Miles Christopher Dempsey, also known by his friends as Lucky or Bimbo, served in the British military during World War I and through World War II. He was described as quiet, competent, and methodical in his military tactics. He commanded the main British force in the campaign across western Europe during World War II.
Let’s get into some facts about this noted British military leader!
Miles Dempsey Facts
1. Dempsey served in both World Wars
Dempsey’s service in the British military began just 6 months after the first World War broke out, an interesting fact about Miles Dempsey. He went directly from military school to the war at the age of 17. By the time World War II rolled around, Dempsey had climbed to the prestigious rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He commanded a group of men stationed in France to help cover the British army’s back during the evacuation from Dunkirk.
2. He lead troops into Normandy during D-day
Dempsey was at one of the most famous and infamous battles of World War II, which earned its own day of remembrance, the battle of Normandy. The battle of Normandy was when the allied troops stormed Normandy Beach in France in order to get behind enemy lines. There was a devastating amount of bloodshed during this battle. Dempsey commanded the second army, which included Canadian, Polish, and British troops. It was Dempsey’s job to keep the German forces busy, so that the United States army could push past the beach into enemy territory. Once that was done, Dempsey and the second army headed east, across northern France and Belgium. They later captured Bremen, Hamburg, and Kiel by May 1945.
3. Dempsey received the Military Cross
An interesting fact about Miles Dempsey is that for his acts of bravery during the World Wars, he received the Military Cross. This award is the most important and honorable title you can get in the British Military. He would win many other awards over his long military career, but this was the most distinguished one.
4. He had a great passion for the sport of Cricket
In between World War I and World War II, Miles Dempsey continued his service to the British army while also pursuing a great sport, for which he had an intense passion: Cricket. He played two first class cricket matches against Oxford University and Northamptonshire. Dempsey was playing for Sussex. He also competed in various Minor Counties Championship between 1926 and 1932, playing for Berkshire.
5. Miles Dempsey made the front page of the Newspaper
On March 23, 1945, as part of the charge across Europe after the Battle of Normandy, Miles Dempsey and his men crossed the Rhine River. Dempsey was the very first senior officer in the British army to cross the Rhine. On April 7th, 1945, the news of Dempsey crossing the Rhine reached the front page of England’s Illustrated London News, an interesting fact about Miles Dempsey. He became a minor celebrity in Great Britain.
6. He led his men and advanced 300 miles in 17 days
In 1943, Miles Dempsey commanded the XIII Corps of the Eighth army. He and his troops helped to invade Sicily, and later invaded the toe of the Italian Peninsula boot by going across the Strait of Messina. Dempsey then led his men in a 300 mile march to the north that lasted 17 days. When that was finally done, they met up with military from the United States in Salerno.
7. Dempsey kept himself busy in between the Wars
In between World War I and World War II, Dempsey did more than just compete in some Cricket competitions. He continued his service to the British military, but since it was peace time, he was able to have a little more freedom with it, and a little more fun. In 1926, Dempsey used his military position as an excuse to travel all around Europe, mostly by bicycle. He would visit old battlefields and reflect. He would visit the locations of future battlefields, though he didn’t know what they would become at the time. In 1927, Dempsey was called back to do more regimented military duties, but in January of 1930 he was able to go get a degree at Staff College in Camberley. He graduated in December of 1931.
8. Dempsey ordered his diaries be burned
Unlike many other historical figures, Miles Dempsey absolutely refused to write any books or maintain any records about his experience in the military, or the rest of his life, for that matter. An interesting fact about Miles Dempsey is that he went as far as to order that all of his diaries in which he might have written about his military experience be burned. So, there are no first hand accounts of Miles Dempsey’s life.
Dempsey continued his military service even after World War II ended. He served as the British commander-in-chief of Allied land forces in South East Asia and the Middle East, helping to clean up after the war, until the year 1947, when he officially retired from the military. However, in 1950 he was given an unofficial appointment as the Commander in Chief of the British home forces, a position that he kept until the year 1956. He also held unofficial or ceremonial roles in the Royal Military Police, the Special Air Service, and the Territorial army’s 21st SAS Regiment. Truly, Dempsey was a man devoted to the military.
Miles Dempsey died in Yattendon, Berkshire, at the age of 72, on the evening before the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy, D-Day. The date was June 5th, 1969.
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