Our War Leaders in Peacetime - Slim
Famous leader of the 14th Army, General Sir William Slim, K.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., was the last of the war-generals to make the headlines. He abhors personal publicity. The latter fact is illustrated by his refusal to divulge the pen-name under which he writes, by way of recreation, in the newspapers and magazines.
On returning from India in December 1945, he found his family a house in Trevor Street, Knightsbridge, where he lives with his wife and their 15-year-old daughter Una. Knightsbridge is the fashionable quarter of London, but the Slims have no leaning towards a “fashionable” life. They like the theatres, “Because we've been starved of plays for so long.”
Above all, Slim's interests are in his children, Una is still at school and is “Insisting on becoming a vet. - she loves animals, you know”. John, aged 18, entered the Army a few months ago, and “The lad is already an inch taller than I am!” John's father did not start life in the Army. General Slim, now 55, left King Edward's Grammar School, Birmingham, to be a junior clerk – “In other words,” he says, “an office boy.” Then he became an elementary schoolmaster, and next, before he joined up in 1914, foreman of a testing gang in an engineering works and a junior N.C.O. In the Territorials.
From those early days Slim has developed three main hobbies – soldiering, tinkering with machinery, and literature. And he likes writing. In fact, he has always wanted to be a journalist, and his magazine articles show a decided flair for that profession. But he does not always find it easy to say what he wants to say in the forceful way he wants to say it, without first roughing out a draft; and he has been known to tell his friends that in his experience it is easier to be a good general than a good journalist.
His articles are not the only things Slim signs anonymously – the 14th Army's famous “flash” came from his pencil. He submitted the drawing anonymously in a competition open to all ranks, and won the £5 prize offered for the winning design.
Both Sir William and Lady Slim like the peace and quiet of the country, and on returning from India one of the first things they did was to leave London for a district where, as Lady Slim said, “We can just sit.” Slim himself likes to punctuate his “sitting” with sharp walks, and possibly a little shooting: he is reputed to be a good shot. Sometimes they take Una to see William Slim's 94-year-old mother in Birmingham. She has seen little of her granddaughter during the last seven or so years, and less of her son.
Such is the home life of the man who drove the Japs out of Burma. When he is in uniform you known at once that here is a leader among men. But when he sits in his study writing, with thin-framed spectacles halfway down his nose, his appearance is more that of a kindly schoolmaster than a solider whose name has gained world renown.