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Edwin William Conquest Flavell
February 22, 1898 – December 1, 1993
6th Airborne Personnel.jpg
Brigadier Flavell (third left) with Field Marshal Montgomery during the Battle of the Bulge
Place of birth Cookham, Berkshire
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1914-1918
Rank Brigadier
Unit East Surrey Regiment
Commands held 2nd Parachute Battalion
1st Parachute Brigade
6th Airlanding Brigade
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
British airborne operations in North Africa
Operation Tonga
Battle of the Bulge
Awards Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross & two Bars
Legion of Merit (US)
Other work Deputy Lieutenant for Middlesex, Provincial Grand Master

Brigadier Edwin William Conquest Flavell DSO, MC & two Bars (22 February 1898 – 1 December 1993) was a British soldier who served in both the First World War and Second World War, commanding 1st Parachute Brigade and 6th Airlanding Brigade in the latter conflict before becoming Deputy Chief of Staff HQ First Allied Airborne Army.


First World War

Flavell was born on 22 February 1898, at Cookham, Berkshire, and was educated at King's College School in London. In 1914, at the age of 17, he enlisted in the East Surrey Regiment and was commissioned as an officer five months later. In 1916 he transferred to the newly formed Machine Gun Corps, and in 1917 he was believed to be the youngest major serving in the Flanders area at the age of 20.[1] He was wounded during the Battle of Cambrai in the same year, and by the end of the conflict had been awarded the Military Cross a total of three times (referred to as the Military Cross and two Bars). The first was awarded for taking command of an infantry company that had lost all of its officers; by his leadership the unit was able to continue advancing. The second (his first bar) was for conducting several personal reconnaissances of enemy positions.[1] In mid-March 1918, Flavell was transferred from the 19th Infantry Division to the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, where he took command of the 126th Machine Gun Company; one of the officers in the company was his future commanding officer, General (then Lieutenant) Richard Nelson Gale.[2]

On 21 March the Germans launched Operation Michael, a major offensive against the British Army, and the 42nd Division moved into the frontline near Bapaume, replacing the 46th (North Midland) Infantry Division who had taken heavy casualties.[3] The offensive was repulsed, and by the end of August the division had advanced towards the Hindenburg Line.[4] Forming a part of British Third Army, the division then made rapid advances towards Bapaume and by the end of September had reached the Hindenburg Line; on 27 September Flavell's brigade was tasked with capturing Highland Ridge, near Havrincourt Wood.[5] The next day, after the brigade had reached the top of the ridge, Gale's machine gun section sighted in on two German field guns moving parallel to their position; they sighted in on the horses leading the guns, but just before they could open fire, Flavell arrived. According to Gale, "Flavell could not resist and, firing one of the guns himself, he brought down the leading horses;" the crews fled and the section was able to capture the two guns.[6] This action resulted in Flavell being awarded his third Military Cross (second bar).[1]

Second World War

During the interwar period Flavell remained on the active list of the East Surrey Regiment, but became involved in the shipping industry with a business partner from the United States of America. He married in 1920 to Nora Cooper, having two sons and a daughter with her. When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Flavell was recalled to the British Army and subsequently given command of the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Middlesex Regiment. He subsequently saw service during the Battle of France in 1940, and was then given the task of raising the 70th Middlesex (Young Soldiers) Battalion.[1] On 22 June, 1940, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, created the British airborne establishment when he directed the War Office in a memorandum to investigate the possibility of creating a corps of 5,000 parachute troops.[7] In 1941 the 1st Parachute Brigade was formed, with Brigadier Richard Gale as its commander.[8] Gale selected Flavell, now a Colonel,[9] to raise and then command 2nd Parachute Battalion which would form part of the brigade.[1] His adjutant was Captain John Dutton Frost, who would later become famous for commanding the battalion during the Battle of Arnhem; both men qualified as parachutists in October, 1941.[1][10] In January 1942 Flavell gave Frost command over Operation Biting, a raid on a radar station on the French coast near Bruneval; the raid, which took place in February, was a success, bringing back vital technology.[1]

In the spring of 1942 Gale was promoted to Deputy Director of Staff Duties at the War Office,[11] and he passed command of the brigade over to Flavell.[12] Flavell, promoted to Brigadier,[13] transferred command of 2nd Parachute Battalion to Major Gofton-Salmond,[14] and in the beginning of November the brigade was sent to North Africa as part of Operation Torch.[15] Because of a shortage of aircraft, 3rd Parachute Battalion was forced to travel separately from the brigade, arriving on 11 November;[16] the rest of the brigade, including Flavell, arrived the next day.[17] He commanded the brigade for the whole of the period that it fought in North Africa, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order at the end of the brigade's service in the theatre; the citation stated that Flavell and the brigade had "fought magnificently and set a standard to the 1st Army difficult to emulate." Under his command the brigade had sustained 1, 700 casualties and taken more than 3, 500 Axis prisoners,[18] as well as winning eight Distinguished Service Orders, fifteen Military Crosses, nine Distinguished Conduct Medals and twenty-two Military Medals.[1] Flavell had a difficult time commanding the brigade while it was in North Africa. He was hampered by the fact that there were no senior officers who knew how to use airborne forces properly and efficiently, meaning that the airborne missions that were given to the brigade were often unsuitable to its abilities.[19][20] The same problems occurred when it was used in a ground role, for which it was considered to be unsuited, and Flavell found it difficult to prevent this occurring.[19][21]

The brigade ended its operations in North Africa in mid-April 1943, and Flavell left for England in June to take up a new command. He was replaced as commander of 1st Parachute Brigade by Brigadier G.W. Lathbury.[1][22] He became commander, Airborne Establishments, which was tasked with promoting closer cooperation with the Royal Air Force as well as providing reinforcements for 1st Airborne Division and aiding in the creation of the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade. Then on 1 June, 1944, he was given command of the 6th Airlanding Brigade, part of 6th Airborne Division.[1] On the night of 5 June the division conducted Operation Tonga, the British airborne portion of the Invasion of Normandy. As an airlanding brigade equipped with gliders, the brigade was the last unit belonging to the division to arrive, landing at 21:00 on 6 June in landing zone 'W' after it had been secured by the rest of the division.[23] Flavell continued to command 6th Airlanding Brigade throughout the period that 6th Airborne Division fought in Normandy, as well as when the division fought in the Ardennes during the German offensive there in December 1944. He was then appointed as Deputy Chief of Staff HQ in First Allied Airborne Army, and subsequently made an Officer of the American Legion of Merit.[1]

Postwar career

In the 1945 general election, Flavell stood as the Conservative candidate for North-West Hendon in London, but was defeated by a slim margin. After this, he became involved in property development and also managing his own company. In 1948 he was appointed as Deptuy Lieutenant for Middlesex, and some time later became the chairman of the County of Middlesex Territorial Army Association. In later life he became a Mason, rising to the rank of Provincial Grand Master, and also founded and presided over the Ickenham Cricket Club. He married for a second time, to Kathleen Fenton. Flavell died on 1 December, 1993.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Paradata – Obituary for Brigadier Flavell". Retrieved 2009-09-24.  
  2. ^ Gale, p. 39
  3. ^ Gale, pp. 40-41
  4. ^ Gale, pp. 46-47
  5. ^ Gale, pp. 48-49
  6. ^ Gale, pp. 50-51
  7. ^ Otway, p. 21
  8. ^ Gale, p. 115
  9. ^ Frost, p. 23
  10. ^ Frost, pp. 30-31
  11. ^ Dover, p. 105
  12. ^ Gale, p. 122
  13. ^ "Paradata – Roll Call - Brigadier Edwin William Conquest Flavell, MC, DSO". Retrieved 2009-09-25.  
  14. ^ Saunders, p. 72
  15. ^ Otway, p. 62
  16. ^ Thompson, p. 57
  17. ^ Otway, p. 75
  18. ^ Thompson, p. 90
  19. ^ a b Frost, p. 171
  20. ^ Otway, p. 81
  21. ^ Otway, pp. 88-89
  22. ^ Otway, pp. 87-88
  23. ^ Otway, pp. 181-182


  • Dover, Major Victor (1981). The Sky Generals. Cassell. ISBN 0-30430-480-8.  
  • Frost, Major-General John (1994). A Drop Too Many. Leo Cooper. ISBN 0850523915.  
  • Gale, General Sir Richard (1968). Call to Arms: An Autobiography. Hutchinson & Co..  
  • Harclerode, Peter (2005). Wings Of War – Airborne Warfare 1918-1945. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-30436-730-3.  
  • Otway, Lieutenant-Colonel T.B.H (1990). The Second World War 1939-1945 Army - Airborne Forces. Imperial War Museum. ISBN 0-90162-75-77.  
  • Saunders, Hilary St. George (1972). The Red Beret – The Story Of The Parachute Regiment 1940-1945. White Lion Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-85617-823-3.  
  • Thompson, Major-General Julian (1990). Ready for Anything: The Parachute Regiment at War. Fontana. ISBN 0006375057.  


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