Harry Tuzo

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General Harry Tuzo was a career member of the British Army. He was General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland (1971-3).

Early career

Born in Bangalore, India, in 1917, he was the son of John Tuzo, an army officer who died of fever before his son had a chance to know him. He was educated at Wellington and Oriel College, Oxford, and joined the Supplementary Reserve from where he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1939.
After a fortnight's training he crossed to France with the 21st Anti- Tank Regiment. By May 1940 he was part of the evacuating British Expeditionary Force heading for Harwich in a paddle cruiser. He remained in Britain with the 21st A-T Regiment on coastal defence until June 1944 when he crossed the Channel with them in support of the 11th Guards Armoured Division in Normandy. In the battles across north-west Europe, where there was often bitter fighting, particularly around Caen, he won an MC. As a battery commander in Germany, he had the unusual experience of accepting the surrender of a German Admiral (the Flag Officer U Boats).
After the war his career was a combination of staff and artillery appointments. In 1958 he was made a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel after commanding L Battery in the 2nd Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery (RHA). He then served as GSO1 in Staff Duties and then Directorate of the General Staff at the War Office. He was then given command of the 3rd Regiment, RHA in 1960 and took them to Kenya as part of the Strategic Reserve, east of Suez.
Tuzo returned to become Assistant Commandant of Sandhurst, but 18 months later was given command of the 51st Gurkha Brigade in Borneo, where one of his areas of responsibility was Brunei. It was an unusual appointment which he relished. His Gurkha battalions not only helped to win over the "hearts and minds" of the local tribesmen, but along with the SAS in Operation "Claret" were involved in several successful "shoot and scoot" incursions across the border to threaten the Indonesian forces. The Sultan of Brunei was delighted with Tuzo's work and honoured him with the title Dato Setia Nagara in 1965.
He attended Staff College before being promoted Major-General as Chief of Staff of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in 1967. This was followed by his appointment as Director of Royal Artillery based at the Ministry of Defence.[1]

Role in Northern Ireland

He was expecting to retire from this appointment, but was called to Northern Ireland and further promotion. Northern Ireland honed his understanding of the military and political implications of a situation and this led to his appointment as Commander Northern Army Group and C-in-C BAOR in 1973. It was a natural progression for Tuzo to become Deputy Supreme Commander in Europe to General Al Haig in 1976.[2]
In 1971 General Vernon Erskine-Crum died, a few weeks after becoming General Officer Commanding and Director of Operations in Northern Ireland. Tuzo was selected to take his place... After consultation with Whitehall, Tuzo saturated the Republican areas of West Belfast and Londonderry with 30,000 troops and prised open the "no-go" areas.[3]

Responsible for Bloody Sunday

In a memo addressed to the General Officer Commanding British Forces, Lt. Gen. Sir Harry Tuzo, and headed 'The situation in Londonderry as at 7th January 1972', the Commander of Land Forces in the North, General Robert Ford, expressed alarm at 'yobbo activity' by the 'Derry Young Hooligans'.
He went on: 'I am coming to the conclusion that the minimum force necessary to achieve a restoration of law and order is to shoot selected ring leaders among the DYH, after clear warnings have been issued. In other words, we would be reverting to the methods of IS found successful on many occasions overseas.' ('IS' means 'internal security'.)
In a paper on 'Marches in 1972', dated 27 January, a senior Army planner in the North, Lt Col Harry Dalzell-Payne, tried to 'anticipate some of the problems we may face on Monday 31 Jan 72, if events on Sunday prove our worst fears'. He wrote: 'We must take stronger military measures which will inevitably lead to further accusations of "brutality and ill-treatment of non-violent demonstrators".'
The paper concludes: 'The only additional measure left for physical control is the use of firearms i.e. "Disperse or we fire". Inevitably, it would not be the gunmen who would be killed but "innocent members of the crowd". This would be tantamount to saying "all else has failed", and for this reason must be rejected except in extremis. It cannot, however, be ruled out. We must await the outcome of the events planned for the weekend of 29/30 Jan 72.'[4]

Operation Motorman

After retirement

On his retirement in 1979 he became chairman of Marconi Space & Defence Systems until 1983. He maintained close contact with the army as Master Gunner, from 1977 to 1983. During his time as chairman of the Royal United Services Institute (1980-83), he restructured and restaffed the institute, which laid the foundation for its subsequent role in international security affairs, particularly in its informal dealings with Warsaw Pact countries.[5]


External resources


  1. Max Arthur 'Obituary: General Sir Harry Tuzo' Independent, The (London), Aug 19, 1998
  2. Max Arthur 'Obituary: General Sir Harry Tuzo' Independent, The (London), Aug 19, 1998
  3. Max Arthur 'Obituary: General Sir Harry Tuzo' Independent, The (London), Aug 19, 1998
  4. Eamonn McCann BLOODY SUNDAY: “TRUTH WAS KNOWN 25 YEARS AGO” The Guardian, October 21, 1999
  5. Max Arthur 'Obituary: General Sir Harry Tuzo' Independent, The (London), Aug 19, 1998