Harold Franklyn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sir Harold Franklyn
Born28 November 1885
Died31 March 1963 (aged 77)
Newbury, Berkshire, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1905–1945
Service number3285
UnitAlexandra, Princess of Wale's Own (Yorkshire Regiment)
East Lancashire Regiment
West Yorkshire Regiment
Commands held1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Sudan Defence Force
5th Infantry Division
VIII Corps
British Troops in Northern Ireland
Home Forces
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Mentioned in dispatches (6)
Croix de Guerre (France)
Grand Officer of the Order of the Nile
RelationsSir William Franklyn (father)

General Sir Harold Edmund Franklyn KCB DSO MC (28 November 1885 − 31 March 1963) was a British Army officer who fought in both World War I and World War II. He is most notable during World War II for his command of the 5th Infantry Division during the Battle of France in May/June 1940.

Early life and First World War[edit]

Harold Edmund Franklyn was born on 28 November 1885, the son of William Franklyn, a British Army officer. He was educated at Rugby School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst,[1][2] where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into his father's regiment, the Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment) on 16 August 1905.[3][4][5] Promoted to lieutenant on 16 January 1908,[6] in 1913 he married Monica Belfield, daughter of Lieutenant General Herbert Belfield; they had one daughter and one son.[1] By 1914, the year of his father's death, he was attending the Staff College, Camberley as a student.[7] Among his fellow students there included J. F. C. Fuller.[1]

He served in World War I on the Western Front and served mainly as a staff officer throughout the conflict.[1] Soon after the outbreak of war in August 1914, Franklyn, graduating early from the Staff College, was made an Assistant Embarkation Staff Officer, later serving briefly as adjutant with the 6th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, a newly created Kitchener's Army unit composed of volunteers, which was followed, on 31 October, by a promotion to captain.[8] After having served as a General Staff Officer Grade 3 (GSO3) and a brigade major, Franklyn was promoted to brevet major on 3 June 1916[9] and served on the operations staff of the 21st Division, a Kitchener's Army unit, and was involved in the division's preparations for the Battle of the Somme. The division was commanded throughout Franklyn's service with it by Major General David Campbell.[1] After the division's involvement in the Battle of Arras in April 1917, followed by the Battle of Passchendaele (also known as the Third Battle of Ypres) throughout the summer, Franklyn became the senior staff officer in the division in mid-October, remaining in this role until hostilities ceased in November 1918.[1] Throughout the war Franklyn was six times mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and the Military Cross (MC).[2]

Between the wars[edit]

After the war Franklyn, promoted to major upon transferring to the East Lancashire Regiment on 19 August 1925,[10] served at the Staff College, Camberley, as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (DAAG) from 31 August 1925 until 31 August 1928.[1] Transferring on 10 May 1930 and receiving promotion to lieutenant colonel in the West Yorkshire Regiment,[11] he became Commanding officer (CO) of the regiment's 1st Battalion in 1930, and transferred to the Sudan Defence Force (SDF) in 1933, initially as a General staff Officer and then from 1935 until 1938 as Commandant.[4] Promoted to colonel on 28 November 1933,[12] on his forty-eighth birthday, he was, on 29 January 1938, promoted to major general (with seniority backdated to 1 January 1938),[13] In December 1938 he returned to Britain where he was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 5th Infantry Division, succeeding Major General Guy Williams. The division was the British Army's reserve formation, stationed in and around Catterick in North Yorkshire under the control of Northern Command, but was severely understrength, having recently returned from Palestine.[14][2] On 21 August 1939 Franklyn was made Colonel of the Green Howards.[15] In late 1939 he was appointed a Grand Officer of the Order of the Nile in recognition of his service in Sudan.[16]

World War II[edit]

France and Belgium[edit]

Upon the outbreak of World War II soon afterwards, in September 1939, Franklyn had been GOC of the 5th Division for over a year. However, the division was still not fully formed and so, as a result, the division's brigades arrived piecemeal in France as independent formations where it became part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The divisional HQ only arrived in France in mid-December.[14][1]

The division, composed of the 13th, 15th and 17th Infantry Brigades and supporting units, the latter composed mainly of Territorial Army (TA) units, was assigned to Lieutenant General Sir Alan Brooke's II Corps until early April 1940.[17] All three brigades were commanded by future generals, the 13th commanded by Miles Dempsey, the 15th by Horatio Berney-Ficklin, and the 17th by Montagu Stopford.[18] Dempsey would later command the British Second Army in Northwestern Europe from 1944 to 1945, while Stopford would also rise to army command, commanding first XXXIII Indian Corps and later the Twelfth Army in the Far East, whereas Berney-Ficklin would command the 5th Division from 1940 to 1943. Although the 15th Brigade saw contact with the enemy on the Saar front in January and February, the division, as a whole, saw little action, and time was spent digging defensive positions in expectation of a repeat of the trench warfare of World War I. In April, the 15th Brigade was detached from the division for participation in the disastrous Norwegian Campaign, leaving Franklyn's 5th Division with just two brigades.[18]

The War Office had intended for the 5th Division, being the reserve division of the Regular army, to return to the United Kingdom as a reserve.[18] By 9 May, many units had already reached the Channel Ports, but the order was cancelled. The German Army launched its assault in the West the day after, and the division joined Lieutenant General Sir Ronald Adam's III Corps. Just days later, Lieutenant General Michael Barker's I Corps, which was manning a defensive line on the River Senne. After withdrawing, the division was held in reserve until moving to Arras, which was then under attack from several German panzer divisions, including the 7th Panzer Division under Generalmajor Erwin Rommel.[18]

The Germans had broken through the French armies on the BEF's right flank, and were sweeping their way west and northwards, aiming for the Channel coast.[18] Senior Allied commanders believed a counterattack necessary, to be made southwards from Arras, and Franklyn was assigned by General Lord Gort, Commander-in-chief (C-in-C) of the BEF, to command "Frankforce". "Frankforce" was composed of Franklyn's 5th Division, along with Major General Giffard Martel's 50th Division (like the 5th Division, with only two brigades) and the 1st Army Tank Brigade.[18] On 21 May the attack went in, and was initially very successful, greatly surprising the Germans and unnerving the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. However, French support did not materialise on time and Franklyn was forced on the defensive and ordered to hold the high ground on Vimy Ridge. "Frankforce" came under heavy attack and Lord Gort ordered its withdrawal on the night of 23 May.[18]

Gort was then ordered to use the 5th and 50th Divisions to attack across the German lines of communication and link up with the French attacking from the Somme.[18] However, Gort decided instead on 25 May to send both divisions, in one of the most important decisions of the campaign, to fill the gap between the Belgian Army and the BEF, along the Ypres–Comines Canal. Franklyn's 5th Division again came under command of Brooke's II Corps where, in the Battle of the Ypres–Comines Canal, the division was engaged in some of the toughest fighting of the war so far, with the Germans concentrating everything on eliminating the British penetration.[18] As the battle wore on, more units came under Franklyn's command, including the 10th Brigade, under Brigadier Evelyn Barker, and the 11th Brigade, under Brigadier Kenneth Anderson (both detached from Major General Dudley Johnson's 4th Division), along with elements of Major General Harold Alexander's 1st Division, and heavy artillery from I Corps. By holding the line on the night of 27 May Franklyn enabled Major General Bernard Montgomery's 3rd Division to cross behind Franklyn's rear to fill the huge gap caused by the Belgian Army's surrender.[18]

Franklyn's stand, Brooke believed, had saved the BEF from destruction, causing the latter to write in his diary that "Franklyn had put up a very fine show and the 5th Division had fought admirably".[18] Major General Henry Pownall, Lord Gort's Chief of Staff, believed Franklyn to be the outstanding British divisional commander of the campaign.[2] Brooke then gave orders for Franklyn and his division, now reduced to roughly 600 men in each of his two brigades, to withdraw from their positions and retreat to the Dunkirk perimeter, which they did on the night of 29 May, and were subsequently evacuated to England over the next few days.[18]


After returning to England on 1 June Franklyn, along with the two brigades of his division, both much reduced in manpower and equipment, were sent to Scotland to serve under Scottish Command, where Brigadier Berney-Ficklin's 15th Brigade was already serving, having been evacuated from Norway in early May, although it did not rejoin the division until early July. Made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) on 11 July 1940,[19] on 19 July Franklyn handed over command of the 5th Division, which he had commanded for the last nineteen months, to Major General Horatio Berney-Ficklin, his senior brigade commander, who had returned from Norway, although he himself had been incapacitated and thus unable to participate in the campaign.[18]

For his excellent performance during the short campaign in France and Belgium, Franklyn was promoted to acting lieutenant general on 19 July,[20] and ordered to establish a new VIII Corps, with Franklyn as GOC, and aided by Brigadier Manley James as his Brigadier General Staff (BGS). With fears throughout the country of a German invasion, Franklyn, as GOC VIII Corps, was responsible for the defence of the counties of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, a very long line of coast to defend, but one which was considered a less likely invasion target. The corps had the 3rd and 48th (South Midland) Divisions under command, both of which had fought in France with the BEF.[21] In late November, the 3rd Division, under Major General James Gammell, was replaced by the 50th Division, now under Major General William Ramsden. All three divisions had fought in France with the BEF, and were all short of manpower and equipment. In early 1941 three of the independent infantry brigades serving as part of VIII Corps were merged to create the Devon and Cornwall County Division, whose first GOC was Major General Charles Allfrey, later replaced by Major General Frederick Morgan. The division was one of the many newly created British County Divisions which were being raised at the time, composed mainly of the very large number of conscripts recruited into the army in the aftermath of Dunkirk. Despite a plethora of infantry, the county divisions had no supporting divisional troops such as artillery or engineers and they were given a static and purely defensive role.[22]

In May 1941 Franklyn handed over VIII Corps to Lieutenant General Kenneth Anderson, who had served under him briefly in France, and was appointed as C-in-C of Northern Ireland.[22][5][1] Ireland, then still within the British Commonwealth and also known as Éire, had remained neutral in the war and kept diplomatic relations with Germany, who supported the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Of great concern to the British government, in particular to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was the possibility of Germany invading Éire, where they could establish a foothold. To this end, an agreement was reached with the Irish government, allowing British troops to be stationed in Éire in the event of a German invasion.[22]

Members of the Czech Government in Exile visiting Northern Ireland. Left to right: Brigadier General Edmund Hill (USA); General Jan Sergěj Ingr, Minister of National Defence and C-in-C of Czechoslovak Forces; Lieutenant General Harold Franklyn, GOC British Troops in Northern Ireland; Air Vice Marshal Karel Janoušek, GOC Czechoslovak Air Force; and Mr Jan Masaryk, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia.

As a result, III Corps, under Lieutenant General Desmond Anderson, was sent to Northern Ireland, and took under command the 5th, 53rd and 61st Infantry Divisions. Northern Ireland District was deemed to be too small and so Franklyn established a superior HQ, entitled British Troops in Northern Ireland.[22] Franklyn's rank of lieutenant-general was made temporary on 19 July 1941,[23] and permanent on 30 September.[24] By early 1942, the United States had entered the war, and, due to an agreement between Prime Minister Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt before the American entry into the conflict, US troops, mainly the 34th Infantry Division, a National Guard (equivalent to the British Territorial Army) formation, began arriving in January 1942 and, their numbers swelling over the next two years, gradually relieving the British divisions.[22]

Franklyn was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) on 1 January 1943,[25] and remained in his post as C-in-C Northern Ireland until 23 July 1943 when he was promoted to the rank of full general[26] and succeeded General Sir Bernard Paget, who had been a fellow instructor at the Staff College, Camberley between the wars, as C-in-C Home Forces, after Paget was promoted to the command of the newly created 21st Army Group.[22][1] Home Forces had, until Franklyn's assumption of command, commanded all the army's field formations in the country. During the 18-month period between the fall of France in June 1940 until the entry of the United States in December 1941, Home Forces, commanded throughout this whole period by General Sir Alan Brooke, who became Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) in December 1941, was responsible for the defence of the country against invasion. By 1942, with the United States in the war and the Soviet Union fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front, the emphasis turned from the defensive to taking the offensive. The situation changed again by the time Franklyn took command of Home Forces.[22]

Soon after he took command, Home Forces had to allocate several divisions to Paget's 21st Army Group and begin training for the Allied invasion of Normandy, then to take place in May 1944. The remaining divisions fell into three categories, with the 38th, 45, 47th and 55th Divisions being placed on the Lower Establishment, with a much reduced composition than a standard division.[27] A further three divisions, the 48th, 76 and 80, were reserve formations, specifically for training and holding men before being sent on an overseas draft. The 77th was a holding division, created with the intention of retraining men returning from leave and released Prisoners of war (POWs). The 61st Division was the only field formation that did not transfer to the 21st Army Group and in the event never served overseas.[28]

Reorganisations took place in late 1944, after the Normandy landings had taken place, with the 76th, 77th and 80th Divisions disbanded, and the 38th, 45th and 47th Divisions becoming reserve formations, and the 55th Division being raised to the Higher Establishment. By this stage of the war the British Army was suffering from a very severe shortage of manpower, particularly on the Western Front, the main theatre of war for the Western Allies, and Home Forces was under increasingly heavy pressure to provide enough men as battle casualty replacements (reinforcements in British terminology) to the British forces of the 21st Army Group, now commanded by Montgomery, in Northwestern Europe.[28] It was during the fighting that his son, Captain John Belfield Edmund Franklyn, was killed in action in Holland on 27 September 1944 while serving with the 6th Battalion, Green Howards. He was just 22 years of age.[1][4]

There were, however, other priorities, most notably co-ordinating with allies, mainly the Americans, and the running of an armed camp, which was no easy task. The Home Guard, along with numerous training commands and establishments, regimental depots and POW camps.[28]


Retiring from the army on 15 October 1945,[29] in May 1946, Franklyn was appointed chairman of the Battles Nomenclature Committee for the Second World War.[28][30][31][4] Franklyn relinquished the colonelcy of his old regiment, the Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment) on 21 October 1949.[32][33][4] He retired to Newbury, Berkshire, where he died on 31 March 1963, four years after the death of his wife, at the age of 77, from a heart attack.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 21st Division 1914–18 – a divisional history
  2. ^ a b c d e Smart, p. 107
  3. ^ "No. 27827". The London Gazette. 15 August 1905. p. 5620.
  4. ^ a b c d e "British Army officer histories". Unit Histories. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  5. ^ a b Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  6. ^ "No. 28107". The London Gazette. 7 February 1908. p. 893.
  7. ^ "No. 28796". The London Gazette. 27 January 1914. p. 736.
  8. ^ "No. 29017". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 December 1914. p. 11023.
  9. ^ "No. 29639". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 June 1916. p. 6316.
  10. ^ "No. 33076". The London Gazette. 18 August 1925. p. 5496.
  11. ^ "No. 33604". The London Gazette. 9 May 1930. p. 2868.
  12. ^ "No. 34005". The London Gazette. 15 December 1933. p. 8126.
  13. ^ "No. 34482". The London Gazette. 15 February 1938. p. 968.
  14. ^ a b Mead, p. 143
  15. ^ "No. 34684". The London Gazette. 15 September 1939. p. 6332.
  16. ^ "No. 34713". The London Gazette. 20 October 1939. p. 7038.
  17. ^ Mead, p. 143−144
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Mead, p. 144
  19. ^ "No. 34893". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 July 1940. p. 4244.
  20. ^ "No. 34944". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 September 1940. p. 5471.
  21. ^ Mead, p. 144−145
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Mead, p. 145
  23. ^ "No. 35224". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 July 1941. p. 4202.
  24. ^ "No. 35290". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 September 1941. p. 5642.
  25. ^ "No. 35841". The London Gazette. 29 December 1942. p. 3.
  26. ^ "No. 36247". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 November 1943. p. 5015.
  27. ^ Mead, p. 145−146
  28. ^ a b c d Mead, p. 146
  29. ^ "No. 37306". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 October 1945. p. 5053.
  30. ^ Battles Nomenclature Committee (1956) The Official names of the Battles, Actions and Engagements fought by the Land Forces of the Commonwealth during the Second World War, 1939–1945: Report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee as approved by the Army Council, London: HMSO, pp. 7–9
  31. ^ Battles Nomenclature Committee (1958) The Official names of the Battles, Actions and Engagements fought by the Land Forces of the Commonwealth during the Australian Campaign in the South-west Pacific 1942–1945 and the New Zealand Campaign in the South Pacific 1942–1944 and the Korean Campaign 1950–1953: Final report of the Battles Nomenclature Committee as approved by the Army Council, London: HMSO, p. 5
  32. ^ "No. 38754". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 November 1949. p. 5301.
  33. ^ "Franklyn, Sir Harold Edmund". generals.dk. Retrieved 31 July 2016.


  • Harman, Nicholas. (1980) Dunkirk; the necessary myth. London: Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-24299-X
  • Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A Biographical Guide to the Key British Generals of World War II. Stroud: Spellmount. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0.
  • Smart, Nick (2005). Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Barnesley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 1844150496.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Commandant of the Sudan Defence Force
Succeeded by
William Platt
Preceded by
Guy Williams
GOC 5th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Horatio Berney-Ficklin
Preceded by
New post
Succeeded by
Kenneth Anderson
Preceded by
Sir Bernard Paget
C-in-C Home Forces
Succeeded by
Post disbanded
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Edward Bulfin
Colonel of the Green Howards (Alexandria, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment)
Succeeded by
Alfred Robinson