David Tyacke: Soldier who served under Montgomery, Wingate, Mountbatten and Slim
Tuesday 04 May 2010
David Tyacke had the honour of being the last Commanding Officer of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI). He commanded from 1957 until 1 October 1959, when the Battalion amalgamated with the Somerset Light Infantry.
A distinguished soldier who served under such wartime leaders as Montgomery, Wingate, Mountbatten and Slim, he was born and brought up in the Cornish village of Breage. "I can trace back, father and son, to at least 1620," he said. His father had fought at Ypres and Arras before being killed near the River Somme in 1918, and David was fascinated by military history – not merely its weapons and tactics but its accompanying social aspects. After Malvern College (1929-33) and Sandhurst, he joined the 2nd Battalion DCLI in 1935 and travelled to India the following year to join the 1st Battalion. While he was on leave war was declared and he was sent to France with the 2nd Battalion.
Following Dunkirk the DCLI was reformed at Sherborne, where Tyacke married Diana in June 1940. "Six days later we were sent to man the defences of Selsey Bill, where we remained throughout the Battle of Britain," he said. "By the autumn we had moved to Southampton, where we came under the command of General Montgomery. He was a hard taskmaster but much respected by the soldiers because they knew he would keep them informed. He was a supreme example of knowing the value of communications."
In 1943, now a Major, he was drafted to Burma to work under General Orde Wingate, after whose death the Chindits came under the direct command of the US general "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell – who, Tyacke said, "lived up to his nickname." Of all the wartime leaders with whom Tyacke served he retained his greatest admiration for General Bill Slim. "His achievement in defeating an implacable enemy with his 'Forgotten XIV Army' in the face of all the logistic and climate difficulties involved, must put him among the greatest military commanders of all time," he said.
After a spell at the War Office he was second-in-command of the DCLI in the West Indies. On the Battalion's return to Bodmin from the West Indies and promotion to Commanding Officer in 1957, Tyacke took part in the centenary celebration of the successful defence of Lucknow. Promoted to Major General, Tyacke became General Officer Commanding the Singapore District with responsibility over a far-flung area including Brunei and Bangkok. In 1970 he retired from the Army, living in Winchester and working in London as Controller of the Army Benevolent Fund.
Major General David Tyacke: born Breage, Cornwall 18 November 1915; married Diana (one son); CB; OBE; died Winchester 10 February 2010.
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