General William ‘Bill’ Slim was an army general who presided over the re-capturing of Burma in 1945. In 1952 he became Governor-General of Australia where he was famous as a war hero.
Born on 6 August 1891, William Slim joined the Officer Training Corps in 1912. During World War One he fought at Gallipoli, where he was badly injured, and in Mesopotamia. In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross. After the war in 1919 he was formally promoted to captain and transferred to the British Indian Army.
At the Outbreak of World War Two, Slim was given command of the Indian 10th Brigade. He fought in East Africa before joining the staff of General Wavell in the Middle East Command. Slim was given the command of the Indian 10th Infantry Division and held the temporary rank of major general.
In March 1942, Slim was tasked with leading the 1st Burma Corps. He could not halt the Japanese army's rapid march through Burma. But the speed of Japan’s advance outstripped its ability to supply men at the front: the army’s progress slowed as it reached the Chindwin River. This brought Slim valuable time to organise his forces. Slim was given command of the new 14th Army, which was made up of IV, XV, XXXIII and XXXIV Corps. Slim changed transportation methods to cope with Burma’s unforgiving terrain in the region: he made better use of air transport and used mules instead of vehicles.
In the spring of 1944, Slim fought at the battles of Kohima and Imphal. The Japanese were defeated twice, putting an end to the widely-held belief that the Japanese were invincible in a jungle environment.
Slim was held in high regard by those in his command. He was attentive to his troops’ well-being: he was keenly aware that health problems could break an army in Burma. In August 1944 Slim was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General.
In 1945, Slim launched a successful campaign to retake Burma. Much of his planning concerned the supply of his troops by air and land: Slim was determined not to repeat Japanese mistakes at Kohima and Imphal by not adequately supplying his men.
In July 1945, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia, promoted Slim to the rank of general and appointed him commander of Allied Land Forces Southeast Asia. However the war ended before he could take up this post.
In 1953 Slim was appointed Governor-General of Australia, where he was regarded as a war hero. In 1959, he retired from the post and returned to the UK. In 1960, Slim was made a Viscount.
William ‘Bill’ Slim died on 14 December 1970.
See also: Admiral Raymond Spruance
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