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Eric Edward Dorman Dorman Smith

(1895—1969) army officer


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(1895–1969), British staff officer of marked originality; a brilliant thinker who was unable to suffer fools gladly. He was a friend of the military theorist Basil Liddell Hart, who thought him excellent, and of Ernest Hemingway, who nicknamed him ‘Chink’ and made him the hero of his novel Across the River and into the Trees. During 1929–36 he helped mechanize the army; he also suggested the beret for tank crews and helped design battle dress. He was director of military training in India, 1938–40, then commandant of Haifa staff college. While at Haifa he helped O'Connor plan his first victory in the Western Desert campaigns (see Sidi Barrani). Then he worked in various capacities for the C-in-C Middle East, Auchinleck, who in May 1942 appointed him deputy chief of staff with the rank of maj-general. As Auchinleck's principal operations officer, he planned the first battle of El Alamein (July 1942), arguably as much a turning-point in the Western Desert as the second, but when Auchinleck was replaced in August 1942 Dorman-Smith's career—which had always been sufficiently contentious to make him enemies—disintegrated. He commanded a brigade in the UK; became unemployed; returned to his substantive rank of colonel; and was finally removed from command of a brigade in the Italian campaign in August 1944. He retired to Ireland where he changed his name to O'Gowan and became a military adviser to the Irish Republican Army.

From The Oxford Companion to World War II in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Second World War.


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