Sir Allan Henry Shafto Adair



Obituary of Maj.-Gen. Sir Allan Henry Shafto Adair

[Name and date of publication unknown, but may be from The Times]

MAJ-GEN SIR ALLAN ADAIR [b 3 November 1897, d 4 August 1988]

Wartime Liberator of Brussels
Major General Sir Allan Adair, Bt, GCVO, CB, DSO, MC, who commanded the Guards Armoured Division which advanced 100 miles in a day to liberate Brussels in September, 1944, died on August 4 at the age of 90.
This was one of the dramatic feats of the Second World War, but Adair will also be remembered as a gallant and successful leader in many tougher, though less spectacular, actions.

Known familiarly to his guardsmen as "General Allan", he took command of the Division in September 1942, the year after it became the Guards Armoured Division, and led it to victory from the Normandy Beaches to Cuxhaven on the estuary of the Elbe.

In 1954, on the tenth anniversary of that liberation, Adair had the satisfaction not only of taking part in an Allied ceremonial parade in Brussels but also receiving the freedom of the city.

Crossing with his men to Normandy in 1944, he had commanded the division with conspicuous success in the heavy fighting around Caen and Vire in July and August, which prepared the way for the break out from the bridgehead.

When the German Armies began their retreat to the Rhine, the Guards Armoured Division was the right fland formation of the British Army. It was then that Adair issued his famous order, "My intention is to advance and liberate Brussels," adding, "That is a grand intention."

Advancing from Douai with tanks at great speed against resistance, the Guards Armoured Division crossed the Belgian frontier on September 3, and, before nightfall, was in the capital.

The advance beyond Brussels was held up by the advent of winter and increasing German resistance, and the division was involved in much of the hard fighting which ensued, including the ground attacks in connection with the Arnhem airborne operation in September, and the repulse of the Germans from the Ardennes salient in December.

At the crossing of the Rhine in April 1945, Adair's division was once more a spearhead of attack. When the task alloted him had been discussed at an army commander's conference some days before the battle, he was asked for his comments, he only laughed and said, "It looks like being quite a party, doesn't it."

It was a tough assignment, and many at the conference table doubted his ability to bring it off. But not one single man in his division had a doubt, for it was impossible to serve under him without realizing that his diffident, light-hearted and sometimes vague manner was only a disguise which concealed professional competence, inflexible determination and dauntless courage.

Like everything else he did, the crossing was a triumphant success. He carried out a rapid advance of 150 miles to Cuxhaven, an operation in which the division was held up more by the difficulty of negotiating passages through towns that had been "over-bombed" by the Allied Air Forces than by the weakening resistance of the enemy.

Allan Henry Shafto Adair, sixth Baronet of Ballymena, Co Antrim, where his family has been established since the beginning of the 17th century, was born on November 3, 1897, the son of Sir Shafto Adair, fifth Baronet, and Mary Bosanquet.

He was educated at Harrow, and was commissioned in 1916 in the Grenadier Guards, going to France just after the Battle of the Somme. He won the Military Cross in 1918 and Bar in 1919.

Between the two wars Adair served as regimental officer.

In 1940, after spending some months in France without seeing any action, as second in command of the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, he was appointed to Sandhurst as Chief Instructor.

Hardly had he taken over this post when the Germans invaded Belgium, and the British Army advanced to meet them. The very next day Adair turned up in Brussels by taxicab, having "wrangled" his way back to the fighting zone; he joined his old battalion, and took over its command.

He had travelled by train, Channel boat and chartered the cab, driven by a French prize-fighter from Boulogne, to get to the scene of action, dismissing his Sandhurst post as "too schoolmasterly a job" for such times. He was promptly nicknamed "the taxi-cab officer."

In the next few pre-Dunkirk weeks he won his DSO during heavy fighting, when his battalion fought five separate actions in five days during the withdrawal, beating off the enemy each time.

Back in England, Adair commander, in succession, the 30th Guards Brigade and the 6th Guards Brigade in 1941 and 1942.

Adair laid down command of his division in October 1945. To have commanded it for so long and so successfully under such an exacting commander as Montgomery had indeed been something of a tour de force for an officer who had not passed through the Staff College and had had little to do with tanks until comparatively late in his career.

Adair was Colonel of the Grenadier Guards from 1961 to 1974 for he was a deeply respected and beloved figure. He had been president of the Grenadier Guards Association from 1947 to 1961. In 1986 he wrote his memoirs, entitled A Guards General, its success requiring reprinting.

He was an eminent Freemason and was Assistant Grand Master; he made a number of overseas visits as a delegate of Grand Lodge.

He was Lieutenant of The Queens Bodyguard of the Yeomand of the Guard from 1951 to 1967. He was Deputy Lieutenant for Antrim, and was a Governor of Harrow School from 1947 to 1952.

He was made a GCVO in 1974, CB in 1945, and he was an Officer of the Legion of Honour, and Commander of the Belgian Order of Leopold.

He married Enid, daughter of W.H. Dudley Ward, in 1919 who died in 1984. They had one son and three daughters.

His son was killed in action in 1943 while serving as a captain with the Grenadier Guards at Mount Camino in Italy. His body was never found, and hopes that he might have been taken prisoner were not abandoned by his family for many months. It must have taken all Adair's courage to bear so bitter a blow, but he appeared to be undaunted.




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