General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley


Roll of Honour: 
General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley
 8 April 1924  - 11 March 2006

General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley

General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley,

Who died on Saturday (11th March 2006) aged 81, provided inspiring leadership in Korea at the battle of the Imjin river.


In June 1950 North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea; by October Chinese "volunteers" had joined them. The UN Security Council resolved to go to South Korea's assistance and American ground forces were ordered in, followed by a force from Hong Kong and, two months later, the British 29th Infantry Brigade. Britain's main Commonwealth partners also pledged their forces and these formed the 1st Commonwealth Division. 

Farrar-Hockley went to Korea in 1950 as adjutant of the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. In April the following year 29 Brigade was holding the line along the Imjin with the Gloucestershire Regiment defending the main river crossing, an ancient invasion route to Seoul. 

The battle began on April 22 and, during its final phase, the 1st Battalion was concentrated on Hill 235 with "A" Company holding a long spur towards the west. On April 24, at about midnight, the Chinese attacked "A" Company in great strength, pressing home the offensive for more than 10 hours. 

During the night the only two platoon commanders became casualties, and by dawn the forward platoons had been driven back. The company was then concentrated on a knoll about 50 yards from battalion headquarters; had it been captured the battalion's situation would have become untenable. 

It rapidly became clear that the one officer remaining with the company would require assistance to maintain the defence of this vital point. Farrar-Hockley volunteered for this dangerous task, and his impact on the desperate position of the company was immediate. Trenches in which the defenders had become casualties were re-manned and fire superiority was regained. 

The enemy working around the left flank were caught by grenades and small arms fire and fell back with heavy losses. Establishing themselves about 40 yards away, they attacked again and again but each time they were beaten off. 

Farrar-Hockley was in one of the forward trenches, encouraging his men and taking a leading part in the fierce, close-quarter fighting. His order to the drum-major, at the height of the battle, to counter the nerve-wracking blare of the Chinese assault trumpets with snatches of British Army bugle calls passed into regimental legend. 

When orders were received to abandon the position, Farrar-Hockley covered the withdrawal with fire and a smokescreen and he was one of the last to fall back; but, when the battalion's position was eventually overrun by the Chinese, he was taken prisoner. 

The citation for the DSO awarded to him for his part in the battle stated: "Throughout this desperate engagement on which the ability of the Battalion to hold its position entirely depended, Captain Farrar-Hockley was an inspiration to the defenders. His outstanding gallantry, fighting spirit and great powers of leadership heartened his men and welded them into an indomitable team. His conduct could not have been surpassed."

During the two years that Farrar-Hockley spent in PoW camps, he frustrated efforts to brainwash him by vigorously debating with his gaolers. He made six attempts to escape. On one occasion he reached the Korean coast before he was recaptured; on another he crawled and swam for seven hours along a river bed, feigning death when spotted by enemy soldiers and surviving the intense cold by wrapping himself in a blanket taken from a dead mule. 

Following recapture, he was often tortured or brutally interrogated. Farrar-Hockley was released after the Armistice was signed in July 1953 and was mentioned in dispatches for his conduct as a prisoner of war. 

A journalist's son, Anthony Heritage Farrar-Hockley was born at Coventry on April 8 1924 and educated at Exeter School. On the outbreak of the Second World War, at the age of 15, he ran away from school and enlisted in the Gloucestershire Regiment, but he was found out and discharged. He re-enlisted in 1941 and was posted to the 70th Young Soldiers' Battalion. 

In 1942, after volunteering for parachute training, he was granted an emergency commission in the Parachute Regiment. At the age of 20 he was in command of a rifle company of the 6th Battalion and he won an MC during the Communist rebellion in Athens. He said afterwards that getting food through to the starving people of Thebes was one of the best things he ever did. 

After serving in Palestine, Farrar-Hockley returned to the Gloucestershire Regiment and went with them to Korea. Following his release from prisoner-of-war camp, he attended Staff College before rejoining the Airborne Forces, serving as deputy assistant adjutant and quartermaster-general, then as brigade major of the 16th Parachute Brigade. He saw active service during this period in the EOKA campaign in Cyprus, the landings at Port Said in 1956 and the British intervention in Jordan in 1958.


WO 2 Bryan Burnikell talking to TFH and PC

The following year he became chief instructor at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, before taking command of the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment in the Persian Gulf in 1962. The greatest feat of arms of his career was, perhaps, his battalion's capture, in 1964, of the Arab Nationalist stronghold at Wadi Dhubsan deep in the Radfan mountains north of Aden.

The battalion was called upon to undertake a difficult 10-mile advance into mountainous enemy territory and then attack a highly inaccessible and strongly-defended rebel base. Helicopters were not available in sufficient numbers to permit an assault from the air, so his men roped themselves down the sheer sides of the flanking ridges and achieved complete surprise over the rebels in the gorge below. 

During a hard-fought battle, Farrar-Hockley's Scout helicopter was shot down beyond his own lines. With some difficulty, he rejoined his battalion and, finding it pinned down, he launched a well-executed attack which drove the enemy from their position. This action led to the submission of the dissident Radfani tribes and to the award of a Bar to Farrar-Hockley's DSO. 

After relinquishing command of his battalion in 1965, Farrar-Hockley went to the Far East to be Chief of Staff to the Director of Operations in Borneo, where he helped to organise secret operations inside Indonesian territory which brought about the end of President Sukarno's "Confrontation" with Malaysia. 

Farrar-Hockley took command of the 16th Parachute Brigade in 1966 and, in 1968, went to Exeter College, Oxford, on a Defence Fellowship. He carried out research into the effects of national service on British society; after conducting a poll of 2,000, Farrar-Hockley reported that 84 per cent said that they would welcome a return to conscription. He admitted, however, that there was a strong political bias against a compulsory call-up and that the Services did not want conscription. 

After a four-month tour as Director of Army Public Relations, Farrar-Hockley was promoted to major-general and posted to Belfast as Commander Land Forces. Urban rioting and terrorism were rising, and Farrar-Hockley was the first senior officer to acknowledge publicly that the IRA was behind the violence. 

Although he left Ulster well before "Bloody Sunday", his unremitting campaign against the IRA and his close association with the Parachute Regiment made him a prime target. In 1971 he took command of the 4th Armoured Division in BAOR before moving to the Ministry of Defence in 1974; his innovative thinking and operational experience were given full scope as Director of Combat Development (Army).

He was promoted to lieutenant-general in 1977 on his appointment as GOC South East District, and was knighted in the Birthday Honours of that year. In 1979 he moved to Oslo to take up his final military appointment as Nato's C-in-C Allied Forces Northern Europe. 

After retiring from the Army in 1982 Farrar-Hockley acted as a defence consultant and spent much of his time writing. His publications included The Edge of the Sword (1954), an account of his experiences in the Korean War; The Somme (1964); and Goughie (1975), a well-reviewed biography of General Sir Hubert Gough, the commander of the ill-fated Fifth Army in 1918. He joined the Cabinet Office's historical section to write the official history of the Korean War in two volumes, A Distant Obligation (1990) and An Honourable Discharge (1995). He wrote many articles in newspapers, periodicals and journals. 

Even in his retirement to a village in Oxfordshire, the IRA remained a threat. In 1990 a bomb was attached to the reel of his garden hose, but was spotted by his gardener and defused. "I keep my eyes open," said Farrar-Hockley, "and I don't much care for people who place explosive devices in my garden." 

Farrar-Hockley was a man of boundless energy with an infectious enthusiasm for soldiering. A lucid, forceful speaker, his pugnacious face appeared regularly on television commenting on military events or terrorist incidents affecting the Army. 

In response to new evidence that emerged in successive enquiries into "Bloody Sunday", when 13 Catholics were shot dead during a civil rights' march in Londonderry in 1972, Farrar-Hockley robustly defended the role of the Parachute Regiment: "It is all part of a long-running public relations exercise," he told the BBC, "to persuade people that soldiers were all murderers and nothing wrong was done by the people on the other side." He voiced strong concerns following the ruling by the judges sitting on the Saville Tribunal that the former Paras could not rely on being granted anonymity. 

He was also an outspoken opponent of the European Court of Human Rights ruling that the British Armed Forces were obliged to permit avowed homosexuals to enlist. He maintained that the military was a unique institution which should be allowed to run its own affairs, and that the concession would damage morale and discipline. 

Farrar-Hockley was ADC General to the Queen from 1981 to 1983, Colonel Commandant of the Prince of Wales Division (1974-1980) and of the Parachute Regiment (1977-1983), and Colonel of the Gloucestershire Regiment from 1978 to 1984. He was appointed GBE in 1981. 

Tony Farrar-Hockley married first, in 1945, Margaret Bernadette Wells; she died in 1981. He married, secondly, in 1983, Linda Wood, who survives him with two sons (one son predeceased him) of his first marriage; the eldest, Major-General Dair Farrar-Hockley, followed his father into the Parachute Regiment and was awarded the MC in the Falklands War.

General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley

Forthright veteran of the withdrawal from empire who became a military historian

Dan van der Vat
Wednesday March 15, 2006
The Guardian 

The soldier and military historian General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, who has died aged 81, joined the British army as an under-age private during the second world war and rose through the ranks to commander-in-chief, Allied Forces, Northern Europe, as a full general. His post-war fighting career reads like a guidebook to the withdrawal from empire - he saw action in Palestine, Cyprus, Suez, the Radfan (during the Aden emergency), Borneo - and, in 1970, became the first commander, Land Forces, Northern Ireland.

Throughout his four decades of army life, he spoke plainly, and both before and after his retirement in 1982 wrote effectively on the conflicts he had experienced and the first world war. 

The son of a journalist, Farrar-Hockley was born in Coventry and left Exeter school early to volunteer for the Gloucestershire Regiment in 1940; he was found out, and had to rejoin properly in 1941. A sergeant at 17, he was not yet 18 when commissioned in November 1942, and was still only 20 when given command of a rifle company in the 6th battalion of the Parachute Regiment, part of the newly formed 1st Airborne Division. He fought with it in Greece, Italy and southern France, earning a mention in dispatches in 1943 and the Military Cross in 1944. 

Returning to the Gloucesters as a regular officer in 1946 after serving in Palestine, Captain Farrar-Hockley was adjutant of the regiment's 1st battalion when it was sent to Korea late in 1950 as part of the 29th Brigade. The United Nations (mainly American) forces were faring badly against the North Koreans and 350,000 Chinese troops who had just intervened. The brigade acted as rearguard when the Americans withdrew south of the 38th parallel, only to be attacked again on New Year's Day 1951. 

The Chinese launched another massive offensive on April 22, when the 29th Brigade occupied a defensive position south of the Imjin river with its one Belgian and three British battalions, including the 1st Gloucesters, on the left of the UN line. The Chinese sent three divisions against the 29th in a flank attack, after which they intended to swing east behind two slowly advancing American divisions, encircling them. Brigadier T Brodie was defending a 12-mile front with his brigade-group of four battalions plus tanks and artillery; the "Glosters" under Lieutenant-Colonel JP Carne were on the extreme left and were assaulted by the Chinese 189th Division. 

By dawn on April 24, the Glosters were completely surrounded on a low hill but were ordered to hold on. As they ran out of ammunition, hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets and even beer bottles followed. For his part in this fierce action, Farrar-Hockley was awarded the DSO, normally a decoration for majors and above. 

The Americans intended to relieve them but "dallied, then sent too little, too late," Farrar-Hockley recalled later. "Surrounded, the Glosters were ordered to make their own way out. Only two small groups of the battalion and artillery troop escaped. Running a gauntlet of fire, they fell in successfully with a rescue sortie. The remainder were captured." 

Such was the origin of the Glorious Glosters legend, which won the battalion a special place in British military history. But the 8th Army as a whole held on in what turned out to be the turning point in the war: the UN forces were able to go back to the 38th parallel and peace talks began in June 1951. The prisoners included Farrar-Hockley, who escaped six times and was recaptured on each occasion but earned a mention in dispatches for his defiance. 

On his return to the UK in 1953, Farrar-Hockley went to the staff college at Camberley, then rejoined airborne forces to combat the Eoka rebels in Cyprus, and in time for the 1956 Suez landings. After the British show of support for King Hussein of Jordan in 1958 - and a period as a chief instructor at Sandhurst - he was promoted lieutenant colonel, and given command of the 3rd battalion of the Parachute Regiment in 1962. 

In 1964 "Farrar the Para", as his troops knew him, won his second DSO, during operations against the Radfan tribesmen, 60 miles north of Aden, who, under the influence of Arab nationalists, mined and ambushed the road from the British protectorate on the coast to Yemen. The following year he served as a staff officer in Borneo, in support of the two-year-old Malaysian federation during the confrontation with Indonesia, returning to command the 16th Parachute Brigade in 1966. 

He went to Northern Ireland as a major-general, when unrest was mounting after the army's arrival in August 1969: the first soldier was killed there in February 1971. Farrar-Hockley left that July, having publicly identified the IRA's role in organising republican violence, and the following month tension rose to new heights when internment without trial was introduced. Relations between the army and the Catholic community deteriorated, the IRA was revitalised, and the departing commander became a potential target for it. 

Farrar-Hockley moved on to West Germany in October 1971 as commander of the 4th Division for two years. Following three years at the Ministry of Defence, he became general officer commanding South-East District as a lieutenant-general (1977-79), and then took up his final, C-in-C post. 

Among several honorary appointments, he was colonel commandant of the Parachute Regiment and colonel of the Gloucester Regiment, as well as ADC general to the Queen. His many works of military history included The Somme (1964) and the official, two-volume account of the British part in the Korean war (1990 and 1995). 

In retirement, he became a pundit, writing military articles in the press. He aroused controversy in 1983 by getting involved with a campaign for a new home guard against Soviet sabotage in the event of war. In 1990 he revealed that Britain had been involved in a secret, armed anti-communist resistance network set up in many western European countries. 

Farrar-Hockley's name was found on an IRA hit list in the 1980s; in 1990, his five-year-old grandson found a bomb attached to a garden hose at his Oxfordshire home. It failed to go off. 

Farrar-Hockley was married twice, to Margaret Wells, who died in 1981, and to Linda Wood, from 1983. She survives him, as do two of the three sons from his first marriage. One of them became a major-general who, to his father's immense pride, won the MC as a company commander with "2 Para" in the Falklands in 1982. 

Anthony Heritage Farrar-Hockley, soldier and military historian, born April 8 1924; died March 11 2006