestine during World War II. One of his daughters became a lady in waiting to Diana, Princess of Wales.

In 1930 Beckwith-Smith transferred to the Welsh Guards; he commanded the 1st Battalion from 1932 to 1937. After this he held various district commands in India before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Second World War

In 1940 he was given command of the 1st Guards Brigade, part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France in 1939/1940. After the retreat from Dunkirk Beckwith-Smith was given command of the territorial 18th (East Anglian) Infantry Division which he trained in preparation for duty overseas.

In a training exercise against the 2nd Infantry Division the 18th Division won, the reward being the first posting overseas for the division.

In early 1942, after many weeks at sea, Beckwith-Smith's division was landed at Singapore. Japanese forces invaded Singapore Island on 8 February. Because of the defensive strategy implemented by the Allied commander, General Arthur Percival, most of the 18th Division saw little or no action. Percival surrendered the 80,000 British Commonwealth troops at Singapore on 15 February, including Beckwith-Smith and his division. In August 1942 he was moved to Formosa (now Taiwan) along with General Perrcival and all the senior officers from Singapore. On 11 November 1942 Major-General Merton Beckwith-Smith died at Karenko Camp of Diphtheria as a prisoner of war. In the spring of 1946 the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the CWGC) exhumed all the Taiwan POW remains and re-buried them in the Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery in Hong Kong. Many years later his grave was identified by Jack Edwards on the request of Diana, Princess of Wales. He is buried in Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong

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Major-General Merton Beckwith-Smith DSO MC MA's Timeline

July 11, 1890
London, Middlesex, England UK
June 25, 1919
Age 28
November 4, 1920
Age 30
January 20, 1925
Age 34
June 30, 1929
Age 38
November 11, 1942
Age 52
Hualien, Taiwan (Formosa)