Loss of a Great Soldier

The army has lost a great soldier
Gen Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley
(Filed: 14/03/2006)

General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, who died on Saturday aged 81, provided inspiring leadership in Korea at the battle of the Imjin river.

In June 1950 North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea; by October Chinese "volunteers" had joined them. The UN Security Council resolved to go to South Korea's assistance and American ground forces were ordered in, followed by a force from Hong Kong and, two months later, the British 29th Infantry Brigade. Britain's main Commonwealth partners also pledged their forces and these formed the 1st Commonwealth Division.

Farrar-Hockley went to Korea in 1950 as adjutant of the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. In April the following year 29 Brigade was holding the line along the Imjin with the Glosters defending the main river crossing, an ancient invasion route to Seoul.

The battle began on April 22 and, during its final phase, the 1st Battalion was concentrated on Hill 235 with "A" Company holding a long spur towards the west. On April 24, at about midnight, the Chinese attacked "A" Company in great strength, pressing home the offensive for more than 10 hours.

During the night the only two platoon commanders became casualties, and by dawn the forward platoons had been driven back. The company was then concentrated on a knoll about 50 yards from battalion headquarters; had it been captured the battalion's situation would have become untenable.

It rapidly became clear that the one officer remaining with the company would require assistance to maintain the defence of this vital point. Farrar-Hockley volunteered for this dangerous task, and his impact on the desperate position of the company was immediate. Trenches in which the defenders had become casualties were re-manned and fire superiority was regained.

The enemy working around the left flank were caught by grenades and small arms fire and fell back with heavy losses. Establishing themselves about 40 yards away, they attacked again and again but each time they were beaten off.

Farrar-Hockley was in one of the forward trenches, encouraging his men and taking a leading part in the fierce, close-quarter fighting. His order to the drum-major, at the height of the battle, to counter the nerve-wracking blare of the Chinese assault trumpets with snatches of British Army bugle calls passed into regimental legend.

When orders were received to abandon the position, Farrar-Hockley covered the withdrawal with fire and a smokescreen and he was one of the last to fall back; but, when the battalion's position was eventually overrun by the Chinese, he was taken prisoner.
I was once the recipient of a DO letter from Farrar Para which said some very nice things. Coming from a man with his background, it was greatly valued and is on the wall of my study as I write.

RIP Sir and condolences to his family - far and wide.
A sad loss....RIP Sir.
Is anyone able to post his full Times obituary? I'm sure it would be a fitting testament, an outstanding soldier.
General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley
April 8, 1924 - March 11, 2006

Forthright and original soldier who distinguished himself both in action and as an author

SEEING the initials TFH — by which Tony Farrar-Hockley was known throughout the Army — conjured up a mixture of awe and apprehension. A fighting soldier of exceptional experience, he was also an author and historian of distinction. His restless energy, grasp of the facts and essential — but often unwelcome — truths and lucid exposition could leave contemporaries breathless.
In his earlier days, he might have achieved better results for the causes he embraced by a more measured style of delivery. His name became widely known when he was a captain and, as he rose in rank and fame, his listeners looked forward to the shock and drama of what he had to say, rather than concentrating on the substance. And substance was invariably there, as he applied a rigorous intellectual scrutiny to every matter he addressed.

Although long associated with the Parachute Regiment, it was with the 1st Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment, the regiment he joined under-age early in the war, that he first became well known. He was adjutant at the time of the battalion’s epic stand on Hill 235 during the battle of the Imjin River in Korea in April 1951. The 29 Infantry Brigade was attacked by 10,000 Chinese troops and 1st Gloucesters were surrounded on the position they had tenaciously held. Farrar-Hockley was taken prisoner, together with the wounded and other survivors of the battle. He made six escape attempts during the next two years, on one occasion reaching the Korean coast before recapture. He was brutally interrogated in Pyongyang jail but refused to be brainwashed, arguing with his tormentors in his own irrepressible way and refusing to submit. He was mentioned in dispatches in 1951 and received his first DSO in 1953 for his part in the Korean War.

His account of the 1st Gloucesters battle and his captivity appeared in The Edge of the Sword, published in 1954. After retirement in 1983, he researched and wrote the detailed and very readable two-volume official history The British Part in the Korean War, the first volume titled A Distant Obligation to reflect Clement Attlee’s determination as Prime Minister to honour a commitment Britain had given to the United States in 1945.

He attended the Staff College, Camberley, in 1955 and was appointed deputy assistant adjutant and quartermaster-general of 16 Parachute Brigade Group and then brigade major. His service with airborne forces had begun in 1942, when he was commissioned into the Parachute Regiment. He saw action in the Italian campaign, in southern France and with 6th Parachute Battalion in Greece at the time of the communist attempt to take over Athens in December 1944 — where he won his Military Cross.

While with 16 Parachute Brigade, he was involved in the campaign against the Eoka terrorist movement in Cyprus, the Suez landings in 1956 — after which he was appointed MBE — and in the British intervention in Jordan in 1958.

He was a college chief instructor at Sandhurst for a couple of years where, in spite of being an inspirational example to the cadets, he felt he was marking time in his career. Then, in 1962, he took over command of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment serving in the Gulf.

The outbreak of the rebellion of the Radfan tribes in the Western Aden Protectorate took 3 Para there in 1964 and Farrar-Hockley led them brilliantly in the capture of the dissidents’ stronghold in the remote Wadi Dhubsan. There were insufficient helicopters available to provide more than supply support, but his men surprised the enemy by roping themselves down into the canyon-like gorge so as to avoid the obvious approaches, which were well defended. His own helicopter was brought down by ground fire during the assault. Uninjured, he lost no time in getting back to the scene. He was awarded a bar to his DSO for this action.

Giving up command of his battalion in 1965, he went straight to the Far East to become chief of staff to the director of operations in Borneo. There, he took over organisation of the politically sensitive, then unattributable, cross-border operations, the success of which played a significant part in bringing about the collapse of Indonesian President Sukarno’s ill-judged military confrontation with the recently formed Federation of Malaysia.

His command of 16 Parachute Brigade from 1966 to 1968 brought him no active service. He was awarded a defence fellowship by Exeter College, Oxford, 1968-70 and received a B.Litt before being appointed director of public relations (Army) in 1970. His style was perfect for the rough and tumble of exchanges with the press, even as the new Troubles in Northern Ireland increased in intensity. More knowledgeable than the best of his questioners and with a confident but always good-humoured manner, he was a respected and popular MoD spokesman.

He was only just 46 when promoted major-general and appointed Commander Land Forces Northern Ireland in August 1970. He was the first senior officer to acknowledge publicly that the IRA was behind the republican violence. This was a period when he was at his most uncompromising, pointing out the risks of trying to pretend, as did many politicians of the day, that there was not a terrorist insurrection within the UK and demanding appropriate countermeasures against the IRA. His briefings of ministers provided exactly what they did not wish to hear about Ireland.

While there was no suggestion that he was moved prematurely — a year in the job being set by his example as the subsequent norm — his selection to command 4th Division in Germany brought with it some mistaken hopes that Northern Ireland might be a calmer place without him. He left in July 1971, well before “Bloody Sunday” in Londonderry in January 1972 but his close association with the Parachute Regiment subsequently made him a prime IRA target.

This period of his life also provided results of his research and writing and the establishment of his reputation as an authority on the First World War. He published The Somme in 1964 and Death of an Army in 1968 and then Airborne Carpet and War in the Desert, both in 1969 — the latter two being the work of his defence fellowship at Oxford — to be followed in 1973 by General Student, a life of the German airborne forces commander in the Second World War.

His biography of General Sir Hubert Gough, who had foreseen Ludendorff’s offensive against the British Fifth Army sector of the Western Front in March 1918 — but who nevertheless was made the scapegoat for the near-defeat — marked out Farrar-Hockley as a military biographer of distinction. He was a close disciple of Sir Basil Liddell Hart, some of whose characteristics he shared, and it is fair to say that that great military “guru” would have approved his work.

On completion of an innovative two-year command of the 4th Division, his intellectual originality and operational experience were given full scope by his appointment as director of combat development in the Ministry of Defence. He was promoted to lieutenant-general in 1977 and became GOC South East District with its headquarters at Aldershot, the base of the Parachute Brigade. His final military appointment was Nato’s C-in-C Allied Forces Northern Europe, in Oslo. His grasp of the strategic planning importance of this post, enhanced by knowledge of operations in the region during the Second World War, brought him great respect and authority.
Anthony Heritage Farrar-Hockley was born in 1924, and was educated at Exeter School. He was ADC General to The Queen 1981-83, Colonel-Commandant of the Prince of Wales’s Division 1974-80 and of the Parachute Regiment 1977-83 and Colonel of the Gloucestershire Regiment 1978-84. An attempt on his life by the IRA in 1990 was foiled by his chauffeur, who spotted the bomb attached to the garden hose, and called the police.
He married Margaret Bernadette Wells in 1945. She predeceased him, as did one of their sons. He married Linda Wood in 1983. She survives him, together with two sons of his first marriage, one of whom became a major-general.

General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, GBE, KCB, DSO and Bar, MC, soldier, was born on April 8, 1924. He died on March 11, 2006, aged 81.

One is humbled by his career and the respect that he earned with his men.

A great officer and a real soldier's soldier. The Army could do with some more like him.

R.I.P., Boss.
A sad loss to the country indeed. Great man who has gone to the last DZ. RIP.
Bugger, missed the news at the weekend and didn't even realise he'd died.

A really great man and a soldier's soldier.

Nutstrangler said:
A great officer and a real soldier's soldier. The Army could do with some more like him.

R.I.P., Boss.
Amen to that

A sad loss for the brotherhood. A GREAT man and a GREAT soldier.

Rest Easy.
Sir You have the right to draw yourself up to your full height and march into Heaven and God should salute you

my condolences to the family RIP
We shared many a laugh together when he he was our OC for a while, you will be sadly missed and there will many a glassed raised to your memory.

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