Arthur Percival
British Army officer
Arthur Percival
Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival, CB, DSO & Bar, OBE, MC, OStJ, DL was a British Army officer and World War I veteran. He built a successful military career during the interwar period but is most noted for his involvement in World War II, when he commanded the forces of the British Commonwealth during the Battle of Malaya and the subsequent Battle of Singapore.
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War-era canvases of animals resurface - The Japan Times
Google News - over 5 years
Tomoyuki Yamashita and of British counterpart, Arthur Percival. He made the painting while in the military, tasked with recording wartime events through his works. All three were top-ranked painters at the time. In his works, Ota expressed a mixed
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Significance of 'Green Corridor' - TODAYonline
Google News - almost 6 years
Finally, after a morning of fierce fighting, The Loyals, along with their compatriots in the 4th Norfolks and the 1/5th Sherwood Foresters, were ordered back down the road and into new positions within General Arthur Percival's last line of defence
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Tech obsolete, so Battle Box animatronics near impossible to repair - TODAYonline
Google News - almost 6 years
The Battle Box was opened in 1997 with what was then state-of-the-art animatronics, and several of the mannequins depicting various British Military personnel, including General Arthur Percival, could "move" and "speak" in a very life-like manner
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NYTimes - about 33 years
After 28 years of sanctuary and retirement, the battleship Missouri is to be reactivated to join her sister ships, the New Jersey and the Iowa, already re-outfitted for active duty. It is to happen in January, or no later than next spring, Navy Secretary John F. Lehman recently told a reporter. Mr. Lehman toured Puget Sound this fall to discuss
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Arthur Percival
  • 1966
    Age 78
    Percival died at the age of 78 on 31 January 1966, in King Edward VII's Hospital for Officers, Beaumont Street in Westminster, and was buried in Hertfordshire.
    More Details Hide Details Leonard Wilson, formerly the Bishop of Singapore, gave the address at his memorial service, which was held in St Martin-in-the-Fields.
  • 1964
    Age 76
    He also worked as President of the Hertfordshire British Red Cross and was made an Officer of the Venerable Order of Saint John in 1964.
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  • 1957
    Age 69
    He led protests against the film The Bridge on the River Kwai when it was released in 1957, obtaining the addition of an on-screen statement that the movie was a work of fiction.
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  • 1950
    Age 62
    He continued his relationship with the Cheshire Regiment being appointed Colonel of the Cheshire Regiment between 1950 and 1955; an association continued by his son, Brigadier James Percival who became Colonel of the Regiment between 1992 and 1999.
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  • 1949
    Age 61
    While General Wainwright had become a public hero on his return to the United States, Percival found himself disparaged for his leadership in Malaya, even by Lieutenant-General Heath, his erstwhile subordinate. Percival's 1949 memoir, The War in Malaya, did little to quell this criticism, being a restrained rather than self-serving account of the campaign.
    More Details Hide Details Unusual for a British lieutenant-general, Percival was not awarded a knighthood. Percival was respected for the time he had spent as a Japanese prisoner of war. Serving as life president of the Far East Prisoners of War Association (FEPOW), he pushed for compensation for his fellow captives, eventually helping to obtain a token £5 million of frozen Japanese assets for this cause. This was distributed by the FEPOW Welfare Trust, on which Percival served as Chairman.
    Thereafter, he held appointments connected with the county of Hertfordshire, where he lived at Bullards in Widford: he was Honorary Colonel of the 479th (Hertfordshire Yeomanry) H.A.A. Regiment T.A. from 1949 to 1954 and acted as one of the Deputy Lieutenants of Hertfordshire in 1951.
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  • 1946
    Age 58
    He retired from the army in 1946 with the honorary rank of lieutenant-general but the pension of his substantive rank of major-general.
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  • 1945
    Age 57
    Percival returned to the United Kingdom in September 1945 to write his despatch at the War Office but this was revised by the UK Government and only published in 1948.
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    As the war drew to an end, an OSS team removed the prisoners from Hsian. Percival was then taken, along with Wainwright, to stand immediately behind General Douglas MacArthur as he confirmed the terms of the Japanese surrender aboard USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.
    More Details Hide Details Afterwards, MacArthur gave Percival a pen he had used to sign the treaty. Percival and Wainwright then returned together to the Philippines to witness the surrender of the Japanese army there, which in a twist of fate was commanded by General Yamashita. Yamashita was momentarily surprised to see his former captive at the ceremony; on this occasion Percival refused to shake Yamashita's hand, angered by the mistreatment of POWs in Singapore. The flag carried by Percival's party on the way to Bukit Timah was also a witness to this reversal of fortunes, being flown when the Japanese formally surrendered Singapore back to Lord Louis Mountbatten.
  • 1942
    Age 54
    Along with the other senior British captives above the rank of colonel, Percival was removed from Singapore in August 1942.
    More Details Hide Details First he was imprisoned in Formosa and then sent on to Manchuria, where he was held with several dozen other VIP captives, including the American general Jonathan Wainwright, in a prisoner-of-war camp near Hsian, about to the north east of Mukden.
  • 1941
    Age 53
    Admiral Tom Phillips' leadership of Force Z led to his demise and the destruction of the British fleet on 10 December 1941, early in the campaign.
    More Details Hide Details Peter Wykeham suggested that the government in London was more to blame than any of the British commanders in the Far East. Despite repeated requests, the British government did not provide the necessary reinforcements and they denied Brooke-Popham – and therefore Percival – permission to enter neutral Thailand before it was too late to put in place forward defences. Moreover, Percival had difficulties with his subordinates Sir Lewis "Piggy" Heath, commanding Indian III Corps, and the independent-minded Gordon Bennett, commanding the Australian 8th Division. The former officer had been senior to Percival prior to his appointment as GOC (Malaya). Bennett was full of confidence in his Australian troops and his own ability, but faced a mixed reaction in Australia when he escaped from Singapore immediately after its surrender. Percival was ultimately responsible for the men who served under him, and with other officers – notably Major-General David Murray-Lyon, commander of the Indian 11th Infantry Division – he had shown a willingness to replace them when he felt their performance was not up to scratch. Perhaps his greatest mistake was to resist the building of fixed defences in either Johore or the north shore of Singapore, dismissing them in the face of repeated requests to start construction from his Chief Engineer, Brigadier Ivan Simson, with the comment "Defences are bad for morale – for both troops and civilians". In doing so, Percival threw away the potential advantages he could have derived from the 6,000 engineers under his command and perhaps missed his best chance to blunt the danger posed by the Japanese tanks.
    In April 1941 Percival was promoted to acting lieutenant-general, and was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) Malaya.
    More Details Hide Details This was a significant promotion for him as he had never commanded an army Corps. He left Britain in a Sunderland flying boat and embarked on an arduous two-week, multi-stage flight via Gibraltar, Malta, Alexandria (where he was delayed by the Anglo-Iraqi War), Basra, Karachi and Rangoon, where he was met by an RAF transport. Percival had mixed feelings about his appointment, noting that "In going to Malaya I realised that there was the double danger either of being left in an inactive command for some years if war did not break out in the East or, if it did, of finding myself involved in a pretty sticky business with the inadequate forces which are usually to be found in the distant parts of our Empire in the early stages of a war." For much of the interwar period, Britain's defensive plan for Malaya had centred on the dispatch of a naval fleet to the newly built Singapore Naval Base. Accordingly, the army's role was to defend Singapore and Southern Johore. While this plan had seemed adequate when the nearest Japanese base had been away, the outbreak of war in Europe, combined with the partial Japanese occupation of the northern part of French Indochina and the signing of the Tripartite Pact in September 1940, had underlined the difficulty of a sea-based defence. Instead it was proposed to use the RAF to defend Malaya, at least until reinforcements could be dispatched from Britain.
    He was created Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 1941 King's Birthday Honours. In 1936, Major-General William Dobbie, then General Officer Commanding (Malaya), made an inquiry into whether more forces were required on mainland Malaya to prevent the Japanese from establishing forward bases to attack Singapore.
    More Details Hide Details Percival, then his Chief Staff Officer, was tasked to draw up a tactical assessment of how the Japanese were most likely to attack. In late 1937, his analysis duly confirmed that north Malaya might become the critical battleground. The Japanese were likely to seize the east coast landing sites on Thailand and Malaya in order to capture aerodromes and achieve air superiority. This could serve as a prelude to further Japanese landings in Johore to disrupt communications northwards and enable the construction of another main base in North Borneo. From North Borneo, the final sea and air assault could be launched against eastern Singapore—against Changi area.
    He considered the possibility of the Japanese landing in Thailand to "burgle Malaya by the backdoor and conducted an appraisal of the possibility of an attack being launched on Singapore from the North, which was supplied to the War Office, and which Percival subsequently felt was similar to the plan followed by the Japanese in 1941.
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  • 1940
    Age 52
    He was made Assistant Chief of the Imperial General Staff at the War Office in 1940 but asked for a transfer to an active command after the Dunkirk evacuation.
    More Details Hide Details Given command of the 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division, he spent 9 months organising the protection of of the English coast from invasion.
    He was then promoted to acting major-general, and in February 1940 briefly became General Officer Commanding 43rd (Wessex) Division.
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  • 1939
    Age 51
    Percival was appointed Brigadier, General Staff, of the I Corps, British Expeditionary Force, commanded by General Dill, from 1939 to 1940.
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  • 1938
    Age 50
    In March 1938, he returned to Britain and was (temporarily) promoted to brigadier on the General Staff, Aldershot Command.
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  • 1936
    Age 48
    Percival was made a full colonel in March 1936, and until 1938 he was General Staff Officer Grade 1 in Malaya, the Chief of Staff to General Dobbie, the General Officer Commanding in Malaya.
    More Details Hide Details During this time, he recognised that Singapore was no longer an isolated fortress.
  • 1935
    Age 47
    In 1935, he attended the Imperial Defence College.
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  • 1932
    Age 44
    With Dill's support, Percival was appointed to command the 2nd Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment from 1932 to 1936, initially in Malta.
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  • 1931
    Age 43
    From 1931 to 1932, Percival was General Staff Officer Grade 2, an instructor at the Staff College.
    More Details Hide Details The College's commandant General Sir John Dill, became Percival's mentor over the next 10 years, helping to ensure his protégé's advancement. Dill regarded Percival as a promising officer and wrote that "he has an outstanding ability, wide military knowledge, good judgment and is a very quick and accurate worker" but added "he has not altogether an impressive presence and one may therefore fail, at first meeting him, to appreciate his sterling worth".
  • 1930
    Age 42
    In 1930, Percival spent a year studying at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
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  • 1929
    Age 41
    He was given brevet promotion to lieutenant-colonel in 1929.
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  • 1927
    Age 39
    On 27 July 1927 Percival married Margaret Elizabeth "Betty" MacGregor (who died in 1956) in Holy Trinity Church, Brompton.
    More Details Hide Details She was the daughter of Thomas MacGregor Greer of Tallylagan Manor, a Protestant linen merchant from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. They had met during his tour of duty in Ireland and it had taken Percival several years to propose. They had two children. A daughter, Dorinda Margery, was born in Greenwich and became Lady Dunleath. Alfred James MacGregor, their son, was born in Singapore and also served in the British Army.
  • 1923
    Age 35
    Percival attended the Staff College, Camberley from 1923 to 1924, then commanded by General Edmund Ironside, where he was taught by J.F.C. Fuller, who was one of the few sympathetic reviewers of his book, The War in Malaya, twenty-five years later.
    More Details Hide Details He impressed his instructors, who picked him out as one of eight students for accelerated promotion, and his fellow students who admired his cricketing skills. Following an appointment as major with the Cheshire Regiment, he spent four years with the Nigeria Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force in West Africa as a staff officer.
  • 1921
    Age 33
    David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill also met Percival in 1921, when he was called as an expert witness during an inquiry into the Anglo-Irish War.
    More Details Hide Details Percival would later deliver a series of lectures on his experiences in Ireland in which he stressed the importance of surprise and offensive action, intelligence gathering, maintaining security and co-operation between the security forces.
    A second assassination squad was dispatched to London in March 1921, but was forced to flee Liverpool Street Station when the police learned of their plans.
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  • 1920
    Age 32
    Following the killing of a Royal Irish Constabulary sergeant outside Bandon church in July 1920, Percival captured Tom Hales, commander of the IRA's West Cork Brigade, and Patrick Harte, the brigade's quartermaster, for which service he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
    More Details Hide Details Both prisoners later claimed to have been repeatedly beaten and tortured while in custody. Hales alleged that a pair of pliers had been used on his lower body and to extract his fingernails. Harte suffered brain injury and died in a mental hospital in 1925. The claims of torture were never confirmed and were denied by Percival and his colleagues, Hales being unable to produce any visible wounds beyond missing teeth and Harte's head injury being officially recorded as the result of being rifle-butted upon arrest. Ormonde Winter the head of British Intelligence in Dublin Castle later named Hales as an informer who had invented the story as an excuse for providing the names of his fellow IRA members in return for a lesser sentence. The IRA badly wanted to kill Percival, accusing him of running what they called the 'Essex Battalion Torture Squad'. A first attempted assassination by Barry in Bandon failed when Percival departed from his dinnertime routine.
    In 1920 Percival served in Ireland against the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Anglo-Irish War, first as a company commander and later the intelligence officer of the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment, in Kinsale, County Cork.
    More Details Hide Details Percival proved himself an energetic and effective counter-guerrilla, noted for his aptitude for intelligence gathering and the establishment of bicycle-riding 'Mobile Columns'. Enemies in the Irish Republican Army and others accused him of brutality towards prisoners, among them Tom Barry, leader of the West Cork Flying Column. The alleged maltreatment included the use of strikes of a rifle butt to the head, pincers to pull fingernails and burning cigarettes on the body. These accusations have been substantiated by prisoners testimony but the general veracity of the accounts has been challenged by both colleagues and historians.
  • 1919
    Age 31
    He commanded the Gorodok column on 9–10 August 1919, with great gallantry and skill, and owing to the success of this column the forces on the right bank of the Dvina were able to capture all its objectives.
    More Details Hide Details During the enemy counter-attack from Selmenga on Gorodok he handled his men excellently. The enemy were repulsed with great loss, leaving 400 prisoners in our hands.
    Percival's studies were delayed in 1919 when he decided to volunteer for service with the Archangel Command of the British Military Mission during the North Russia Campaign of the Russian Civil War.
    More Details Hide Details Acting as second-in-command of the 45th Royal Fusiliers, he earned a bar to his DSO in August, when his attack in the Gorodok operation along the Dvina netted 400 Red Army prisoners. The citation reads:
  • 1918
    Age 30
    For a short period in May 1918, he acted as commander of the 54th Brigade.
    More Details Hide Details He was given brevet promotion to major, and awarded the Distinguished Service Order, with his citation noting his "power of command and knowledge of tactics". He ended the war as a respected soldier, described as "very efficient" and was recommended for the Staff College.
  • 1917
    Age 29
    In 1917, he became battalion commander with the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel.
    More Details Hide Details During Germany's Spring Offensive, Percival led a counter-attack that saved a unit of French artillery from capture, winning a Croix de Guerre.
  • 1916
    Age 28
    Percival took a regular commission as a captain with the Essex Regiment in October 1916, whilst recovering from his injuries in hospital.
    More Details Hide Details He was appointed a temporary major in his original regiment.
  • 1915
    Age 27
    The following year he was dispatched to France with the newly formed 7th (Service) Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, which became part of the 54th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division in February 1915.
    More Details Hide Details The first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916) left Percival unscathed, but in September he was badly wounded in four places by shrapnel, as he led his company in an assault on the Schwaben Redoubt, beyond the ruins of Thiepval village, and was awarded the Military Cross.
  • 1914
    Age 26
    However, his military career began at a comparatively late age: although a member of Youngsbury Rifle Club, he was still working as a clerk for the iron ore merchants Naylor, Benzon & Company Limited in London, which he had joined in 1914, when the Great War broke out.
    More Details Hide Details Percival enlisted on the first day of the war as a private in the Officer Training Corps of the Inns of Court, at the age of 26, and was promoted after five weeks' basic training to temporary second lieutenant. Nearly one third of his fellow recruits would be dead by the end of the war. By November Percival had been promoted to captain.
  • 1906
    Age 18
    Percival's only qualification on leaving in 1906 was a higher school certificate.
    More Details Hide Details He was a more successful sportsman, playing cricket and tennis and running cross country. He also rose to colour sergeant in the school's Volunteer Rifle Corps.
  • 1901
    Age 13
    Percival was initially schooled locally in Bengeo. Then in 1901, he was sent to Rugby with his more academically successful brother, where he was a boarder in School House.
    More Details Hide Details A moderate pupil, he studied Greek and Latin but was described by a teacher as "not a good classic".
  • 1887
    Arthur Ernest Percival was born on 26 December 1887 in Aspenden Lodge, Aspenden near Buntingford in Hertfordshire, England, the second son of Alfred Reginald and Edith Percival (née Miller).
    More Details Hide Details His father was the Land Agent of the Hamel's Park estate and his mother came from a Lancashire cotton family.
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