On the eve of war (31 August 1939), Lord Alanbrooke was appointed commander of II Corps of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France, a position that lasted until his evacuation with many of his troops at the end of May 1940. He briefly returned to France from 12 to 18 June 1940, this time as nominal commander of the BEF. He became commander of the Home Forces on 19 July 1940, working to improve readiness for the expected German invasion.
Brooke was named chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) on 25 December 1941 and held the post until 25 January 1946, serving concurrently (from March 1942) as chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He was constantly in meetings, including all summit conferences from 1942 through 1945 concerned with the strategic direction of the war. He held off the American desire for a premature cross-Channel invasion while supporting action in North Africa and Italy to spread and destroy German forces prior to an invasion of France.
Brooke's feelings toward Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill varied from admiration to exasperation. Churchill's penchant for late-night meetings, his impetuosity or interference in military affairs, and his focus on detail at the expense of broader strategic thinking constantly tried his patience. Brooke's diaries, first published in highly edited fashion in the mid-1950s (and only made available in their full form in 2001), include some of the first postwar criticism of Churchill. Brooke grew to hate the meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff for the constant wrangling that arose—especially given his dim view of the strategic thinking of U.S. military leaders, especially Generals George C. Marshall and Dwight D. Eisenhower. A firm supporter of General Bernard Montgomery, he had little patience for those he believed to be of limited abilities.
Promoted to field marshal in January 1944, Brooke was created a baron (becoming Lord Alanbrooke of Brookborough in September 1945) and a viscount (in January 1946) and was knighted later in 1946. He died on 17 June 1963 at Ferney Close, England.
Christopher H. Sterling
Bryant, Arthur. The Turn of the Tide, 1939–43: Based on the Diaries of Field Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke. London: Collins, 1955.; Bryant, Arthur. Victory in the West, 1943–45: Based on the Diaries of Field Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke. London: Collins, 1957.; Danchev, Alex, and Daniel Todman, eds. War Diaries, 1939–1945: Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.; Fraser, David. Alanbrooke. London: Collins, 1982.; Fraser, David. "Alanbrooke." In John Keegan, ed., Churchill's Generals, 89–103. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.