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Churchill contains:
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SEYR The Papers of Sir Horace Seymour
SHRE The Papers of Edward Shire
SILK The Papers of Lord Silkin of Dulwich
SIME The Memoirs of Stanley J Sime
SLGF "The Shane Leslie-Godfrey Faussett Archive"
SLIM The Papers of Field Marshal Lord Slim
SLKN The Papers of John Ernest Silkin
SMTH The Papers of J Philip Smith
SMVL The Papers of Admiral Sir James Somerville
SOAM The Papers of Baron Soames
SPRS The Papers of Sir Edward Spears
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The Papers of Field Marshal Lord Slim

Title The Papers of Field Marshal Lord Slim
Reference GBR/0014/SLIM
Creator Slim, William Joseph, 1891-1970, 1st Viscount Slim, Field Marshal
Covering Dates 1914–2011
Extent and Medium 18 archive boxes
Repository Churchill Archives Centre
Content and context

William Slim was born in Bishopston, near Bristol on 6 August 1891, the son of John Slim, a hardware merchant and his wife, Charlotte Slim (nee Tucker). He was educated at St Philip's School, Edgbaston and King Edward's School, Birmingham, 1903-10, where he joined the Officer's Training Corps. He married Aileen Robertson in 1926 (died 1993), with whom he had one son, John, and one daughter, Una.

He was first employed as an elementary teacher and then as a clerk at an engineering firm, Steward and Lloyds from 1910-14, joining Birmingham University Officers' Training Corps in 1912. He was commissioned in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment with the rank of temporary Second Lieutenant in 1914 and was sent to fight at Gallipoli. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Sari Bair Ridge in August 1915. After a period of convalescence in Britain, he returned to action in Mesopotamia, where he fought for the next six months and was awarded a Military Cross in 1916.

Wounded again in Mesopotamia in 1917, Slim was evacuated to India. He spent two years on the staff of the army headquarters, where he was made a temporary Major in the 6th Gurkha Rifles in November 1918. He transferred again to the British Indian Army as Captain in May 1919, and found himself surrounded by officers from a similar background to his own. He became adjutant of the battalion and was stationed at Abbottabad.

Slim obtained professional training for higher command at the Indian Staff College, Quetta, in 1926. He returned to Army Headquarters as a staff officer from 1929 – 1933, when he was promoted to the rank of Major. He spent from 1934 – 1936 as an instructor at the Staff College, Camberley and was a student at the Imperial Defence College in 1937. Before returning to regimental soldiering in 1938 he spent time at the Senior Officers' School in Belgaum.

Slim was now familiar with the debates over mobility and army doctrine which divided British military opinion during the interwar years. He returned to soldiering as Commander of the 2nd battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles at Shillong in Assam. To support his wife and young children Slim supplemented his salary by writing fiction and articles under the pen-name 'Anthony Mills'.

The eruption of the Second World War in 1939 saw him promoted to Brigade Commander, leading the 10th Indian Brigade in Sudan and Eritrea in 1940 – 1941, where he was wounded again. He presided over the occupation of Persia in August 1941 as commander of the 10th Indian Division in Iraq, Syria and Persia. He led what became the longest withdrawal in British military history of the 1st Burma Corps to the Imphal Plain in eastern Assam.

He returned to action commanding the 15th Burma Corps in March-June 1942. Unfortunately, Slim was brought in too late to the disastrous first Akran campaign and he suffered a difficult relationship with Lieutenant-General N. M. S. Irwin. Irwin was soon replaced by General Sir George Giffard, who would strongly support Slim over the next few months.

Their arrival was part of a wider restructuring of the Eastern theatre. Slim and Giffard were joined by the new Commander-in-Chief in India, General Sir Claude Auchinleck and by Vice-Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten heading up the new south-east Asia Command (SEAC). Giffard took lead of the Eleventh Army, while Slim became commander of the principal operational formation, the Fourteenth Army. He was awarded a CBE in October 1942.

Slim and his troops were able to overcome the Japanese attack at Arakan (1942-1943), where victory came to be a significant turning point in the Burmese theatre. Commanding both the Arakan and Imphal battlefields Slim conducted 'the most complex, geographically sprawling battled presented by any British army commander in either world war'. [ODNB ref] Slim was awarded a DSO in January 1943.

Slim turned his attention to recapturing Burma, overland, and from the north in the 1944-1945 dry season. His plan, 'Capital' was a successful gamble and he relied entirely on air supply to support the Fourteenth Army over their 300-mile offensive, demonstrating his astute understanding of the power of mobility.

By May 1945, SEAC had been restructured to encompass allied land forces, and now the new ALFSEA was headed by General Sir Oliver Leese. Differing wartime experiences meant for a tense relationship between ALFSEA and the Fourteenth Army and in a bizarre episode involving Leese, Slim was nearly removed from the leadership of his unit. However, intervention from both London and New Delhi meant that Slim was promoted, having been made a General in July 1945, to Commander-in-Chief of ALFSEA in August 1945.

On the 1st January 1946 Slim was knighted GBE and took up his new position of Commandant of the Imperial Defence College. He was made Aide-de-Camp to the King in February 1947 and he refused offers from both India and Pakistan to become Commander-in-Chief of their armies, and instead became Deputy Chairman of the Railway Executive in April 1948. But Slim's hiatus from the army was not to last long: by November 1948 Slim became the first Indian Army officer to be appointed as Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) in January 1949, with the full ranking of Field Marshal.

After a full tour as CIGS, Slim was awarded the GCMG in December 1952 and KStJ in January 1953 after which took up his new position as the Governor-General of Australia in May 1953. He was awarded the GCVO in February 1954.

Slim retired from public duty to Britain in 1959, and soon after published his memoirs Unofficial History. His personal narrative of the Burma campaign, Defeat into Victory (1956) had already been a resounding success and is still widely considered to be one of the most important memoirs written by a prominent military leader. In April 1959 he was appointed a Knight of the Garter and was raised to the peerage in July 1960, becoming Viscount Slim of Yarralumla in the Capital Territory of Australia and of Bishopston in the City and County of Bristol. After a number of places on the boards of successful UK companies, Slim was appointed Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle in July 1964. He remained in office until his death on 14th December 1970. He was survived by his wife, Aileen and children, Una and John (who succeeded him in the peerage).

Papers comprising manuscripts of books, articles, lectures, letters, diaries, press cuttings and photographs.

The papers were collected by William Slim's biographer, Ronald Lewin, and given to Churchill Archives Centre by Slim's wife, Aileen, Viscountess Slim, and son, Viscount Slim, and other donors, 1977-2011.

Access and Use

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of Field Marshal Lord Slim, SLIM

Further information

The official biography by Ronald Lewin 'Slim the Standard Bearer' (1976), and Slim's 'Defeat into Victory' (1956) are available for reference to researchers in the Roskill Library, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Copies of the collection level description and box list are available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, and the National Register of Archives, London.

This collection level description was prepared by Sophie Bridges, April 2004, and updated by Emily Morris in April 2014. Information was obtained from "Who's Who 1897-1996" (A and C Black), Ronald Lewin, "Slim. The Standardbearer" (1976), and the website of the "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Retroconversion of the catalogue was completed by Emily Morris in May 2014.

Index Terms
Army Personnel
Slim, William Joseph (1891-1970) 1st Viscount Slim, Field Marshal
Churchill/SLIM contains:
1 Papers of Philip Pratt.
2 archive boxes.
2 Personal life and military career.
2.5 archive boxes.
3 Speeches, lectures and broadcasts by Slim.
3 archive boxes.
4 Literary: short stories, articles.
2 archive boxes.
5 Literary works.
3 archive boxes.
6 Major-General William Freke Hasted.
0.5 archive box.
7 Nigel Bruce.
0.5 archive box.
8 Lieutenant Colonel H. R. K Gibbs and Field Marshal 1st Baron Birdwood.
0.5 archive box.
9 Family letters.
3 files.
10 Letters from Slim's later career, with other miscellaneous items.
1 file.
11 Letters from the Royal Family. 7 letters from HM The Queen (1953-1965), 1 letter from HM the Prince of Wales (1966), 1 letter from HM the Queen Mother (1951), 5 letters HM the Princess Royal (1947-1960), 1 letter from HM Princess Marina (1959), 5 letters from Princess Alexandra (1959-1966), 1 letter from Michael Adeane (1960), 1 letter from the Lord Chamberlain (1970).
1 file.
12 Additional papers.
1.5 archive boxes.
13 BBC television programme on Slim.
0.5 archive box.
14 Official publications. Official accounts of the campaign of the 14th Army marked 'secret'.
1 file.
15 Japanese publication, 'MARU'. Analyses and short accounts of World War II Generals sent to John, 2nd Viscount Slim by Louis Allen, with a covering note about the Burma Association and rapprochement with the Japanese government. It includes a transcript of the comment on Slim.
2 files.
16 Commercial Directorships.
1 file.
17 Miscellaneous items of mixed origin.
1 file.
18 Quantico (Virginia, USA). Papers relating to the adoption of Slim's Kermit Roosevelt lecture entitled 'Higher Command in War' as part of Marine Corps training materials and a visit by John, 2nd Viscount Slim to attend the premier of a training documentary film in the lecture made by Major Ben Wyatt.
1 file.
19 Copy of a chapter about the Viceregal occupants of Yarralumla from a book by Dr Chris Cuneen. Contains comments by John, 2nd Viscount Slim as to its accuracy, or otherwise.
1 file.

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