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Brigadier Nigel Poett

Brigadier Nigel Poett

Brigadier Nigel Poett

Brigadier Nigel Poett

Nigel Poett with Brigadier Hugh Kindersley, after completing a training jump at Ringway

Brigadier Poett receives his DSO from General Eisenhower

Brigadier Poett receiving the DSO from Field Marshal Montgomery

Brigadier Poett with Major-General Gale

Brigadier Poett with Lieutenant-Colonel Pine-Coffin in Normandy

Brigadier Poett with Field Marshal Montgomery during the Battle of the Bulge

Nigel Poett with Field Marshal Montgomery and senior officers of the 6th Airborne Division in the Ardennes

Officers of the 6th Airborne Division with Field Marshal Montgomery in May 1945

Nigel Poett in his later years

Brigadier Joseph Howard Nigel Poett

 

Unit : Headquarters, 5th Parachute Brigade

Army No. : 38346

Awards : Distinguished Service Order and Bar

 

Nigel Poett was born at Winterborne St Martin, near Dorchester, on the 20th August 1907, together with his twin sister, Angela. His father was a military man who had served with The Dorsetshire Regiment in a variety of locations, and during the Boer War he had held a staff appointment at General Headquarters. He later commanded the 1st Dorsets in India, and in 1907, at the rank of Brigadier-General, he was Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, India. After the birth of the twins, the family returned to India, but in 1910 they relocated to British Columbia, Canada, so that their father could pursue his wish to become a farmer. Due to a shortage of manpower and the ill combination of his father's hard work and senior years, the expedition failed and so, in early 1914, the family returned to England and settled in London. Several months later the Great War began, and with the great demand for men to join the British Army, his father applied to become a member of Kitchener's Army and was duly given command of the 55th Brigade. In 1915, he took up a staff appointment with IX Corps.

 

Nigel, meanwhile, attended a Catholic public school. It was his intention to follow his father into the armed forces, and when he left school he attended Sandhurst. At his request, on the 1st September 1927, he was posted to the 1st Battalion The Durham Light Infantry, shortly before they embarked for overseas service in Egypt. He remained at the Battalion's base in Alexandria until 1930, when he was called to join the 2nd Battalion in India, where he spent the following year on the volatile North-West Frontier. In 1931, in between holding various staff appointments at Government House, Barrackpore, Poett was promoted to Acting Captain and served as Aide-de-Camp to General Bethell, commander of the Presidency and Assam District. In 1935, he left India to visit his elder sister, Evelyn, in Australia, and during the voyage he met Julia, the young lady who was soon to become his wife. On the 26th May 1937, they married in Wellington, New Zealand, and in the years to come they had three children, Joanna, Simon and Brian.

 

With the Second World War imminent, the couple returned to England, and when War was declared, Poett, now holding the rank of Major, became a 2nd Grade General Staff Officer (GSO-2) at the War Office. His duties in these early days primarily concerned the distribution of armaments to various units and theatres of operations, which proved no small task due to very limited supplies of weaponry available and the great demands for them all over the world. In May 1940, Poett's work took him to France shortly before the German advance through Holland, Belgium and France commenced. He returned to England just as the evacuation from Dunkirk was beginning, and quite anxious to get into some front line action he requested a posting away from the War Office. This was granted and, when they had returned from France, he was posted to the 2nd Infantry Division to served as a GSO-2. Much to his disappointment, however, he was recalled to the War Office several months later to take up a post with the Staff Duties Directorate. In early 1941, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and became a 1st Grade General Staff Officer. It was while holding this position that, on one occasion that year, he was called to 10 Downing Street to discuss a posting of administrative staff to the Middle East, the sheer size of which Churchill had objected to. As a stranger to the Prime Minister, Poett felt that his initial comments were met with some hostility, however after he had ably answered all of Churchill's many questions, the meeting proceeded more smoothly. 

 

In December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States of America entered the War. Churchill left Britain soon after for a meeting with President Roosevelt, and a few days into the visit, word was received at the War Office for several officers to join him immediately for discussions with their counterparts in American, Nigel Poett was amongst the party. When he returned home, Poett again expressed his desire to leave the War Office and take command of a Battalion, and in due course he was given the 11th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry. He commanded this unit in various locations around the British Isles until May 1943, when he arrived at his desk one morning to find a letter informing him that he had been selected to raise and command the 5th Parachute Brigade. The thought of parachuting had never occurred to Poett before, but nevertheless he took on the post with enthusiasm and had soon completed his parachute training at Ringway airfield. His task was then to prepare his young Brigade for the part that they would play in the Normandy Invasion.

 

In 1991, Nigel Poett published his memoirs, "Pure Poett", and the following are extracts from the book:

 

"My 5th Parachute Brigade was given the task of seizing the bridges and securing the bridgehead in depth... General Gale, in giving me my orders, specified that, in seizing the bridges, reliance should be placed on speed and surprise and that the assault should take the form of a coup de main. The bridges and their defences must be rushed before the bridges could be destroyed. The General, in studying my 5th Para Brigade problem, had concluded that only a glider-borne force could be landed sufficiently concentrated and close enough to the bridges to enable them to be rushed before the Germans could destroy them. The General accordingly placed under my command a glider-borne Company of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry... Possible landing grounds close to the bridges were very restricted in size and only three gliders could land at each bridge. It was felt, however, that provided the bulk of {Major} Howard's six platoons were landed accurately, they could hold out until relief came from a parachute battalion landing in the area north of Ranville. I selected Lieutenant-Colonel Pine-Coffin's 7th Para Battalion to be responsible for relieving Howard's force at the bridges... The speed with which the 7th Battalion could reach the bridges would depend on the accuracy with which they were dropped.. The river bridge was some 1200 yards from the centre of the dropping zone and the canal bridge 400 yards further."

 

"There was a considerable element of risk in the coup de main operation and a contingency plan was necessary in case it miscarried. The contingency plan included an assault crossing of the two waterways by the 7th Para Battalion. Detailed orders were issued to the Battalion for this operation. They carried thirty inflatable dinghies and twelve recce boats in large kit bags attached to the legs of the paratroopers and released on a cord before landing. I decided to drop with a small command post at the same time as the Pathfinders, so that, if the coup de main did miscarry, I could control the contingency plan and adjust the deployment of the Brigade."

 

"The 6th Airborne Division planning was done in a specially protected small house, known as Brigmaston Farm House, close to Divisional HQ. Each brigade was allotted a room in the house. Here intelligence summaries, maps and air photographs were kept under conditions of maximum security. An accurate scale model of the whole divisional area was maintained, and also detailed large-scale models of the bridges over the river and the canal, their surroundings and defences. The intelligence material was constantly kept up to date. The number of individuals given passes to admit them to Brigmaston was kept to a minimum. Each individual was briefed at the last possible moment, consistent with his own planning and training commitments. It was here that Howard carried out all his planning. He had access to the Intelligence information available and he could ask for any information he wished."

 

"Intensive training continued for all units of the Brigade Group. During May I went to Exeter to watch an exercise Howard had arranged for his Company... Meanwhile the specially selected glider pilots were training equally intensively. Night after night they followed the course of the operational flight plan they would use. They landed in the darkness, on tiny patches, to simulate their D-Day tasks... Our preparations and planning were now complete. As far as we could judge nothing had been left to chance. Towards the end of May the whole Brigade moved to specially sealed transit camps close to the airfields from which we would fly... Officers and men were, for security reasons, not allowed to leave the camp. All the intelligence material and briefing equipment had been assembled there. All ranks in turn were told their exact tasks on D-Day. They were able to go over, time and again, what they had to do. From Harwell I paid a last visit to Major Howard and his D Company and found them in great heart. They had been visited by Monty and assured him that they would not fail."

 

"At 9.30pm on 5 June, the evening before D-Day, lorries drew up at our transit camp, a separate lorry for each aircraft 'stick' as we called it, to take us to the airfield from which we would fly - in our case Brize Norton. A welcoming cup of tea and then we were alongside our aircraft. It was an Albemarle. None of my stick had ever been in one before... We all piled in and sat on the floor facing the tail... Most of the men in the 'stick' were carrying just a bit more than their normal gear, perhaps extra ammunition, extra grenades, weapons or even food. There were ten unusually fat men under their jumping jackets! We would need to be well squashed up together, to be clear of the doors on the floor, so that when the time came I could open them. Then we settled down. It was 11pm and we were off."

 

"Then in due course the word was passed back, 'Open the doors'. My personal struggle then began - pushing, cursing, shoving to get enough room for me to be off the doors and able to open them, and time was slipping away as we approached the coast of France. Then success; I was leaning over the open doors. Down below me the sea looked choppy and uninviting. Now we were speeding over the coast defences, at about 400 feet and not a shot was fired at us. Surprise was complete. The red light came on - 'prepare to jump' - then the green, 'jump' and I was out in the night air and, almost immediately, in fact some 20 seconds, a big bump. I had arrived safely on the soil of France. It was all much too quick. I had done none of the things I ought to have done such as identifying Ranville church, or pulling on my lift webs to get a good landing, but I was down and I had not landed on top of one of Rommel's asparagus - anti-airlanding poles - set to catch us."

 

"I had no idea where I was. It was too dark to see the church or any of the landmarks on which we had been briefed, but I could see the exhaust of the aircraft disappearing and I knew that it would be going over Ranville... After getting rid of my parachute, I moved in the direction of flight of my aircraft, and sure enough I came across one of my men and he and I set off in the same direction. Then almost at once, to my right, the silence and the darkness was transformed: All the sights and sounds of battle - explosions, firing, signal lights and so on. Now I knew exactly where I was and where I must go, as fast as possible... I now had some 1200 yards to go across country - typical agricultural land, much of it standing crops, but several roads to cross and it was very dark. We saw no one. Then, as we approached the river bridge, we had to use extra caution. Sporadic shooting and explosions were continuing and I didn't know whether the bridges were in enemy hands or ours. Soldiers can be rather trigger-happy about men approaching their posts at night. Almost at once, however, I identified our own men. The password was exchanged. I was soon with Lieutenant (now Colonel) Tod Sweeney who recorded the time as 0052 hrs, just about half an hour after my time of landing as recorded by the pilot."

 

"I spent little time with the captors of the river bridge. They were naturally very thrilled with their achievement and were busy organizing their defences... My companion and I then set off to cover the 400 yards between the two bridges. In the excitement of meeting up at the river bridge, John Howard's Platoon Commander had not told him of my arrival, nor that I was on my way to see him. He was surprised, and a little put out, as I walked unexpectedly into his position. But he was so thrilled with his success, and with my very warm congratulations, that his Platoon Commander was quickly forgiven."

 

"The drop of the main body of the {5th Parachute} brigade, which I had heard coming in at 0050, was not as accurate as hoped. For a variety of reasons, in particular the poor weather and visibility, a few of the guiding beacons had been put out too far to the east. This, with the high wind, resulted in some of the men dropping in the more difficult country off the dropping zone and further from their RV... The men of the three battalions and of other units of the Brigade Group being mixed up and scattered on and off the DZ, the whole being a scene of some confusion as the men of the different units sorted themselves out, and in the very poor visibility searched for their RVs... Many {heavy weapons} containers had fallen in the standing corn. In the darkness, and with very little moonlight to help, not much of this heavy equipment was found until daylight. The absence of mortars, medium machine guns and particularly wireless sets was to prove a serious loss to the battalions when they came to repel the German attacks in the morning."

 

"In fact all the units had done extremely well on the DZ, but it must have been after 2am that {Lieutenant-Colonel} Pine-Coffin had assembled sufficient of his men to move to the bridges... Pine-Coffin with his weak companies reached the canal bridge shortly after 2.30am. His War Diary records it as earlier and Howard's as later. The conditions and the darkness made it difficult to consult watches... With Pine-Coffin's men in position on the west bank, I felt confident that, for the time being, the bridgehead would be secure from the west. I, therefore, left the canal bridge and made for Ranville to see how the 13th Battalion had fared. I soon met up with Peter Luard, the Battalion Commander. He was in splendid heart. He had had little difficulty in over-running the village and he was now in the course of 'mopping up' some of the houses which had been occupied by the Germans... After going round some of the 13 Para positions, I was entirely satisfied and was able to move on to Johnston's 12 Para. They were to hold the southern sector of the bridgehead, east of the River Orne, including Le Bas de Ranville and were hard at work preparing their defensive positions. We knew they had a tough time ahead. They would bear the brunt of any attack from 21 Panzer Division which had been moved close to Caen just before D-Day... The Battalion had only a short time to prepare themselves and they were certainly making the most of it."

 

"After satisfying myself that all was well with the 12th, I walked back to the DZ in the hope of meeting General Gale and briefing him on the situation of my brigade. By now it was beginning to show the first traces of light and I had not been long on the DZ before I saw the distinctive figure of the General... I was able to tell him that the operations of the 5th Parachute Brigade had been entirely successful... I now made for my HQ being set up in the grounds of the Château de Ranville. I knew that Guy Radmore, my excellent signals officer, would have established communications with the battalions and would be in touch with Divisional HQ when that was set up. My Brigade Major also had everything well under control and I was given a full picture of the work going ahead to strengthen the defences all round the Brigade area."

 

"At about 9.30am I went with General Gale on a visit to 7th Battalion HQ... Hugh Kindersley was with us. He was waiting for the arrival of his Glider Brigade due 9pm that night. The General found Pine-Coffin and his men in fine form, in spite of the hammering they were getting. He was left in no doubt that Pine-Coffin would hold his position."

 

Upon hearing of the difficulties that the 12th Battalion were facing at Le Bas de Ranville... "I went at once to the 12th and found that they were putting up a stout resistance and they soon regained the ground lost. My 13th Para Battalion was alerted to support the 12th if need be... The pressure on the 7th and 12th Battalions never ceased. Sometimes the Germans succeeded in surrounding companies but they were always forced to withdraw."

 

By the end of the day, however, both of the Battalions were relieved and able to withdraw into reserve around Ranville. The 5th Parachute Brigade's tasks had all been successfully completed. For the next two months, the Brigade's units served in a number of positions around the Orne Bridgehead. On the 17th August, however, the Germans began to withdraw and the 6th Airborne Division followed very closely. Poett resumes his account with the build-up to the 5th Parachute Brigade's advance on Putot-en-Auge on the 19th August, the 3rd Parachute Brigade first securing the bridges out of the River Dives valley.

 

"It was hoped that he {Brigadier Hill} would secure the railway, which was to by my start line, by 2.00am. This would give me, at best, only three hours of darkness during which to secure my objective - the Heights of Putot. The time was very short; I would not be able to make any firm plan or issue orders until it was known at which bridge Hill's crossing would be made and whether he had been successful in securing the start line for my attack. It was going to be a difficult night! I brought my Brigade forward at once to various concealed positions close to the village of Goustranville and from the church tower showed my Battalion Commanders as much as possible of the ground and gave them my general thinking on a plan for the night attack."

 

"Hill's advance started punctually at 10pm, and by 11 o'clock he had reached the canal. He then reported that the railway bridge in the north had been blown, but he thought it passable for infantry. The next bridge to the south was destroyed and the bridge carrying the Route Nationale had also been destroyed. There was no information yet on the farm bridge... At that time it was thought by Hill that the railway bridge was the only practicable crossing place and I accordingly directed the 13th Battalion, under Colonel Luard, to make for that bridge... The route for the 13th Battalion to the railway bridge was difficult to follow because of the darkness and the many small water-courses to be crossed. By the time Luard reached the bridge the water level had risen still further and it was obvious that a crossing at that bridge was no longer possible. In the meantime, the Canadian Parachute Battalion patrols had located a second small farm bridge close to the known one. These two narrow bridges thus became the only crossing places for the whole of my Brigade. There was now no alternative but to order the return of Luard's Battalion, through the same difficult route he had taken earlier, with a view to him making use of the farm bridges."

 

"I was now able to finalize a plan for an attack by the Brigade on the Putot position. Colonel Pine-Coffin's 7th Battalion was to secure the spur immediately east of Putot, while Colonel Stockwell's 12th Battalion was to secure and mop up the village... The church and cemetery of Putot stand on a very prominent mound which dominates the countryside in three directions. The ground at the bottom of the mound is, however, 'dead' ground for enemy in the village attempting to fire on the troops waiting to attack. The 12th then scaled the mound and pressed forward their attack with the greatest vigour in close hand-to-hand fighting. The German garrison of Putot were soon taken prisoner or killed. Soon after we had seized Putot I learnt with great sadness that my jeep driver, Corporal Leatherbarrow, who had been with me throughout the Normandy Campaign and whom I had left in my jeep on the outskirts of the village, had been killed by a stray shell. It was a sad blow as Corporal Leatherbarrow had become a close friend."

 

"As soon as the 12th had completed the mopping up of Putot, I ordered the 13th forward to secure first the spur running north from Putot, which had been the Brigade's original objective, and then to exploit eastwards and seize the high ground which overlooked Dozulé. Luard's first objective was strongly held but he secured it after a hard fight. When it came to exploiting towards the heights overlooking Dozulé, he met much stiffer opposition and could make no progress. Luard was suffering considerable casualties and I reached the conclusion that the task was beyond his resources in daylight and I ordered him to consolidate on the Brigade's original objective."

 

"The task of the Brigade for 22 August was to secure the town of Pont L'Evêque and establish a bridgehead over the River Touques. My orders were that the 13th Battalion was to advance on the axis of the Route Nationale 175 and infiltrate into the town. The 12th was to force a crossing south of the town and secure the St Julien feature which controlled the approach from the south... As soon as I arrived I reconnoitered the approaches to the St Julien feature... I concluded that an assault across the open ground south of the town, which was commanded from the high ground east of the river, would be too hazardous an operation in daylight. Accordingly I issued orders for a night attack... I then left for my HQ. En route I was intercepted by Colonel Harvey with a personal message from the General. General Gale had been told by local people that the Germans were about to pull out of the town. Sensing the opportunity of cutting off their retreat, he sent orders, through Harvey, that the 'crossing was to be forced immediately in daylight and at all cost'... Unfortunately the local information proved to be incorrect. The Germans were in fact preparing their defences for a stubborn battle."

 

"The attack {by the 12th Battalion} started at 3pm... All seemed to be going well and some men were seen to have crossed the river... In fact the ford had not been found. Only the Company Commander, Captain Baker, and nine men had succeeded in getting across by swimming and these soon became casualties or were pinned down. The second Company was also pinned down, along with the leading Company, by withering automatic fire and by shelling from the St Julien feature and the high ground east of the river. I realized that there was no prospect of success in daylight and that to go ahead would only result in unacceptable casualties. I therefore ordered the attack to cease and the Battalion to consolidate on the positions reached. The situation would be reviewed when it became dark."

 

"I then went to the 13th Battalion in Pont L'Evêque to see how they had fared. The Battalion had had an initial success in penetrating into the town, but was now meeting increasingly severe opposition from well-sited and strongly defended German positions... The town was burning fiercely and, after a reconnaissance with Colonel Luard, I decided that it would not be practicable to make a further attempt to force the crossing of the main river until the fires in the town had died down... I then asked for a meeting with the Divisional Commander to discuss the situation. The General sent his GSO1 forward to Brigade HQ where he met me. It was agreed that no further attack should be pressed by Colonel Luard that night and that his Battalion should be ready to seize a crossing place in the morning if this appeared possible. It was also agreed that the proposed attack on the St Julien feature during the night should be cancelled. It was further agreed that, after dark, the 12th Battalion should withdraw from its unpleasant position south of the town. It would then come into reserve and the 7th Battalion assume responsibility for the west and south approached to the town. Fortunately the night proved relatively quiet. The Brigade casualties on 22 August had been thirty-four killed and sixty-one wounded. The Germans had suffered much more heavily. Local people reported 127 new German graves and ambulances busy all night evacuating wounded."

 

"In the morning Colonel Luard and I carried out a recce. A patrol under Captain Skeate had succeeded in crossing the river without opposition, the fires in the burning town had died down somewhat and it appeared that the chance of securing a bridgehead on the far bank was now favourable. I therefore ordered Colonel Luard to secure this bridgehead with the utmost speed. 'B' Company was soon across and attempted to increase the foothold gained by Skeate's patrol, but then met stiff resistance and were held up... It was clear to me that the foothold gained by the 13th Battalion on the east bank of the river was too small and the communications too insecure to make it practicable as a route for a fresh attack. Its retention could only lead to severe casualties. I therefore decided to withdraw the 13th Battalion and that the 7th Battalion should assume responsibility for the western end of the town, and form a firm base through which the 13th Battalion could withdraw. The withdrawal was skillfully conducted and was carried out in a most gallant and steady manner."

 

"The night of the 23/24 August was quiet. Patrols at first light, 6am, discovered that the Germans had slipped out of the town during the night. I ordered an immediate follow-up by the 7th Battalion on the axis of the Pont Audemer road. At 10am the General arrived at Brigade HQ. He gave orders for an immediate advance on Pont Audemer. The 7th Battalion had already got well beyond the first of the Division's bounds and their progress fitted in well with the Divisional plan. During this visit the General placed the Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment and the Royal Netherlands Brigade under my command... The 7th Battalion, in spite of a most exhausting few days, showed their toughness and marching qualities by the speed at which they reach Pont Audemer and secured the west bank of the River Risle."

 

"The final dash to Pont Audemer marked the end of our Normandy campaign. A message had come to General Gale saying that the 6th Airborne Division would be withdrawn from the line and sent back to England as soon as shipping could be provided... We were now to be sent back to England to prepare for an operation elsewhere. We embussed in vehicles in the Trouville area and then set off for Arromanches from where we would embark. This proved a most uncomfortable procedure as the sea was rough and we had to climb up the side of our ships using scrambling nets. Fortunately we had only one serious accident. Back at home, we had a kind welcome from everyone in Bulford and Larkhill, where we were based, and then went on a short period of leave. It was splendid to see our families again. Julia was at our Old Green Lane house at Camberley with the family, consisting now of three children. It was a short but happy leave."

 

For his performance throughout the Normandy campaign, Brigadier Poett was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. His citation reads:

 

For gallant and distinguished conduct from the 5/6th June to the 30th August. Throughout this whole period Brigadier Poett has commanded his Brigade with gallantry and skill. By his tactical ability he held Ranville against determined and well pressed home attacks notably on the 6th and 10th June. With the exception of one short period of a few days his Brigade was continuously in the line and in contact with the enemy throughout this period. He has had in killed and wounded just under 1,000 casualties: his battalions have been down in one case to under 200 and in the other two to 300 strong. In spite of this he has always held a full brigade front; never have his troops shown war weariness and never have they been anything but fit, keen and efficient. His is an example when leadership, example and personal character and courage have not only held men together, but have sustained in them a most astounding confidence in themselves. His skilful handling of the battle for the bridges and later in the fight for Ranville were but highlights in a period of spirited and inspiring command. On the 18/19th August Brigadier Poett's Brigade by a quickly planned and energetically carried out night advance seized the high ground South of Dozule. His Brigade forced the crossings over the River Touques at Pont L'Eveque against the most determined resistance. His skill as a commander and his personal courage as a man are beyond praise.

 

Poett continued to lead the 5th Parachute Brigade, during the Division's role in the Ardennes and, in March 1945, Operation Varsity, the offensive to secure a crossing over the River Rhine. For his conduct here he was awarded a bar to the DSO:

 

On the 24th March 1945 Brigadier Poett dropped with his Brigade East of the Rhine with the task of clearing and holding the northern face of the divisional area. The dropping zone was strongly defended by infantry and flak guns. It was a case of every man for himself during the first few minutes, and it was here that Brigadier Poett, by personal example, inspired those around him with a fierce determination to get in amongst the enemy. It was in no small measure due to their leaders own complete disregard for his personal safety that the dropping zone was quickly cleared to enable units to rally. During the rally Brigadier Poett was constantly exposing himself in order to organise his men for the assault on the Brigade objectives. These were taken in a remarkably short time. Throughout the day he put up a remarkable personal effort of sheer courage and determined leadership which infused his whole Brigade with tremendous enthusiasm.

 

Following the defeat of Germany, the 6th Airborne Division was to move to the Far East in preparation for an operation against the Japanese in Burma. In the event, however, only the 5th Parachute Brigade had arrived in India before the War there was nearing its conclusion and the further deployment of the Division was deemed unnecessary. Poett and his Brigade, however, remained in the region and assisted in the liberation of Malaya and Singapore. In December 1945, the Brigade was posted to the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. This was a most difficult assignment because the Indonesians did not like the British, they hated the Japanese and positively detested their former Dutch masters. Added to Poett's Brigade Group was a troop of tanks and a troop of artillery, and as the military presence was so thin and a police force of any description essential, he also had an excellent Battalion of Japanese soldiers under command. Despite numerous skirmishes with the locals and other difficulties, the Brigade's presence gradually calmed the situation and the district became orderly. In early 1946, Brigadier Poett received word that he was to return to England to take up the much coveted post of Director of Plans at the War Office. Nevertheless it was a painful experience for him to say farewell to the Brigade that he had raised and led for three years. "They were my friends, indeed, I felt, part of my family. It was a wrench to leave them. I had to say goodbye to Geoffrey Pine-Coffin, to Peter Luard and to many others, officers and men who had been with me from the start. It was hard to say goodbye and thank them enough."

 

In his new post, Poett worked under the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), Lord Alanbrooke and, when he retired, Field Marshal Montgomery. Many at the War Office had difficulties in working with Montgomery, however Poett had no such problems and spent what he regarded as a happy eighteen months under him. Towards the end of 1947, he studied at the Imperial Defence College, and a year later was involved in a report concerning the future shape of the Armed Forces, the nation's finances being very poor at the time and the expensive military in need of being reformed. In 1949, Poett served in Greece under the much respected former airborne forces commander, General Eric Down. Shortly after, Poett was promoted to Major-General and made Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief Far East Land Forces, where he was heavily involved in the troubles developing in Malaya and Korea. In 1951, he was given command of the 3rd Infantry Division, stationed on the Suez Canal, at a time when relations with Egypt were similarly deteriorating. After several years in the Middle East, he was recalled to the War Office to be Director of Military Operations. In January 1957, Poett was made Commandant of the Staff College, and in the following year he was promoted to Lieutenant-General and given charge of Southern Command. His final appointment came in 1961, when he returned to the Far East Land Forces, but this time as Commander-in-Chief, a post that he held until 1966.

 

See also: Maj-Gen Gale, Lt-Col Pine-Coffin, Major Howard.

 

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