32 – Sir William Dobbie
Sir William Dobbie
Governor of Malta 1940-1942
Lieutenant-General Sir William George Shedden Dobbie, GCMG, KCB, DSO (12 July 1879 – 3 October 1964) was a British Army soldier of the Second Boer War, and First and Second World Wars. He was commissioned into the Royal Engineers and served as the Governor-General of Malta during World War II (1940 – 1942). He was a veteran of the Second Boer War and World War I. He was also the former Commandant of the Royal School of Military Engineering. Dobbie was a member of the Protestant Plymouth Brethren, and when living in The Paragon, Blackheath attended the large Brethren assembly in Nightingale Vale, Woolwich Common, London SE18. On 31 July 1944 a German V1 Flying Bomb fell on houses in Milward Street and Nightingale Vale, Woolwich and the Brethren’s Gospel Hall was severely damaged, but none of the 450 members perished.
He was General Officer Commanding Malaya (1935 – 1939). He has been criticised for his religious approach to leadership and for what critics argue to have been an unacceptable delay in the creation of bomb shelters; as well as in implementing efficient food-rationing and creating an effective civil-defence system.
Sir William died on 3 October 1964 in Kensington, London, England at the age of 85 years. He was buried in Charlton Cemetery, near the Chindit memorial of his brother-in-law Major-General Orde Charles Wingate, DSO (1903-1944). His wife Sybil and other members of his family are also buried there.
Reverend Daniel A. Poling, 1943
Never before in any comparable area, have I found so many ranking executives giving so much attention to religion.
Prime Minister Churchill
[Dobbie is] a Governor of outstanding character who inspired all ranks and classes, military and civil, with his…determination…a soldier who…in…leadership and religious zeal…recalled memories of General Gordon and…the Ironsides and Convenanters.
Lord Louis Mountbatten
[Dobbie] prays aloud after dinner, invoking the aid of God in destroying our enemies. This is highly approved of by the Maltese, who have the same idea about God, but I would prefer an efficient Air force here.
At San Anton, every night about seven, everyone would be summoned for prayer…Dobbie would stand…and…pray…and….ask the Almighty to bless the convoy…but he never prayed to stop the bombing…that was God’s will…God helps those that help themselves…
William Dobbie, on British intervention to restore order in the Arab-Jewish riots of 1928″
This will be the easiest war… We will have to fight only four days a week. The Arabs won’t fight on Friday, the Jews on Saturday and Dobbie certainly won’t on Sunday.
Dobbie was stationed in Palestine and had an office overlooking Golgotha. In 1929 the Bible Society distributed New Testaments to the British soldiers serving there. Dobbie wrote the following note which was inserted into each copy for his troops:
You are stationed at the place where the central event in human history occurred – namely the crucifixion of the Son of God. You may see the place where this happened and you may read the details in this book. As you do this, you cannot help being interested, but your interest will change into something far deeper when you realise the events concern you personally. It was for your sake the Son of God died on the cross here. The realisation of this fact cannot but produce a radical change in one’s life – and the study of this book will, under God’s guidance, help you to such a realisation. W.G.S. Dobbie (Brigadier) 10 October 1929.
I can’t help feeling that the security of the Fortress might be better served by having a stronger force in being outside it … I consequently feel that the answers to the possible threat (of Japanese landing and establishing an advanced base on the mainland) is primarily to be found in suitable mobile forces in being in the Malay Peninsula… — Dobbie’s letter as GOC (Malaya),to the War Office on 17 Mar 1936.