Major-general (United Kingdom), Major General Robert Elliot "Roy" Urquhart, (28 November 1901 – 13 December 1988) was a British Army officer who saw service during the Second World War and Malayan Emergency. He became prominent for his role as General Officer Commanding the 1st Airborne Division (United Kingdom), 1st Airborne Division, which fought with great distinction, although suffering very severe casualties, in the Battle of Arnhem during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

Early life and military career

Roy Urquhart was born in Shepperton, Middlesex, England, on 28 November 1901, and was the son of a Scottish people, Scottish doctor.Urquhart, p. 33 He was educated at St Paul's School, London, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Urquhart was Officer (armed forces), commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry on 24 December 1920. On 24 December 1922, he was promoted to Lieutenant (British Army and Royal Marines), lieutenant, and Captain (British Army and Royal Marines), captain on 26 March 1929. Urquhart was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, when he was stationed in Malta from 1933 to 1936. He also served as an adjutant, and befriended David Niven during this time. Niven recalled Urquhart, in his autobiography ''The Moon's a Balloon'', as "a serious soldier of great charm and warmth". Urquhart attended the Staff College, Camberley from 1936 to 1937, and then returned to the 2nd Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Horatio Berney-Ficklin. At that time, it was based in Mandatory Palestine, Palestine and served during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, Arab revolt.Smart, p. 314 On 1 August 1938, Urquhart was promoted to Major (United Kingdom), major. He was then dispatched to British Raj, India as a Staff (military), staff officer, and in May 1939 became the Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General to Army HQ, India.Mead, p. 468

Second World War

When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Urquhart was still serving in India. He remained there until 1941, when he was posted to Western Desert Campaign, North Africa. He was then sent back to the United Kingdom, as a staff officer in the 3rd Division (United Kingdom), 3rd Infantry Division. Thereafter, his career accelerated. Between 1941 and 1942 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and commanded the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry until 1942. Then he was appointed as a staff officer in the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, which was then stationed in North Africa. For a short time, he commanded the 231st Brigade (United Kingdom), 231st Infantry Brigade, which saw action during the Allied invasion of Sicily and the in the early stages of the Italian Campaign (World War II), Italian Campaign. He then returned to England.


On return, he was assigned to XII Corps (United Kingdom), XII Corps as a staff officer. In 1944, he was given command of the 1st Airborne Division (United Kingdom), 1st Airborne Division. Urquhart was prone to airsickness, and had not commanded or been a member of an airborne formation. Although a newcomer, Urquhart commanded his division during Operation Market Garden in September 1944. The division was dropped into Arnhem, Netherlands, in an attempt to secure a crossing over the River Rhine. For nine days Urquhart's division fought unsupported against armoured units of II SS Panzer Corps and suffered increasingly heavy casualties during the Battle of Arnhem. On 25 September, the remnants of the division withdrew across the Rhine. During the battle, the 1st Airborne Division had lost over three-quarters of its strength. Shattered as a fighting formation, the division was withdrawn to the United Kingdom and saw no further action in the war. Urquhart was awarded the Dutch Bronze Lion.


In May 1945, following the German surrender, Urquhart led the 1st Airborne Division, as the advanced guard of Force 134, during Operation Doomsday, the Allied reoccupation of Norway. He was charged with supervising the surrender of the German forces, as well as preventing the sabotage of vital military and civilian facilities. Due to delays in troop arrivals, Urquhart ended up driving into Oslo in a captured German staff car, accompanied only by four Military Police, military policemen and two infantry platoons. Until the arrival of the Headquarters of Allied Forces, Norway, Urquhart had complete control over all Norwegian activities. As a result, Urquhart welcomed Olaf V of Norway, Crown Prince Olaf of Norway, and three ministers representing the Norwegian Government, when they arrived on a Royal Navy cruiser. General Andrew Thorne arrived on 13 May, and assumed command of Allied forces. At the end of August, the 1st Airborne Division and Urquhart returned to the United Kingdom where his division was disbanded. Urquhart was awarded the Norwegian Order of St. Olav, for his role in the liberation of the country.

Post-war service

Following the end of the war, Urquhart became Director of the Territorial Army and Army Cadet Force at the War Office. He was then made General Officer Commanding, of the newly raised Army Reserve (United Kingdom), Territorial Army 16th Airborne Division in 1947. This was followed by holding command of the 51st/52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division, 52nd Scottish Division until 1950. After which, he was appointed as the General Officer Commanding Malaya Command during the Malayan Emergency. He retired from the army in 1955.

Later life

After leaving the army, Urquhart became an executive in the heavy engineering industry, and retired in 1970. Urquhart was portrayed by Sean Connery in the 1977 film ''A Bridge Too Far (film), A Bridge Too Far'', for which he himself served as a military consultant. Urquhart and his wife Pamela had four children, among them Elspeth Campbell (wife of the former leader of the Liberal Democrat party Menzies Campbell)Menzies Campbell, ''My Autobiography'' (Hodder & Stoughton, 2008) and Suki Urquhart, author of ''The Scottish Gardener'', third wife of Keith Schellenberg. In his memoirs, Campbell wrote that Urquhart told Elspeth's first husband, Philip Grant-Suttie, "there's no need to be formal; just call me General", and that he also insisted on tasting all the food and champagne for Elspeth and Menzies' wedding before paying for it. Urquhart died on 13 December 1988, aged 87.





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Further reading

* *Private Papers of Major General R E Urquhart CB DSO can be found in the Imperial War Museum, Documents and Sound section, ref: Documents.15783 (07/64/1-12).

External links

British Army Officers 1939–1945Imperial War Museum Interview
, - , - , - , - {{DEFAULTSORT:Urquhart, Roy 1901 births 1988 deaths British Army generals of World War II British Army personnel of the Malayan Emergency British military personnel of the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine Companions of the Distinguished Service Order Companions of the Order of the Bath Graduates of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst Graduates of the Staff College, Camberley Highland Light Infantry officers People educated at St Paul's School, London People from Shepperton Recipients of the Bronze Lion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry officers Military personnel from Middlesex British Army generals