After the Dunkirk evacuation, British military commander William 'Tiny' Ironside was responsible for creating ‘Fortress Britain’. Faced with the ever increasing threat of a German invasion, Ironside planned a defence strategy, including the construction of static defences.
Born on 6 May 1880, Ironside started at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich at the age of 19 and in 1899 he was awarded a commission in the Royal Artillery Regiment. From 1899 to 1902 he fought in the Boer War.
Ironside served in World War One, becoming Commandant of the Machine Gun Corps towards the end of the war. Shortly after, in 1918, he was promoted to Brigadier-General. In 1919, he was awarded Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, and promoted to substantive Major-General for his efforts, making him one of the youngest Major Generals in the British Army.
During the Russian Civil War, Ironside led the Allied intervention. Ironside then commanded British forces in Persia before being promoted to full general in 1935.
Ironside rose through the ranks and at the beginning of World War Two he was Chief of the Imperial General Staff. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Home Forces in May 1940.
He planned to turn Britain into an island fortress using static defences manned by the Home Guard. The first level of defence would be a 'Coastal Crust' around the southern coastline of Britain. His plans were implemented and eventually almost the whole of the British coast was fortified.
Ironside was promoted to Field Marshal following the successful evacuation of Dunkirk, and was Commander in Chief by the time of his retirement in July 1940. Ironside kept a diary throughout his life with the objective of keeping a clear recollection of what had happened during the day and allowing him to reflect on the day's events. He wrote in his diary every night throughout his life and totalled some twelve volumes and the best part of a million words. Created a peer in 1941, he chose the title Baron Ironside of Archeangel.
Edmund Ironside - or ‘Tiny’ Ironside - died in 1959 at the age of 79.
See also: Zero Option
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