General Sir Jack Wentworth Harman, GCB OBE MC


The photo was taken in Germany in 1960 the year that Jackie Harman was appointed Commanding Officer of the recently amalgamated 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards. He was part of the regimental polo team, a sport at which he excelled since taking it up in Italy after the war. He was a man of great energy who made a great impact on the British Army during the 41 years that he served in it. He passed out of Sandhurst in 1940 and at the age of 20 joined the Queen's Bays in France, and went on to North Africa where he fought with distinction at Gazala and El Alamein in 1942, winning the MC for his bravery and leadership.

He was born in Aldershot on 20 July 1920, the son of Lieutenant-General Sir Anthony Wentworth Harman who was Colonel of the Bays from 1930 to 1945. He was educated at Wellington where he was a prefect and an accomplished athlete; he enjoyed hunting and horse-racing so was well qualified to be a cavalry officer. But throughout the war he served in tanks and survived many battles in which many of his comrades were killed. He joined the Queen's Bays in France where all their tanks were lost and they were evacuated. On 26 June 1942, in North Africa, he took over command of A Squadron, the Bays, when Major Warter was killed. The regiment pursued the Germans near Daba but were short of fuel. Harman was now in charge of 6 Crusader tanks and remnants of the 10th Hussars. In the advance into Tunisia in 1943 he was involved in the fighting around Mareth and El Hamma and was twice wounded. On 24 April, at Medjeh-el-Bab, Harman (promoted acting major) was leading his squadron of Crusaders when the Bays and 9th lancers came under heavy fire, taking casualties and losing eight tanks. Harman rescued a wounded driver, taking charge of the survivors, and restored control in the critical situation; he was awarded an MC in August 1943.

Early in 1944 Harman returned to England and was transferred to the 24th lancers, taking part in the Normandy landing at Gold Beach; he described it as 'unpleasant'. In the autumn of 1944 he returned to the Bays in Italy as commander of A squadron and participated in difficult river crossings and the final decisive battles south of the Po, supporting the 78th division in spring 1945. Throughout the war most British and American tanks were vulnerable and suffered heavy losses: Harman was lucky to survive.

He continued his army career in peacetime and commanded the amalgamated 1st The Queen's Dragoons Guards soon after they were formed. He then went to Warminster to act as a clean sweep, and gained the nickname 'Smiling Death' from his facial resemblance to a skull. As a staff officer in London he was involved in raising the level of soldiers' pay under the Callaghan government. He served as commander of 1st Armoured Division in Germany, and was Commandant of Sandhurst at the time when the course was reduced from two years to one. In 1975 he became Colonel of the QDG and in 1978 he was appointed Deputy Supreme Allied Commanded under Al Haig. He died of prostate cancer at his home in Dinton, near Salisbury, on 28 Dec 2009.

1920 Born 20 July
1940 Second Lieutenant, 2 Mar
1941 Lieutenant, 2 Sep
1943 Awarded Military Cross
1944 Transferred to 24th lancers for Normandy landings
1944 Rejoined the Bays in Italy
1946 Captain, 1 Jul
1947 Married First Wife, Gwladys on 29 Nov
1949 Staff College
1953 Major, 2 Mar
1958 Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel
1959 Second in Command of the Bays on amalgamation
1960 Lieutenant-Colonel commanding 1st QDG
1962 Appointed OBE
1962 Commanded at Warminster Tactics Wing
1965 Colonel, 22 Jan. Commanded 11th Infantry Brigade
1966 Brigadier, 31 Dec
1970 Major General, 12 Feb. Commanded 1st Armoured Division
1972 Commandant RMA Sandhurst
1974 Lieutenant General, 24 Jan. Commanding 1 Corps
1974 Appointed KCB
1975 Colonel of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards
1976 General, 15 Jul. Adjutant-General
1977 ADC to the Queen
1978 Appointed GCB
1978 Deputy Supreme Allied Commander
1980 Vice Chairman National Army Museum
1982 Director of Wilsons Hogg Robinson
2001 Married 2nd wife, Sheila
2009 Died on 28 Dec. Aged 89


Regimental details | Soldiers




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by Stephen Luscombe