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Archibald Edward Nye

Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Edward Nye, GCSI, GCIE, KCB, KBE, MC, to give this Dukie his full title and awards, was the fifth child in a family of six. He was born in Ship Street barracks, Dublin, 23 April 1895. His father was Regimental Sergeant-Major of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. His mother was Mary Nye (neé Sexton).

Given his year of birth, 1895, Archie Nye would have entered the school in 1904-5, which meant that he was among those who moved from Chelsea to the new premises at Dover in 1909. In that year, at age 14, he was a monitor of the Temperance Examination held at the school under the aegis of the Royal Army Temperance Association. As temperance examinations were held at the military, regimental and garrison schools throughout the Home Command, it is likely that he was the sole monitor at the one conducted at Dover.

The results of the examination were reported in the On the March journal of the RATA with awards being given to three Duke of York's students - G.P. Robinson, K.H.F. Veasey and F.G. Woolnough with A. E. Nye acknowledged as the monitor. This suggests that Nye had already passed the temperance examination and had, presumably, been awarded his temperance medal (see the 1897 article on temperance medals).

The school records not being accessible for examination under the 100-year rule for records, direct relatives re. personal records being the exception, a reasonable assumption to make is that Nye remained at school as a prefect until the outbreak of the First World War. He enlisted as a private in the Leicestershire Regiment (17th Foot), to serve in France. He was given a wartime commission with rank of second lieutenant in the Leicestershires, was wounded in action and awarded the Military Cross.

  Lieut. General Sir Archibald Edward Nye in his later years  
His war time record led to a regular commission with the rank of Captain in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (6th Foot), the same regiment in which Lord Montgomery of Alamein had once served as commanding officer. Interestingly, Montgomery 's predecessor in command of the Royal Warwicks was Colonel W. A. T. Bowly, Commandant of the school from 1937 until 1945.

Nye's record from his wartime commission in the Leicestershire Regt. is well known and recorded in every biographical note, so the present recapitulation of his career is no different.

He attended Staff College, Camberley, from 1924 -1925, became a General Staff Officer Grade 3, RAF co-operation, Aldershot 1926-1928; Bde Maj, Eastern Command 1928 -1930; General Staff Officer Grade 2, War Office 1931-1932; General Staff Officer Grade 2, Staff College 1932 -1935; Major, South Lancashire Regt 1935; General Staff Officer Grade 2, War Office 1936 -1937; Lt Col, Royal Warwickshire Regt 1937. He was appointed Major-General and Director of Staff Duties at the War Office in 1939, and was Lieutenant-General and Vice-Chief of the Imperial General Staff, 1941 -1945; Governor of Madras, 1946-1946; the United Kingdom's High Commissioner in Delhi, 1948 -1952; and High Commissioner to Canada, 1952 -1956. In 1962 he was made chairman of the Nye Committee, formed to deliberate over the reorganisation of the War Office. Nye died on 13 November 1967 in London.

A photograph thought to be of Captain Nye (in pith helmet) leading the South Lancashire Regt. in the Khyber Pass 1935 marching in the company of Sergeant Frosty Goble.
Many a Dukie must have served under Nye in his various inter-war appointments and commands. Some of them, and others, would have known him well. For example, the father of Peter Goble (K1947-52) was the Band Sergeant of the South Lancashire Regiment's Band in 1937, the Major A. E. Nye was with the Regiment and knew him as an approachable officer.

In his higher ranks, Nye worked behind the scenes, but sometimes performed special duties and services for which he is remembered by the general public. During his time as Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff, he wrote a letter to General (Lord) Alexander, at that time commanding an army in Tunisia. This letter, written at the request of the XX Committee, discussed operations in the Mediterranean that would only be known to, or exchanged with, General Alexander. The false letter was planted on the body of a Major William Martin of the Royal Marines, released from a submarine off the coast of Spain. This was the letter that deceived the Germans into believing Sardinia would be invaded instead of Sicily, the primary target of the invasion force. The deception worked. The story of this double-cross was told in the film The man who never was (1956).

The one time in General Nye's long military career in which he admitted using his position and prestige to effect changes of direct and personal concern to him had to do with the management of the school. At the time, he was a member of school's Board of Commissioners and was determined to change what, in his opinion, was an overly strong military ethos or culture that pervaded school life. He proposed that fundamental changes be made, particularly those to do with the influence of the company sergeant majors. When the proposed changes became known, a groundswell of opposition from members of the OBA was mounted to such a degree that Nye felt it necessary to write an open letter on the subject. It many respects, it was a scathing indictment of the old order.

The Hon. Gen. Sec. of the OBA, Aubrey Sadler, kindly supplied a copy of the Nye letter when the writer was doing research for the book Sons of the Brave (1984) Secker & Warburg. Unfortunately, that letter, along with the seven volumes of correspondence and research data collected was donated to the Canadian National Archives. Regrettably, further copies of the letter are no longer available. Anything quoted from the letter, therefore, is from memory, the most significant ingredient of which had to do with the reign of the company sergeant majors. Nye's objection to the influence they exerted verged on an obsession that went back to his experience as a boy at the school. He considered them as a group to be uneducated and ignorant, not fit to have as large an influence on the boys as they did.

Not everyone agreed with Nye's harsh and uncompromising view of the sergeant majors. Many were, and still are, regarded with deep affection by those who were under their control before the arrival and induction of housemasters. The General had other changes to make, particularly to do with the level and qualify of education offered. Nevertheless, he was vocal and assertive in his objection to the former system of military discipline exercised by the sergeant majors.

Despite the influence he exerted in changing the culture, military ethos and modus operandi of the school, his attachment, loyalty and fidelity to his old school was beyond question. Furthermore, he expressed this in a generous legacy that enabled the school to build a permanent edifice to his memory in Nye Hall.

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