Fonds 95/63 - Sir Oliver William Hargreaves Leese fonds

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Sir Oliver William Hargreaves Leese fonds

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CA ON00093 95/63

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  • Photocopied [?](originally created 1944) (Creation)

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Physical description

.75 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

Oliver William Hargreaves Leese (1894-1978) was General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the British 8th Army during the Second World War. Born in London, England and educated at Ludgrove and Eton, Leese's military career began when he was commissioned into the Coldstream Guards in August 1914. He received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for gallantry in 1916 at the age of 22. He took command of 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards in 1936, then moved on to India as chief instructor at the Staff College, Quetta. In 1940, as Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the British Expeditionary Force, he played a key role in the evacuation of France. Promoted to Major-General in 1941, Leese formed and trained the Guards Armoured Division. The following year he commanded the Eighth Army in the Middle East as temporary Lieutenant-General, whereupon he led the breakthrough at Alamein and the advance to Tripoli. In December 1943. Leese succeeded Montgomery as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (G.O.C.-in-C.), Eighth Army and, following his victory at Cassino, was knighted on the battlefield by King George VI. Due to a falling out with General W.J. Slim and Lord Louis Mountbatten he was dismissed as Commander-in-Chief, Allied Land Forces, South-East Asia. He went on to become G.O.C.-in-C., Eastern Command but retired from the army in 1946. Leese at Cefn Coch, near Llanrhaedr, Wales.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of correspondence and supporting enclosures, from Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver William Hargreaves Leese to Major-General J.N. Kennedy during the period of 7 May - 22 September 1944 when Leese was General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (G.O.C.-in-C.) of the Eighth Army and when Kennedy was Assistant Chief of the Imperial General Staff. The correspondence contains plans for, and results of, various battles during the Allied offensive in Italy and include Leese's assessments of some leading participants, most notably Lieutenant-General E.L.M. Burns, G.O.C.-in-C., I Canadian Corps.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Fonds photocopied and acquired from the Imperial War Museum in London, England.


Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

The original letters reside at the Imperial War Museum in London, England.

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Finding aids

A copy of the finding aid is located at the beginning of the fonds in the Document Collection. Copies are also filed in File 95/63 and found with the other finding aids in the Reading Room at the Directorate of History and Heritage.

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No further accruals expected.

General note

The original letters reside at the Imperial War Museum in London, England.

General note

Originally titled Letters from Italy: Lt.-Gen Sir Oliver Leese fonds

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