Major General O de T ‘Os’ Lovett CB CBE DSO*

An inspirational Sirmoori described by a brother officer as ‘a great and exemplary leader and trainer of Gurkhas’ who was awarded two ‘immediate‘ Distinguished Service Orders as a Brigadier.

Lovett as a Major General

Major General Osmond de Turville Lovett (known as ‘Os’) was born on 21 October 1898, the eldest son of W de T Lovett.  His younger brother was Lieutenant F H Lovett, who was killed in January 1942 in Malaya while serving with the 2nd Battalion.

Lovett was educated at Blundells School.  In 1940 he married Eleanor Wright at St Thomas’s Church, Dehra Dun.  They had no children.

Lovett, his wife and guests on his wedding day, 1940

He was gazetted to a Commission in the Indian Army from the Cadet College in Quetta in June 1917 and initially posted to 1st Bn 9th Gurkha Rifles, but was almost immediately cross-posted to their 2nd Battalion and saw active service with them in Mesopotamia from May 1918 to May 1919.  He was then transferred to the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas and joined them at Zinjan in North West Persia, remaining with them at Kazvin until February 1920 as Officer Commanding the Menjil Detachment.  He then moved to Enzeli where from March to April 1920 he commanded a Refugee & Internment Camp. He later moved with the 1st Battalion to Loshan where he commanded B Company and was Machine Gun Officer.  On  3 June 1920 the 1st Battalion War Diary reported: ‘Lieutenant Lovett with a platoon of D Company arrived in camp [at Imam Zadeh Hachem] with four chests of gold and treasure from the bank in Rasht, which were held by the Battalion for safe keeping’.  He was wounded while successfully ambushing an enemy patrol during a snowstorm near Rustamabad and although recommended for a Military Cross for his part in this action, it was not awarded.  However, he was mentioned in despatches for gallantry in North West Persia during 1918-1920.

Lovett remained with the 1st Battalion until November 1923 when he was seconded to the Mandalay Battalion of the Burma Military Police and appointed Assistant Commissioner.  He returned to the 1st Battalion in 1925 but in May 1928 was seconded to the Indian State Forces as Adjutant General Patiala State until May 1933 when he rejoined the 1st Battalion at Landi Kotal on the North West Frontier.

Lovett as a Captain in 1934

Since joining the 2nd Goorkhas in May 1919 Lovett had spent 7 of the subsequent 14 years serving away from the Regiment.  According to an article by Colonel PHD Panton CBE in the 1983 edition of The Journal, Lovett was seconded to the Burma Military Police to recover from his debts and for the same reason had gone to a higher paid job with the Patiala State Forces.  However in Burma his debts had increased further rather than decreased and he returned to the Regiment with ‘an even fatter portfolio of unpaid bills and  IOUs from a countrywide selection of shroffs, bunias and marwaris [traders]. The Regiment took over his liabilities recorded by the Adjutant in interesting but fat files!’.

In the same article Colonel Panton recalls Lovett’s passion for smart motor cars.  He usually drove Lancias but somehow managed to obtain a Rolls Royce from the Patiala Palace.  He was also an exceptionally talented horseman and a very fine polo player who represented the Regiment on numerous occasions.  Colonel Panton recalls in his article: ‘In early 1939, Os believed the primary Regimental objective was to win the Infantry Polo Cup at Bareilly; everything else was secondary to this objective.  He was quite ruthless in his pursuit of the Cup and when two of our ponies went lame half way through the tournament Os borrowed ponies from our pig-sticking friends the local Gunners.  This was strictly against the rules but he would let nothing stand in the way of winning the Cup – which we did against very strong and rich opposition.’

In January 1934 Lovett was cross-posted to the 2nd Battalion in the Malakand.  He was temporarily in command from May to July 1936 before the Battalion moved to Chittagong to carry out anti-terrorist and garrison duties in eastern Bengal.  Lovett went with them to Waziristan in October 1939 and almost immediately had a sharp encounter with the enemy whilst conducting a recce of the Biche Kashkai road when his force of 100 men sustained one man wounded.  The action is described in Colonel Panton’s article: ‘Bill Gough [Colonel WG Gough MC, the Commanding Officer] had inveigled the local Commander into letting him trail his coat along a road which ran through hostile country. Os was put in charge and he made an ad hoc mobile column of every conceivable vehicle including an ambulance with the red crosses blanked out with mud.  The Advance Guard came under enemy fire and halted, as did the Main Body.  Os set off to walk the 500m to the Advance Guard wearing jodhpurs and a pig sticking topi.  He was not the most elegant of figures on the ground (although he was impressive when mounted on a horse) and walked with his tummy leading and his chin sticking out at a slow methodical pace ignoring most of the shots which kicked up dust along the road but doffed his topi in a dignified salute to the firer whose shots came reasonably close to him’.

In October 1940 Lovett was posted back to the 1st Battalion in Baluchistan and shortly afterwards he was appointed Senior Supervising Officer of the Shumsher Dal Battalion of the Nepalese Contingent which had been seconded from the Royal Nepalese Army to support the British war effort.  That appointment was followed almost immediately by a brief period in command of the Regimental Centre before he raised and commanded the 4th Battalion in Dehra Dun.  He served with them for less than a month before rejoining the 1st Battalion at Meerut in April 1941 as Commandant.  In July that year the Battalion left for Iraq via the South Persian ports.  He successfully commanded the 1st Battalion throughout its time in Persia, Iraq, Cyprus and in the North African Campaign until March 1943 when he was appointed to command the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 4th Indian Division, of which the 1st Battalion was part.

Lovett when in command of the 1st Battalion in North Africa

Lovett had only just assumed command when his Brigade, with the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkhas as the spearhead, was ordered by the Divisional Commander, General Tuker (also a former 2nd Goorkha officer) to storm the Fatnassa feature.  The action, fought on 5-7 April 1943, was known as the Battle of Akarit and was a resounding Allied victory.  The account in the Regimental history attributes this to ‘The men he (Brigadier Lovett) had trained had executed one of the classical night attacks of military history’.  At an early stage of the battle 7th Indian Infantry Brigade Tactical HQ came under heavy enemy mortar fire and Lovett was wounded in three places but he carried on in command of the Brigade until the outcome of the battle was clear.  He was awarded an ’immediate’ Distinguished Service Order.  The citation stated: ‘The fighting spirit of his Brigade comes from himself and was shown in its best form by the speed, determination and fierceness of the thrust.  His tactical skill in this operation could not have been surpassed and his courage and leadership were of the very highest order.  Throughout, he was in the middle of the battle under intense shell, mortar and small arms fire conducting operations with his usual coolness and decision’.

Lovett as a Brigadier

After recovering from his wounds Lovett continued to command 7th Indian Infantry Brigade throughout the Tunisian and Italian Campaigns.  He was awarded another ‘immediate‘Distinguished Service Order for his part in the Battle of Cassino in early 1944.  The citation stated: ‘During the period 10 February to 28 March 1944 the Brigade remained in the line without relief, frequently in heavy rain and snow and under intense shelling and mortaring.  During the major operation against the Monastery feature on 17 – 18 February the Brigade suffered heavy casualties at the rate of some thirty every day.  Throughout this period of very considerable strain Brigadier Lovett remained calm and cheerful, visiting his troops daily and going right up to forward company positions.  His clear appreciation of the tactical side of the operations was always of the greatest value and his services throughout the period were outstanding’.

The Regimental History reports that on 29 May 1944 the 1st Battalion, near Arielli, were relieved by Italian paratroopers, some of the first Italian troops to enter the Adriatic front following the Italian switch to the Allies’ side.  Communication was in ‘a French of sorts’.  Of the Brigade Commander, Brigadier Lovett, it was reported that his ‘confidence in his qualifications exceeds the quality of his accent.’

Later that year, 7th Indian Infantry Brigade was ordered to move to Greece with 4th Indian Division, and Lovett took over as temporary Division Commander for a period of six months.  He was appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1945 in recognition of his work in Greece.

In October 1945 he took command of the 19th Indian Division and later the 7th Indian Infantry Division in Malaya.  In 1947 he took command of Rawalpindi District in India during the troublesome time of Partition.  He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the New Year Honours’ List 1948 before retiring from the Army that year and settling in Natal, South Africa, where he farmed near the town of Mooi River.  He died of a heart attack in October 1982.

Lovett’s medals were purchased circa 1982 by Mr John Atkin, a private collector, and sold at auction in 2001 for £6000 and again in 2015 for £6500.


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