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PYMAN, Sir Harold English (1908-1971)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0099 KCLMA Pyman
Held at: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London
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Full title: PYMAN, Sir Harold English (1908-1971)
Date(s): Created 1860-1901, 1937-1971
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 19 boxes or 0.19 cubic metres
Name of creator(s):
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born 1908; educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh and Clare College, Cambridge (MA); commissioned into the Royal Tank Regiment, 1929; served in the North-West Frontier Campaign, India, 1937; appointed to assist 17/21 Lancers in converting from cavalry to armour, 1938; Capt 1938; student at Staff College, Quetta, 1939; Instructor at Staff College, Quetta, 1939-1941 graduated from senior wing of staff college; served in the Western Desert, 1941 as Second in Command of 6 Royal Tank regiment (despatches); General Staff Officer grade 1, 7 Armoured Division (DSO) 30 Corps, 8 Army; Commanding Officer 3 Royal Tank Regt, 10 Armoured Div, 8 Army (bar to DSO); Brig General Staff, Home Forces in charge of training, 1943-1944; Brig General Staff 30 Corps for Normandy invasion (CBE); Chief of Staff, 2 Army, 1944-1945 with responsibility for planning and organisation of the Rhine crossing and the subsequent advance to the Baltic (despatches); Chief of General Staff, Allied Land Forces South East Asia and Acting Maj Gen, 1945-1946; Chief of Staff, General Headquarters, Middle East Land Forces, 1946-1949; Maj Gen, 1949; General Officer Commanding 56 (London) Armoured Division Territorial Army, 1949-1951; Director General, Fighting Vehicles, Ministry of Supply, with responsibilty for meeting the vehicle requirements of all three services 1951-1953; General Officer Commanding 11 Armoured Division, British Army on the Rhine, 1953-1955; Director of Weapons and Development, War Office, April 1955-May 1956; Lieut Gen, 1957; General Officer Commanding 1 Corps, British Army on the Rhine, 1956-1958; Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff, 1958-1961; General, 1961; Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces, Northern Europe, 1961-1963; suffered from a severe stroke Sep 1963 and retired 1964; Hon Col Berkshire and Westminster Dragoons (2 Company of London Yeomanry) Territorial Army; Col Commandant of The Royal Tank Regt, 1958-1965; Col Commandant The Royal Armoured Corps, 1963-1966; died 1971. Publications: Call to arms, (Leo Cooper, London, 1971)


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection covers Pyman's career from 1937 until 1963 when he suffered a severe stroke which forced his retirement in 1964. The earliest papers date from Pyman's work with the Royal Tank Cadre in converting the 17/21 Lancers from a cavalry to an armoured regiment. There are also papers from Pyman's period as an instructor at the Staff College in Quetta, India, 1939-1941. Pyman was involved in the World War Two campaigns by the 8 Army in the Western Desert, in 1941 as General Staff Officer with 7 Armoured Div, 30 Corps and in 1942-1943 as Commander of the 3 Royal Tank Regiment, 10 Armoured Div, 30 Corps. The papers consist mostly of Pyman's assessments of lessons learned from the ongoing campaigns particularly with regard to tanks and armoured units. In 1944-1945 Pyman was Brigidier General Staff, 30 Corps, 2 Army in the Normandy landings and the invasion of Northern Europe, with particular responsibility for organisation and planning of the Rhine crossing and advance to the Baltic. This is reflected in the papers which largely consist of planning studies and reports for the operations involved, this section also contains maps used in the campaign. Pyman's next appointment was as Chief of General Staff, Allied Land Forces, South East Asia, 1945-1946 which is documented by a series of diaries which reflect the tasks faced by Pyman in this command including dealing with the build up of tension between newly liberated former colonies keen to assert their right for independence and the former colonial powers such as France and Netherlands. Pyman spent 1946-1949 as Chief of Staff, Middle East Land Forces and kept monthly diaries which form the bulk of this section of the collection. The diary entries and additional papers reflect the debate over policy in the Middle East in the British Government and Military command, they include detail on the British withdrawal from Greece, the problem of illegal Jewish immigrants and their internment in Cyprus, the end of the British mandate in Palestine and the the effect of this on relations between Britain with Egypt and the other Arab states and the subsequent Arab Israeli conflict. This section of the collection also contains correspondence between Pyman and Maj Gen Sir Miles Christopher Dempsey on personal matters and on the Middle East. There are also papers from Pyman's work at the Ministry of Supply as Director General of Fighting Vehicles, 1951-1953, Director of Weapons Development, War Office, 1955-1956 mostly brief diary entries and lecture texts. Pyman was also General Officer Commanding, British Army on the Rhine, 1953-1955 and General Officer Commanding, 1 British Corps, 1956-1958 and the papers relating to these commands consist mostly of lectures, reports and directives reflecting his interest in armoured divisions and training. There are some papers, mostly personal correspondence and press cuttings, from Pyman's final command as Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Northern Europe in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The collection also contains correspondence relating to Pyman's role as Colonel Commandant of the Royal Tank Regiment and The Royal Armoured Corps and a series of letters covering the reorganisation of the Berks and Westminster Dragoons, of which he was Honorary Colonel. The rest of the collection consists of diaries, correspondence, speeches, writings including the draft copy and papers relating to his autobiography, some preparatory work on a history of the 2 Army and reference works. The collection also includes the Boer War diaries and other papers of Col James Redmond Patrick Gordon who commanded the 1 Cavalry Bde of the South African Field Force 1900-1901 which were given to Pyman by a friend.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Sections 1 to 12 are arranged chronologically by career 1937-1963. Sections 13-19 are grouped as regimental material, diaries, correspondence, awards, speeches, writings, reference material. Section 20 contains the papers of Col James Redmond Patrick Gordon, these date from the Boer War period and are unrelated to the rest of the collection.

Conditions governing access:

Open, subject to signature of reader's undertaking form.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Trustees of the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, attention of the Director of Archive Services.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue available on line at and also in hard copy in the Centre's reading room.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Placed in the Centre by the family in Mar 1972.

Allied Materials

Related material:

There are a number of items relating to Pyman in the papers of Capt Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart in sections 1, 10, 13, 15/5, 9/28.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
July 1999

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