Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (25 June 1900-27 August 1979), Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy and statesman, was the last Viceroy of British India and first Governor-General of independent India. He died assassinated by the IRA.
Born at Windsor Castle Prince Louis of Battenberg, he was the second son of Prince Louis of Battenberg, who in 1917 became Lord Louis Mountbatten, Marquess of Milford Haven, and his wife and cousin (niece in the fashion of Brittany) Princess Victoria of Hesse-Darmstadt, elder sister of Tsarina Alexandra, and one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters. He was also one of the maternal uncles of Prince Philip of Great Britain, Duke of Edinburgh.
He married in 1922 Edwina Ashley (1901-1960), by whom he had two daughters.
World War II
Chief of Combined Operations
Cousin of King George VI, he was appointed Vice-Admiral and Head of Combined Operations in March 1942. These were responsible for bringing together all the means necessary to carry out operations requiring an agreement between the different army corps. . For this, the newly created British Commandos were placed under his direct command, and grew to become the main force.
From his headquarters, he and his collaborators took the steps, and sometimes the decisions, to set up important operations for the rest of the war. Some remain famous, either by their success or by their resounding failure. Among all these, we can retain:
* Operation Biting, whose goal was to recover a new German radar while making believe in its destruction;
* Operation Chariot, which immobilized the Forme Joubert basin in Saint-Nazaire, and prevented the battleship Tirpitz from being repaired;
* Operation Jubilee, in Dieppe, made to create a semblance of a new front in the West, demanded by the Russians, and whose failure was resounding.
Dieppe undoubtedly remains a failure which must be partly attributed to him. However, Mounbatten did not seek to shirk his responsibilities or minimize his failure. Far from it, he made his self-criticism and worked to discover what were the (many) faults committed. It is thanks to this critical and objective attitude that many errors were not reproduced during the Normandy landings.
He was one of the supporters of Normandy as a future landing place. The Allies wanted to land in Nord-pas-de-Calais instead, but they knew, thanks to contacts in the networks of the French resistance, that the Germans were numerous there. Normandy posed much less risk, although sufficient air cover could not be established, and there was no port. Mountbatten therefore looked for ways to compensate for the lack of a port, and to improve air cover. He provided the necessary equipment for this:an artificial harbor and landing craft.
The heads of operations passed the men directly to profit and loss, without however minimizing this fact in front of them. Lord Mountbatten, during Operation Chariot, had himself warned the commando leader:"I'm sure you can go in there and do the job, but we don't have much hope of being able to extract you. Even if we lose you all, the results of the operation will have been worth it. For this reason, I want you to tell all men with family responsibilities, or who feel they should retire for any reason, that 'they are free to do so and no one will blame them for it'.
Lord Mountbatten was also involved in a disinformation operation, directly related to the importance of the position he occupied. Operation Mincemeat was intended to intoxicate the German command, about the future target of the Allies in the Mediterranean in 1943. A letter from Mountbatten, recovered by the Germans from a corpse, deceived them, thanks to the information, adorned with the signature of the Chief of Combined Operations, which it contained.
Head of SEAC
South East Asia Command or SEAC, based in Colombo, Ceylon, was the organization created to support Allied operations in Southeast Asia during World War II. In August 1943, the Allies created this SEAC to take over the strategic responsibilities of the British India Command and that of the various national commands in the region. In October 1943, Winston Churchill appointed Mountbatten Supreme Allied Commander Southeast Asia, a position he held until the organization was disbanded in 1946.
This position includes in particular the continuation of the war in China (where he has one of his chiefs of staff appointed to the same position with Chiang Kai-shek), and all of Southeast Asia. Mountbatten will negotiate with Aung San so that this one makes pass the Burmese national army on the side of the Allies (which he did in March 1945, making him become a national hero). The Japanese officially returned Singapore to him on September 5, 1945.
Appointed Viceroy and Governor General of India on March 24, 1947, succeeding Archibald Wavell, he had the heavy task of preparing for independence by planning it with the Congress Party and the Muslim League, the two main nationalist parties.
It was he who negotiated the Partition of India, the plan of which he announced on June 3, 1947. He also discussed the future of the princely states following independence. Advocating independence (like the two new states his plan had just created), with regard to the agreements between the British Crown and these states, he had to face the opposition of the nationalists. This leads to the integration of states into the new countries, India or Pakistan, depending on the desire of the leaders of said states.
He was the first governor-general of free India, no doubt in gratitude for the efforts he had made to settle independence.
He was appointed (as his father had been) Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord from 1955 to 1959. He was shortly afterwards Commander of NATO forces in the Mediterranean.
"I have the congenital weakness to think that I can do anything!" he used to say. He retired in 1965.
He died on August 27, 1979, aged 79, in the explosion of his boat Shadow V in Donegal Bay (Mullaghmore, Ireland). This attack, organized by the IRA in order to affect a relative of Queen Elizabeth II, undermined the popularity of the republican cause for a time, and allowed the resumption of a repressive policy on the part of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.