General Olof Gerhard Thörnell (19 October 1877 – 25 July 1977) was a Swedish Army officer. He was Sweden's first Supreme Commander from 8 December 1939 until 1944. Before 1939 that had been the role of the King.
Thörnell was born on 19 October 1877 in Trönö, Söderhamn Municipality, Sweden, the son of Per Thörnell, a vicar, and his wife Gerhardina "Dine" Margareta (née Lindgren). He was the brother of professor Gösta Thörnell. Thörnell grew up in a priest's home with close contact with the academic world. He was born in the same room as Nathan Söderblom and also came to be strongly influenced by this friend in the choice of life path. After passing studentexamen on 17 May 1895 at Norra Latin in Stockholm he was commissioned as an officer in the Uppland Regiment (I 8) in 1897. The choice of regiment gave him time to lay the groundwork for solid language knowledge at the Uppsala University during vacant periods, including in Russian. In future commissions to foreign units in Austria, France and the Netherlands, he had additional opportunities to improve his language skills alongside the professional studies.
Thörnell was promoted to lieutenant on 7 December 1900 in Uppland Regiment (I 8). On 7 July 1906 Thörnell graduated from the Royal Swedish Army Staff College and was commissioned as an officer cadet at the General Staff. He was promoted to captain of the General Staff on 10 June 1910. From 1911 to 1915 Thörnell was a teacher at the Royal Swedish Army Staff College. In 1915 he left the General Staff and served as captain in the Älvsborg Regiment (I 15). After a few years in the field, he returned to the General Staff, where he quickly rose through the ranks. On 27 November 1917, he was promoted to major and on 19 August lieutenant colonel.
He was promoted to major of the General Staff in 1917 and became head of the Central Department of the General Staff in 1918. In 1921 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the General Staff. Thörnell was after that serving in the Upplands Infantry Regiment (I 8) in 1924 and was promoted to lieutenant colonel and acting commanding officer of Gotland Infantry Regiment (I 27) in 1926. On 24 August 1926 Thörnell was promoted to colonel and became commanding officer of Vaxholm Grenadier Regiment (I 26). On 1 January 1928 he was appointed military commander of Gotland and commanding officer of Gotland Infantry Regiment (I 27) and in 1931 he was appointed Inspector of the Swedish Army Service Troops. On 28 December 1933 he was promoted to major general and was appointed Inspector of the Swedish Infantry. On 1 July 1936, Thörnell, was promoted to Lieutenant General and at the same time appointed Chief of the Defence Staff. He now began the organization work. On 1 July 1937, the new staff gathered and the Chief of the Defense Staff took command of the new staff. Thörnell had a harsh and sarcastic appearance, and were generally called LM (The lust murderer) among the younger officers in the Defence Staff. He was considered an aged, stiff and unimaginable bureaucrat. The circle around Helge Jung had no respect for Thörnell, they saw him as a "chair warmer", a temporary solution until someone from their own ranks had enough years of service to take over his post. But from the government's point of view, Thörnell had an advantage. He was a loyal bureaucrat.
On 8 December 1939 he was appointed Supreme Commander and on 1 January he was promoted to general. Thörnell's time as the Supreme Commander was marked by several major concessions to Germany and Thörnell himself was generally considered pro-German. Thörnell was criticized by Torgny Segerstedt among other, because he, on 7 October 1940, received the Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle by the hands of the Prince of Wied with a letter signed by Adolf Hitler. Thörnell was a skilled organizer who put high demands on his staff. He was also a politically cautious general, overcautious some thought, who took active part in the intricate game about the Swedish neutrality during the first dangerous war years. He tried to safeguard the country for as many possible chain of events as possible. Thörnell left office as Supreme Commander on 1 April 1944 and was succeeded by Helge Jung. Thörnell was chief of His Majesty's Military Staff until the king died on 29 October 1950.
On 1 October 1904 he married Anna Henrika Halling (1883–1972) in Skållerud, the daughter of factory manager Alex Halling and Henrika Gustafva (née Collén). They had four children: Gerhard (1905–1940), Barbro (1908–1992), Ulla (1914–2011) and Per (1918–1990).
Thörnell died on 25 July 1977 in Uppsala and was buried in Uppsala old cemetery.
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