December 10, 1891 - Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander (right) is born in London. A decorated combat veteran in World War I, Alexander moved through a variety of overseas and domestic posts during the interwar years. Promoted to major general in 1937, he was the youngest in the British Army to hold the rank. With the outbreak of World War II, Alexander led the 1st Infantry Division to France and later played a key role in the Dunkirk Evacuation. Sent to India in early 1942, he conducted a fighting withdrawal through Burma before being appointed Commander-in-Chief, Middle East Command in August. In this role, he oversaw Lt. Gen. Bernard Montgomery's victory at El Alamein and guided British forces across Libya. Uniting with British and American troops in Tunisia, he led the campaign that resulted in the surrender Axis troops in North Africa. Operating under Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, he oversaw the fighting in Sicily and subsequent invasion of Italy. Leading Allied troops up the peninsula, Alexander broke through the Winter Line in May 1944 after prolonged fighting. Capturing Rome, his forces continued to advance north through the fall. In December, Alexander became Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces Headquarters with responsibility for all operations in the Mediterranean. In this role, he accepted the Axis surrender in Italy on April 29, 1945. In the years after the war, Alexander served as Governor-General of Canada and Minister of Defense.
British Commanders of World War II:
- Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham
- Marshal Arthur "Bomber" Harris
- Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding
- Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay
Photograph Source: Public Domain