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Combined Operations & Supreme Allied Commander SE Asia

Mountbatten was promoted to the rank of Commodore in 1941 and moved to Combined Operations.  He was given orders to prepare for a large scale raid and subsequently for an Allied permanent re-entry into the Continent of Europe.   In March 1942, Mountbatten was appointed Chief of Combined Operations and a Member of the Chief of Staff's Committee with the rank of acting Vice-Admiral. At just 41yrs it was noted that he had attained this rank two years before the illustrious hero of Trafalgar - Vice-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (1758-1805).  He was also awarded the honorary rank of Lieutenant-General and Air Marshal, the first time ever that an actual serving non-Royal officer had held ranks in all three Services.  Mountbatten was given the tasks to develop a programme of Commando raids along the North Sea and Atlantic coastlines of enemy held territory increasing in intensity and designed to tie up German resources that might otherwise be used on other fronts and to plan and prepare for the re-invasion of Europe (his over-riding priority).

On 19th August 1942, a disastrous sea-borne raid was launched by Allied forces on the German-occupied French port of Dieppe.  Mountbatten had personally pushed through the 'Dieppe Raid' (Operation Jubilee) but it was unsuccessful resulting in thousands being killed, mostly from Canada.  Virtually none of these objectives were met - Allied fire support was grossly inadequate and the raiding force was largely trapped on the beach by obstacles and German fire. Of the nearly 5,000-strong Canadian contingent, 3,367 were killed, wounded or taken prisoner - an exceptional casualty rate of 68%.  The 1,000 British Commandos lost 247 men.  The Royal Navy lost the destroyer HMS Berkeley (on the return crossing) and 33 landing craft - suffering 550 dead and wounded.  The RAF lost 106 aircraft.  Of the 50 US Army Rangers serving in Commando units, 6 were killed, 7 wounded and 4 captured.  The Nazi German propaganda machine seized the opportunity to show that the Allies were incompetent with Marshal Philippe Pétain (1856-1951), the Chief of Vichy France (the Head of State during World War II) wrote a letter of congratulation to the German Army for "cleansing French soil of the invader of this most recent British aggression." 


The Rt Hon. (Sir) Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the Prime Minister said - "my impression of 'Jubilee' is that the results fully justified the heavy cost…  it was a Canadian contribution of the greatest significance to final victory."  Not everyone has had the same view, stating that the loss of so many was too high and that claims that the losses were a 'necessary evil' were no justification. Mountbatten later justified the raid by arguing that lessons learned at Dieppe in 1942 were put to good use later in the war, stating "I have no doubt that the Battle of Normandy was won on the beaches of Dieppe. For every man who died in Dieppe, at least 10 more must have been spared in Normandy in 1944."  


HMS Sister Anne -

Mountbatten's HQ whilst he was Chief of Combined Operations​

flying Mountbatten's pennant


The insignia of (left to right) - 

Vice-Admiral, Lieutenant-General

& Air Marshal


The insignia of Combined Operations


Mountbatten (Chief of Combined Operations) in March 1943 

on the bridge of HMS Sister Anne,

with Rear Admiral

(later Vice-Admiral)

Sir Thomas Troubridge


The then Prime Minister -

The Rt Hon.Winston Churchill (left)

with Mountbatten (in his role as
Chief of Combined Operations)

at the Casablanca Conference


The insignia of SE Asia Command

(the phoenix rising from the fire -

said to signify the Allied might rising

from the ashes of the Japanese

occupied territories)

In January 1943, the Allies met in Casablanca, French Morocco where they discussed tactics for the next stage of World War II (including the invasion of Sicily) and confirmed that they would only accept 'unconditional surrender' from the Axis powers.  Mountbatten, along with the other Chiefs of Staff accompanied Churchill to the conference.  The role of Combined Operations grew and Mountbatten's personal influence increased.  He received high praise from his cousin - King George VI (1895(1936-1952) who wrote - "I do congratulate you so very much on the success you have made of C.O. despite all the obstacles you have met and the heavy opposition you have fought both on the administrative side and in active operations!  ... you have shown that it can, will and does work when properly organised."


Mountbatten with
(left) General George S. Patton, Jnr,

Commander of the US Seventh Army

at Camp Afna, near Casablanca,

Morocco in  January 1943


Mountbatten with
(right) US General of the Army

Douglas MacArthur in July 1944

Despite the subsequent successes in the role of Chief of Combined Operations, Mountbatten was keen to return to the sea and once again take command of a ship.  However, in August 1943 at the Allied Conference in Quebec, Canada, Mountbatten was offered the job of Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia.  

Mountbatten accepted the position of 'Supremo' only when he knew that he had full authority and support of all the Allied senior commanders including President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), the President of the USA.  Mountbatten was raised to the rank of an acting Admiral and knew that this new job was not going to be easy – but in typical spirit, he knew that success would come both personally and for the Allies.  Despite the horrendous climate of the monsoon seasonal rain and the priority given to defeat Nazi Germany, Mountbatten set to recapture the British colony of Burma, which Japan had invaded in 1942.


The Potsdam Conference (July/August 1945) -

(left to right) Prime Minister The Rt Hon. Winston Churchill (UK);

President Harry Truman (USA) and Marshal Joseph Stalin (USSR)

At the Potsdam Conference (held in July-August 1945) representatives from the UK, USA and the USSR (now the Russian Federation) met to discuss how they would administer the defeated Nazi Germany.  It was reported that Mountbatten used the event to try to convince Marshal Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) to invite him to visit Russia, using his close family ties with the former Imperial Russian Royal Family in an effort to impress the Russian leader.  Mountbatten's tactics fell flat and no invitation was forthcoming.

Despite the surrender of the Germans in May 1945, the War with Japan still continued.  Once most of Burma was re-captured, the command turned its attention towards its next major operational objective – Malaya, however the use of atomic bombs on the Japanese mainland brought World War II to an abrupt end.

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