Our War Leaders in Peacetime - Wavell
As Viceroy of India, Field-Marshal Viscount Wavell, G.C.B., G.C.S.I., has little time for home life, and the loss to him must be a considerable one. But family anniversaries are duly honoured in turn – the day Archibald Percival Wavell married Eugenie Marie Quirk, in 1945; the birthdays of Pamela, aged 26, and married four years ago; of Felicity, aged 23; Joan, 21; and John, 30 years old and a major in the Black Watch, which was also his father's original regiment.
Shy and reserved, Wavell does not shine in glittering company. It is said to be a devastating experience for a lady to sit next to him at official dinners, for he “just sits”. But friends who enter his home circle in New Delhi known him as a charming man and excellent company; to them he is “Archie”.
The son of a solider (Major-General A. G. Wavell, C.B., whose father was also a Major-General), educated at Winchester and Sandhurst, he is more interested in soldiering than anything else; and after-dinner conversation as often as not finds a level in military topics, the study of strategy and tactics being one of the Viceroy's hobbies. Another is the study of languages, of which he speaks several, including Russian, which he learned in 1910 when applied for special leave to spend a year with a Russian family in Moscow. Today he is polishing up his Indian languages.
Even with the pressing problems of India on his shoulders he still finds time to settle down with Gibbon and the Stoics, and occasionally to add to his own already considerable literary output. He frequently quotes from the Classics and, a religious man, from the Bible. His wife shares his views and outdoor interests; married for 31 years now, the Wavells are inseparable.
A fine horseman at 63 he can still give many a younger man a good run, and he takes a particular delight in jumping. A judge of horseflesh, he goes to race meetings less to bet than to see the horses in the paddock. The Italians were caught napping when, as C.-in-C. Middle East, Wavell launched his first attack into Cyrenaica, in December 1940; for on the very afternoon of the attack Italian secret agents saw him enjoying himself at the Cairo races! Wavell's temperament is of that kind: calm and unperturbed.
Annoyance he expresses by slowly removing his eyeglass and replacing it in his blind eye – he lost the sight of his right eye in the First Great War. But poor sight does not interfere with his shooting neither has it spoiled his golf, which he improved during his Command in North Africa, when ski-ing – another of his favourite sports – was denied him. Now Wavell is playing his part in designing the future of 350 millions Indians.