Sir Gerald William Lathbury was born on 14 July 1906, India, son of the late Colonel O Lathbury. He was educated at Wellington and Sandhurst before being Commissioned into the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1926.
Lathbury served a secondment to the Royal African Frontier Force for two years and served with the Gold Coast Regiment from 1928 until 1933. He was at the Staff College in 1937-38 and went on to serve in France in 1940 where he was awarded an MBE.
He then went on to serve in North Africa, Sicily and Italy and received a DSO in 1943, culminating in 1944 where he commanded a brigade during the Arnhem operations. He suffered wounds at Sicily and Arnhem but was able to escape across the Rhine and for this he awarded the United States DSC (Distinguished Service Cross).
Post war Lathbury continued his career ascendancy, attending the Imperial Defence College in 1948 and becoming Major General of the 16th Airborne Division before being selected as Commandant of the Staff College, which he held from 1951 until 1953.
In 1955 he was made Commander-in-Chief, East Africa and sent to Nairobi to deal with the Mau-Mau Rebellion. By the time of his arrival the rebellion had lost the majority of its initial momentum but Lathbury nonetheless assisted in concluding operations sooner than expected. For his actions in Kenya he was made KCB (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath) in 1956 along with promotions to Lieutenant General in 1957 and appointment to Director General of Military Training.
Lathbury, in 1960, was appointed to General Officer Commanding in Chief Eastern Command and promoted General. He became Quarter Master General to the Forces in 1961 until 1965 where he was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar before retiring in 1969.
He married in 1942 to Jean with whom he had two daughters, Virginia and Annabel, but the marriage ended in 1972 where upon he married Mairi Zoe until his death on 16 May 1978 at the age of 71. The following excerpts are from a tribute written by Brigadier James Hill after the death of Sir Gerald William Lathbury:
“He was a most interesting man endowed with much wisdom – no doubt due to the fact that in the painting of his life he had covered such a broad canvas. I like to think of the four and a half years he spent soldiering in West Africa before the war – of his days as Commander-in-Chief in Kenya…of his sense of the honour done to him on his appointment as Colonel of both the West India Regiment and later the Jamaica Regiment. Being a very human and discerning man I remember how much he enjoyed their good Jamaican cigars…I see on that canvas – his life in the Second World War…A parachute Brigade Commander in North Africa, Sicily and Arnhem, whilst, although, badly wounded he hobbled out of hospital and escaped. A fighting soldier and formidable parachute commander.”
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