William Dobbie

William Dobbie

Infobox Military Person
name=Sir William Dobbie
lived=12 July, 1879 to 3 October, 1964
placeofbirth=Madras (now Chennai)

placeofdeath=Kensington, London, United Kingdom

caption=Lieutenant-General Sir William Dobbie, May 1942.
allegiance=British Army
commands=Commandant of the Royal School of Military Engineering
General Officer Commanding Malaya(Aug 1936 - Jul 1939)
Governor-General of Malta
unit=Royal Engineers
battles= Second Boer War
World War I
World War II

Lieutenant-General Sir William George Shedden Dobbie (12 July, 1879 - 3 October, 1964), GCMG, KCB, DSO was a British Army veteran of the Second Boer War, and First and Second World Wars.

Early life

William was born in Madras to a civil servant father, W. H. Dobbie of the Indian Civil Service - and to a family with a long military lineage. When he was only nine months old, his parents left him in the care of relatives in England, so that he might receive an education in keeping with his family's station."Current Biography: Who's News and Why (1945 ed.)" New York : H.W. Wilson Company. ISBN 0824204824] At thirteen, young William won a scholarship to Charterhouse School and became a top-ranking classical scholar and a keen student of ancient military campaigns. Upon graduation, he proved to be qualified for a military career at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, from which, in due course, he went to the Royal School of Military Engineering at Chatham.

econd Boer War

World War I

Interwar years

He was General Officer Commanding Malaya (1935 - 1939).

World War II

Dobbie, then holding the rank of major-general, was informed that after Malaya he would be retired, because new War Office regulations deemed him too old for a further position. After war was declared in September, he was frustrated in his attempts to return to active service, until in April 1940 he encountered the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Edmund Ironside, who offered him the position of Governor-General and Commander-in-chief of Malta. He remained Governor of Malta until May 1942.

While in Malta, he was criticised for his religious approach to leadership during the 3 year siege and for what critics argue to have been an unacceptable delay in the creation of bomb shelters; as well as in implementing efficient food-rationing and creating an effective civil-defence system. Issues surrounding the unloading of ordnance were also a criticism.

He was also the former Commandant of the Royal School of Military Engineering. Dobbie was a member of the Protestant Plymouth Brethren, and when living in The Paragon, Blackheath attended the large Brethren assembly in Nightingale Vale, Woolwich Common, London SE18. On 31 July 1944 a German V1 Flying Bomb fell on houses in Milward Street and Nightingale Vale, Woolwich and the Brethren's Gospel Hall was severely damaged, but none of the 450 members perished.

Later years

Sir William died on 3 October, 1964 in Kensington, London, England at the age of 85 years. He was buried in Charlton Cemetery, near the Chindit memorial of his nephew Major-General Orde Charles Wingate, DSO (1903 - 1944). His wife Sybil and other members of his family are also buried there.

Dobbie's hypothesis to the fall of Singapore

In 1936, Dobbie, then General Officer Commanding (Malaya) stationed in Singapore, made an inquiry to find out if more forces were required on mainland Malaya, so as to prevent the likelihood of Japanese landings and capturing forward bases to attack Singapore. Percival, then his Chief Staff Officer, was tasked to draw up a tactical appreciation on how the Japanese were most likely to attack. Percival's finalised report in the late 1937, did confirm that north Malaya was a strategic position for the conquest of Singapore and Borneo. [Ong, Chit Chung (1997) "Operation Matador: Britain's war plans against the Japanese 1918-1941". Singapore: Times Academic Press.] Both Dobbie and Percival made it clear that Singapore could no longer be seen as a self-contained naval base, and that its survival rested on the defence of mainland Malaya. So in May 1938, Dobbie wrote to the Chief Of Staff:

"...It is an attack from the northward that I regard as the greatest potential danger to the Fortress (Singapore). Such an attack could be carried out in the northeast monsoon.The jungle is not in most places, impassable for infantry..." [Dobbie, as cited in Lt. Gen. A. E. Percival, "Operation of Malayan Command from 8 Dec 1941 to 15 February 1942", 2nd supplement to "The London Gazette" of Friday, 20 February 1948; dated Thursday, 26 February, 1948, p.1250.]
Dobbie further added that an attack might be possible between the months of November and March, despite high winds and waves produced by the northeast monsoon. The recent landing of "5000 smuggled coolies" during this period, dissolved any preconceptions that the monsoon offered protection. On the contrary, this monsoon would provide good cloud cover for the invaders. [Dobbie correspondences (War Office Document no. W106/2441), in "Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence Papers".
in Hack, Karl & Blackburn, Kevin (2004) "Did Singapore have to fall? : Churchill and the impregnable fortress". London : RoutledgeCurzon.


* Reverend Daniel A. Poling, 1943
** "Never before in any comparable area, have I found so many ranking executives giving so much attention to religion."
* Prime Minister Churchill
** " [Dobbie is] a Governor of outstanding character who inspired all ranks and classes, military and civil, with his...determination...a soldier who...in...leadership and religious zeal...recalled memories of General Gordon and...the Ironsides and Covenanters."
* Lord Louis Mountbatten
** " [Dobbie] prays aloud after dinner, invoking the aid of God in destroying our enemies. This is highly approved of by the Maltese, who have the same idea about God, but I would prefer an efficient Air force here."
* Mabel Strickland
** "At San Anton, every night about seven, everyone would be summoned for prayer...Dobbie would stand...and...pray...and....ask the Almighty to bless the convoy...but he never prayed to stop the bombing...that was God's will...God helps those that help themselves..."
* William Dobbie, on British intervention to restore order in the Arab-Jewish riots of 1928
** "This will be the easiest war... We will have to fight only four days a week. The Arabs won't fight on Friday, the Jews on Saturday and Dobbie certainly won't on Sunday." [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,849818,00.html Tiger for Old Dob Dob - TIME ] ]
* Dobbie was stationed in Palestine and had an office overlooking (Gordon's) Golgotha. In 1929 the Bible Society distributed New Testaments to the British soldiers serving there. Dobbie wrote the following note which was inserted into each copy for his troops:
** "You are stationed at the place where the central event in human history occurred - namely the crucifixion of the Son of God. You may see the place where this happened and you may read the details in this book. As you do this, you cannot help being interested, but your interest will change into something far deeper when you realise the events concern you personally. It was for your sake the Son of God died on the cross here. The realisation of this fact cannot but produce a radical change in one's life - and the study of this book will, under God's guidance, help you to such a realisation." W.G.S. Dobbie (Brigadier) 10 October 1929.
* "I can't help feeling that the security of the Fortress might be better served by having a stronger force in being outside it … I consequently feel that the answers to the possible threat (of Japanese landing and establishing an advanced base on the mainland) is primarily to be found in suitable mobile forces in being in the Malay Peninsula…" -- Dobbie's letter as GOC (Malaya), to the War Office on 17 Mar 1936.

External links

* [http://www.remuseum.org.uk/corpshistory/rem_corps_part16.htm#med Royal Engineers Museum] Dobbie in Malta (Second World War)
* [http://www.empireclubfoundation.com/details.asp?SpeechID=724&FT=yes#med The Defence Of Malta:] an address by Lt. General Sir William G. S. Dobbie, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., D.S.O., LL.D, at The Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, Canada on Thursday, February 22, 1945. Presented by Club Chairman Mr. C. R. Conquergood.
* [http://content-usa.cricinfo.com/engvind/content/player/28201.html#med Cricinfo - Officials and Players: William Dobbie] Contains brief profile of Sir William Dobbie and his cricket scores profile.


Further reading

* Dobbie, Sybil (1944) "Grace Under Malta". London : Lindsay Drummond.
* Dobbie, Sybil Dobbie (1979) "Faith & Fortitude". The Life & Works of General Sir William Dobbie : ISBN 07066-0810-0

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