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General Sir Edward Pellew Quinan KCB, KCIE, DSO, OBE (9 January 1885 – 13 November 1960) was a British army commander during World War II. During 1941, Quinan commanded the British and Indian Army forces in the Anglo-Iraqi War, the Syria-Lebanon campaign and the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran.

Early years and career in Indian Army

E. P. Quinan was of Anglo-Irish descent and was born in Calcuttamarker on 9 January 1885. His father died when he was ten years old. Although his mother later remarried, he was brought up and educated in Dublinmarker by his grandparents and aunts until he went to Sandhurstmarker in 1903.

He was commissioned into the Indian Army (27th Punjabis) in 1905. Before World War I, he served on active service on the North West Frontiermarker of the British Indian Empire. During the war he fought in Francemarker and Mesopotamia. He served at the battles of Neuve Chapelle, Loos and the attempt to relieve Kut al Amara and was wounded at Beit Aisa.

He returned to India and the Frontier and was a staff officer in the 1919 Afghan War. He wrote the official history of the campaign which is considered by military experts to be the model of a campaign history. He was awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his staff work during this campaign. In the 1920s and 1930s he rose to the command of his regiment (which in the 1922 reorganisation had become the 3rd bn 15th Punjab Regiment) and was selected to attend the Imperial Defence Collegemarker; an indication of his suitability for high command.

While in command at Jhansi in 1930, Amy Johnson, the famous British pilot, made a heavy landing on the parade ground during her epic flight from Londonmarker to Australia. Quinan was instrumental in getting her Gypsy Moth repaired.

As a colonel in 1933, he was an Instructor at the Indian Army Staff College in Quettamarker which is now in Pakistanmarker. Among his immediate predecessors at the College was Auchinleck and a successor was Montgomery. He returned to command his regiment in Jhansimarker.

In 1936, during the short reign of King Edward VIII, Quinan was appointed Aide-de-camp Brigadier to the King Emperor. He was posted to Daccamarker to assist in anti-terrorist operations against those fighting for Indian independence. Early in 1938, he was forced to take sick leave due to high blood pressure and convalesced for a number of months in Osborne House before being declared fit again for active service. He commanded his troops in the campaign against the Faqir of Ipi in Waziristan and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Despite his illness, he was promoted to major general at the end of 1938.

World War II service in Middle East

Generals Wavell and Quinan meet in the Middle East
spent the early years of World War II on the North West Frontier but in 1941, he was promoted to lieutenant general, consulted General Sir Archibald Wavell in Cairo and was sent to command the Indian Army Corps in the landing at Basra, Iraqmarker, and was appointed GOC British Troops in Iraq (Iraqforce).

At that time, the pro-German government of Iraq led by Rashid Ali al-Kaylani had tried to capture the RAF base at Habbaniyamarker and force the British to leave the country. During the short Anglo-Iraqi War, Quinan's invasion from the south, supported by British troops from Trans-Jordan overthrew the Axis-leaning Iraqi government and replaced it with a pro-British one. He became GOC 10th Army in Persia and Iraq Command. As the Luftwaffe had used bases in Syria to support the Iraqis, an operation was planned to invade Syria from Palestine, supported by Quinan's troops in Iraq and replace the Vichy French government of Syria and Lebanon with a Free French one. This was completed successfully. Later in 1941, he planned and executed the invasion of Persia. The principal reason for this was to secure the supply lines to the Soviet Unionmarker and to protect British oil installations in Abadan. The Shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi was considered to be pro-German so he was deposed and replaced by his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

He was knighted in the birthday honours of 1942 and made Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire. In August 1942, he was promoted to be a full general.

In 1943 he left the Middle East and was appointed GOCinC North West Army, India. Three months later, on November 16 1943, he retired for medical reasons, a recurrence of his previous problem of high blood pressure, and returned to Britain. In 1945 he was awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He lived quietly in Somerset until his death on 13 November 1960.


Quinan is now one of the "forgotten generals" of World War II. There are probably several reasons for this. He never commanded in a campaign against major Axis forces and so did not come to the public's notice. His style of command involved detailed planning and staff work for campaigns, as befitted his past as a successful staff officer on the North West Frontier. While this was effective on the Frontier and in Iraq and Iran, in the fast moving style of warfare that developed during World War II, this attention to detail was not always considered appropriate by political leaders such as Churchill.

His renowned attention to detail was noted in his Times obituary, which recorded that he “astonished, and sometimes appalled his subordinates by his meticulous attention to the duties of the smallest units under his command.”


  • Obituary in The Times, Tuesday, Nov 15, 1960

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