Lord Killanin

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 5 (Sept/Oct 2012), Letters, Volume 20

Sir,—May I point out an error in the article on Lord Killanin (Michael Morris) in the last issue (HI 20.4, July/August 2012)? He is described as having been the Brigade Major of 30th Armoured Battalion in 79th Armoured Division but was, in fact, Brigade Major (BM) of 30 Armoured Brigade in Percy Hobart’s 79th Armoured Division. A battalion does not have a brigade major and there were no units referred to as ‘armoured battalions’ in the British Army in World War II. The correct designation of a brigade was written in cardinal numbers while divisions were designated with ordinals.
Lord Killanin, who was also known to at least one of his brigade commanders as Michael Killanin, was, because of his position as BM of 30 Armoured Brigade, in a privileged position regarding the planning for Operation OVERLORD, the assault landing in Normandy on 6 June 1944. Since his brigade was to play a crucial part in the opening phase of the landings, with its specialised tanks designed to clear paths through minefields, he had a detailed knowledge of the operation not vouchsafed to many of his rank and the very high security classification that went along with that. This classification was described as ‘bigot’, an anagram of ‘to Gib’, referring to Gibraltar, with which many intelligence personnel involved with the operation were associated.
As part of the security surrounding OVERLORD, personnel whose homes were in neutral Ireland were not permitted to go on leave for some months before D-Day, as travel between Britain and neutral countries was banned from 13 March 1944. Killanin delighted in recounting that, despite being ‘bigoted’ and knowing everything about the operation, he was allowed home on leave to Dublin in late May 1944, about two weeks before D-Day. He recalled that no one tried to stop him, even though he knew ‘everything’ except the fact that the operation would be postponed by 24 hours owing to bad weather.—Yours etc.,

Copyright © 2024 History Publications Ltd, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland | Tel. +353-1-293 3568