Sir Brian Urquhart
| Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations |
for Special Political Affairs
|Preceded by||Ralph Bunche|
|Succeeded by||Marrack Goulding|
|Born||28 February 1919|
Dorset, United Kingdom
|Profession||Soldier and diplomat|
|Years of service||1939–1945|
|Battles/wars|| Operation Overlord |
Operation Market Garden
Sir Brian Edward Urquhart KCMG MBE (born 28 February 1919) is a British World War II veteran, author and a former Undersecretary-General of the United Nations. He turned 100 in February 2019.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
A centenarian is a person who lives to the age of 100 years. Because life expectancies worldwide are below 100 years, the term is invariably associated with longevity. In 2012, the United Nations estimated that there were 316,600 living centenarians worldwide.
Born and raised in Dorset, Urquhart was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford.
Dorset is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The ceremonial county comprises the non-metropolitan county, which is governed by Dorset County Council, and the unitary authority areas of Poole and Bournemouth. Covering an area of 2,653 square kilometres (1,024 sq mi), Dorset borders Devon to the west, Somerset to the north-west, Wiltshire to the north-east, and Hampshire to the east. The county town is Dorchester which is in the south. After the reorganisation of local government in 1974 the county's border was extended eastward to incorporate the Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch. Around half of the population lives in the South East Dorset conurbation, while the rest of the county is largely rural with a low population density.
Westminster School is an independent day and boarding school in London, England, located within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. With origins before the 12th century, the educational tradition of Westminster probably dates back as far as 960, in line with the Abbey's history. Boys are admitted to the Under School at age seven and to the senior school at age thirteen; girls are admitted at age sixteen into the Sixth Form. The school has around 750 pupils; around a quarter are boarders, most of whom go home at weekends, after Saturday morning school. The school motto, Dat Deus Incrementum, is taken from the New Testament, specifically 1 Corinthians 3:6.
Christ Church is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Christ Church is a joint foundation of the college and the cathedral of the Oxford diocese, which serves as the college chapel and whose dean is ex officio the college head.
He was the son of the artist Murray McNeel Caird Urquhart (1880-1972), who abandoned his family in 1925 when Brian was six years old, and Bertha Rendall (1883-1984).
When World War II broke out, Urquhart joined the Army and, after a brief training period, was commissioned as an officer in The Dorset Regiment.The Battle of France ended before his unit could deploy to the Continent, and he and his men were part of the coastal defence forces in and around Dover during the Battle of Britain. He later transferred to the Airborne Division as an Intelligence Officer. In August 1942, he was severely injured in a training drop, damaging three vertebrae in his lower spine and breaking several bones. He spent months in the hospital, recovering and regaining his strength.
The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.
The Battle of Britain was a military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom (UK) against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany's air force, the Luftwaffe. It has been described as the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces. The British officially recognise the battle's duration as being from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps the period of large-scale night attacks known as The Blitz, that lasted from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941. German historians do not accept this subdivision and regard the battle as a single campaign lasting from July 1940 to June 1941, including the Blitz.
After his recovery, Urquhart served in North Africa and the Mediterranean, before returning to England to participate in the planning of airborne operations associated with Operation Overlord. In the autumn, as the 1st Airborne Corps Intelligence Officer, he assisted with the planning for Operation Market Garden, an ambitious airborne operation designed to seize the Dutch bridges over the rivers barring the Allied advance into northern Germany. He became convinced that the plan was critically flawed, and attempted to persuade his superiors to modify or abort their plans in light of crucial information obtained from aerial reconnaissance and the Dutch resistance. The episode was described by Cornelius Ryan in his book on "Market Garden", A Bridge Too Far . (In the film version, directed by Richard Attenborough, Urquhart's character was renamed "Major Fuller", to avoid confusion with a similarly named British General.) The subsequent failure of the operation and the heavy casualties that resulted vindicated Urquhart's judgment, but he became deeply depressed by his failure to persuade his superiors to halt the operation and requested a transfer out of the airborne forces.
Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings. A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful World War II military operation fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 25 September 1944, planned and predominantly led by the British Army. Its objective was a series of nine bridges that could have provided an Allied invasion route into Germany. Airborne and land forces succeeded in the liberation of the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, but at the Battle of Arnhem were defeated in their attempt to secure the last bridge, over the Rhine.
The Dutch resistance to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II can be mainly characterized as non-violent, and was organized by the Communist Party, churches, and independent groups. A peak of over 300,000 people were hidden from German authorities in the autumn of 1944, tended to by some 60,000 to 200,000 illegal landlords and caretakers, and tolerated knowingly by some one million people, including a few incidental individuals among German occupiers and military.
After leaving the Airborne Division, he was transferred to T-Force, a unit responsible for searching for German scientists and military technology. Urquhart captured the German nuclear scientist Wilhelm Groth.
T-Force was the operational arm of a joint US Army-British Army mission to secure designated German scientific and industrial technology targets before they could be destroyed by retreating enemy forces or looters during the final stages of World War II and its immediate aftermath. Key personnel were also to be seized, and targets of opportunity exploited when encountered. The effort was a business and technology-oriented parallel of sorts to the Monuments Men pursuit of art and financial treasure.
Wilhelm Groth was a German physical chemist. During World War II, he worked on the German nuclear energy project, also known as the Uranium Club; his main activity was the development of centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium. After the war, he was a professor of physical chemistry at the University of Hamburg. In 1950, he became director of the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the University of Bonn. He was a principal in the 1956 shipment of three centrifuges for uranium enrichment to Brazil.
In 1945, Urquhart was one of the first to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Urquhart was a member of the British diplomatic staff involved in the setting-up of the United Nations in 1945, assisting the Executive Committee of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations in establishing the administrative framework of the organization that had been created by the U.N. Charter. He subsequently became an aide to Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General of the United Nations. Urquhart helped handle the administrative and logistical challenges involved in getting the U.N. established in New York City. Not particularly well liked by Lie, Urquhart was subsequently moved to a minor U.N. administrative post. When Dag Hammarskjöld became the second Secretary-General in 1953, however, he appointed Urquhart as one of his main advisors.He loyally served by Hammarskjold's side until the latter's death in 1961, admiring him greatly in spite of admittedly never getting to know him very well on a personal level.
During the Suez Crisis of 1956, Urquhart played a critical role in creating what turned out to be the first major U.N. effort towards conflict resolution and peacekeeping. Urquhart, as the only major advisor of Hammarskjold's with military experience, took the lead in organizing the first U.N. peacekeeping force, which was designed to separate the Egyptian and Israeli forces then fighting each other in the Sinai Peninsula. To differentiate the peacekeepers from other soldiers, the U.N. wanted to have the soldiers wear blue berets. When that turned out to take six weeks to make, Urquhart proposed the characteristic blue helmets, which could be converted in a day by painting over regular ones.
In the early 1960s, Urquhart served as the main U.N. representative in the Congo, succeeding his friend Ralph Bunche. His efforts to stabilize the war-torn country were hampered by the chaos created by innumerable warring factions. At one point, Urquhart was abducted, brutally beaten, and threatened with death by undisciplined Katangese troops. He survived only by persuading his captors that his death would bring retribution by U.N. Gurkha troops, whom the Katangans greatly feared.
As Undersecretary-General, Urquhart's main functions were the direction of peacekeeping forces in the Middle East and Cyprus, and negotiations in these two areas; amongst others, his contributions also included work on the negotiations relating to a Namibia peace settlement, negotiations in Kashmir, Lebanon and work on peaceful uses for nuclear energy.
Alongside his autobiography, A Life in Peace and War, his work with Erskine B Childers includes several books of methods which he believes would make the United Nations more effective. In Renewing the United Nations System, he recommended the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly through Article 22 of the United Nations Charter.His book Decolonization and World Peace is based on his 1988 Tom Slick world peace lectures that he gave at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. The appendices offer further insight into his views on the peacekeeping potential of the United Nations. Included are his remarks at the Nobel Prize banquet in Norway on the occasion of the award of the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations Peace-Keeping Forces. He also wrote biographies of Dag Hammarskjöld and Ralph Bunche.
Reflections on the United Nations: Interviews of Sir Brian Urquhart by Ms. Virginia Morris, Principal Legal Officer Codification Division, United Nations Office of Legal Affairs in the Lecture Series of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law
| Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations |
for Special Political Affairs
1971 – 1985
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.
The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) is an organization founded on 29 May 1948 for peacekeeping in the Middle East. Its primary task was providing the military command structure to the peace keeping forces in the Middle East to enable the peace keepers to observe and maintain the cease-fire, and as may be necessary in assisting the parties to the Armistice Agreements in the supervision of the application and observance of the terms of those Agreements. The command structure of the UNTSO was maintained to cover the later peace keeper organisations of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was a Swedish economist and diplomat who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. Hammarskjöld was the youngest person to have held the post, at an age of 47 years upon his appointment. His second term was cut short when he died in the crash of his DC-6 airplane while en route to cease-fire negotiations during the Congo Crisis. He is one of only four people to be awarded a posthumous Nobel Prize.
Ralph Johnson Bunche was an American political scientist, academic, and diplomat who received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Israel. He was the first African American to be so honored. He was involved in the formation and administration of the United Nations. In 1963, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy.
Ralph Bunche Park is a small municipal public park in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of New York City, on First Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets. It was named in 1979 for Ralph Bunche, the first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
The first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was established by United Nations General Assembly to secure an end to the Suez Crisis with resolution 1001 (ES-I) on November 7, 1956. The force was developed in large measure as a result of efforts by UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and a Nobel Peace Prize-winning (1957) proposal and effort from Canadian Minister of External Affairs Lester B. Pearson. The General Assembly had approved a plan submitted by the Secretary-General which envisaged the deployment of UNEF on both sides of the armistice line.
The United Nations Operation in the Congo was a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Republic of the Congo that was established after United Nations Security Council Resolution 143 of 14 July 1960. The mission was launched to help restore stability to the Congo after it fell into conflict and disorder following independence. ONUC was the UN's first peacekeeping mission with a significant military force. It was withdrawn in 1964.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a founding member of the United Nations and one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Erskine Barton Childers was an Irish writer, BBC correspondent and United Nations senior civil servant. He was the eldest son of Erskine Hamilton Childers and Ruth Ellen Dow Childers. His grandparents Mary Alden Childers and Robert Erskine Childers and the latter's double first cousin Robert Barton were all Irish nationalists involved heavily with the negotiation of Irish independence; which ultimately led to his grandfather's execution during the Irish Civil War. His great aunt was Gretchen Osgood Warren.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is a department of the United Nations which is charged with the planning, preparation, management and direction of UN peacekeeping operations.
The United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) is a department of the Secretariat of the United Nations (UN) with responsibility for monitoring and assessing global political developments and advising and assisting the UN Secretary General and his envoys in the peaceful prevention and resolution of conflict around the world. The department manages field-based political missions in Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and has in recent years been increasing its professional capacities in conflict mediation and preventive diplomacy. DPA also oversees UN electoral assistance to Member States of the organization. Established in 1992, the department's responsibilities also include providing secretariat support to the UN Security Council and two standing committees created by the General Assembly concerning the Rights of the Palestinian People and Decolonization.
Dewan Prem Chand was an Indian Army officer. He served as Force Commander of United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cyprus, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Indar Jit Rikhye was a major general in the Indian army who served as military adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and U Thant in the 1960s. As military advisor, he was responsible for operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, West Irian, Yemen, and Cyprus. Special assignments included advisor to the Secretary-General during the Cuban Missile Crisis, chief of the UN observer mission to the Dominican Republic, and participant in the Spinelli-Rikhye Mission to Jordan and Israel in 1965.
The United Nations Peacekeeping began in 1948. Its first mission was in the Middle East to observe and maintain the ceasefire during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Since then, United Nations peacekeepers have taken part in a total of 72 missions around the globe, 14 of which continue today. The peacekeeping force as a whole received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.
George Ivan Smith AO (1915–1995) career spanned radio, war correspondent, movie director, diplomat, poet and author. He was born 11 July 1915 George Charles Ivan Smith in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The first son of George Franklin Smith, a NSW prison governor and May Sullivan.
"As a people we are now called Australians because a vast & lonely land has touched us with her differences" George Ivan Smith, 1953'
Peacekeeping by the United Nations is a role held by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations as "a unique and dynamic instrument developed by the organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace". It is distinguished from peacebuilding, peacemaking, and peace enforcement although the United Nations does acknowledge that all activities are "mutually reinforcing" and that overlap between them is frequent in practice.
The "International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers", May 29, is "a day to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication, and courage and to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace."
The United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee is one of six main committees of the United Nations General Assembly. It deals with a diverse set of political issues. However, the issues of decolonization and the Middle East take up most of its time.
Operation Grandslam was an offensive undertaken by United Nations peacekeeping forces from 28 December 1962 to 15 January 1963 against the gendarmerie of the State of Katanga, a secessionist state rebelling against the Republic of the Congo in central Africa. The Katangese forces were decisively defeated and Katanga was forcibly reintegrated into the Congo.
The Sir Brian Urquhart Award is presented every year by the United Nations Association – UK for Distinguished Service to the United Nations. This award celebrates Sir Brian Urquhart’s contribution to the UN, and is presented to individuals whose work reflects Sir Brian’s own dedication and endeavour.