William ‘Bill’ Slim is most often remembered for his command of 14th Army in Burma during the Second World War, but the undoubted skill of this command was underpinned by the professionalism resulting from decades of military training, and a deep understanding of those under his command.
To the British, Gurkha, Indian and Commonwealth soldiers he commanded, he was a true ‘soldier’s General’, building his Army’s fighting capability by ensuring their training, morale and welfare. To his superiors and the officers around him, he built a justified reputation as a sound commander with a keen eye for logistic detail and the administrative requirements of larger forces, as well as an ability rapidly to evaluate a situation before taking advantage of developments. This skill was nowhere more clearly shown than during the re-conquest of the central Burma plains. At the same time, his interpersonal skills were such that even the acerbic American General ‘Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell accepted his command.
To later commanders and students of military leadership, he has stood out both as a highly capable commander and as a truly human one, able to evaluate and appreciate the abilities of his soldiers and deploy them well. It is for this reason that the example of his command of 14th Army has remained important to the ethos and training of the modern British Army and Officer Cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst are issued a personal copy of Defeat Into Victory.