When World War II began in September 1939, Templer served as an intelligence officer in the British headquarters in France under Major General Sir F. N. Mason-Macfarlane. On 16 May 1940, he became chief of staff to an ad hoc British force under Mason-Macfarlane intended to assist the French on the British Expeditionary Force's western flank. On 27 May, Templer was evacuated with other British forces from Dunkerque. In Britain, he held various staff and command appointments, becoming the army's youngest lieutenant general in October 1942 and commanding II Corps in Newmarket.
In 1943, seeking a combat assignment, Templer requested a demotion to major general. Granted that, he successively commanded the 1st Division in North Africa and the 56th Division in Italy under the U.S. Fifth Army. His division saw heavy fighting at Monte Camino in late 1943 and at the Anzio bridgehead in January and February 1944, suffering substantial casualties. In July 1944, Templer transferred to command the 6th Armoured Division. In August, as the division advanced on Florence, he was severely wounded by a mine and evacuated to Britain.
Once recovered, Templer worked briefly for the Special Operations Executive, and in March 1945, he began a year as the energetic director of civil affairs and military government in British-occupied Germany. After War Office assignments as director of military intelligence and vice chief of the Imperial staff as well as heading Eastern Command, he became the British high commissioner and commander in chief in Malaya in October 1951, successfully suppressing a dangerous communist insurgency. From 1955 to 1958, Templer, now a field marshal, was chief of the Imperial General Staff, handling difficult Middle Eastern problems, including the 1956 Suez crisis, and reluctantly but vigorously implementing military cuts. Leaving active duty in 1958, Templer died in Chelsea, London, on 25 October 1979.
Cloake, John. Templer, Tiger of Malaya. London: Harrap, 1985.; Clutterbuck, Richard. The Long War: The Emergency in Malaya, 1948–1960. New York: Praeger, 1968.; Gorst, Anthony. "‘A Modern Major General': General Sir Gerald Templer, Chief of the Imperial General Staff." Contemporary British History 13, no. 2 (Summer 1999): 29–45.