A BLACK and white photograph stands on Giles Hill's mantelpiece. It shows a young couple, the man in army uniform, his wife in a severe 1940s dress. She's holding a baby: a little girl swaddled in white.

The man in that photo is Captain Charles 'Pip' Haynes. The woman is his wife Patricia, and the little girl their daughter, also Patricia - Giles Hill's mother.

As a lad growing up in Leeds, Giles - now Major General Giles Hill, the new commanding officer of York-based 1 (UK) Division - was regaled with stories about his grandfather Captain Haynes' wartime exploits.

A Green Howards officer, Capt. Haynes had been posted in 1943 to the Nigerian Regiment and went with them to Burma to take part in the second Chindit expedition.

He was initially a transport officer. "He was in charge of one of the most important resources of the Chindits, the mule column!" General Hill says. Because casualty rates were so high, however, Capt Haynes soon found himself in the front line. On July 6, 1944, he was shot and killed by a Japanese sniper while crossing a track.

General Hill never knew his grandfather. Yet the man in that photograph was to have a profound influence on his life.

"I was always hearing stories about him: about his life, his service to the country, his sacrifice," he says. "I was very proud of what he had done."

Having left school, done some travelling, and started work for a furniture company at Thorpe Arch, the young Giles' thoughts turned to the possibility of a military career.

He applied to join 4 Battalion the Paratroop Regiment - a reserve unit of part-time soldiers - as a private. And that brought him for the first time to Imphal Barracks in York.

"My military career started 50 yards from where we're sitting now!" he says.

More than a quarter of a century later, he is back: no mere part-time private now, but a Major General in command of a division of 25,000 troops.

His arrival marks an important moment in York's recent history: the restoration of the city's status as perhaps the most important military HQ in the north of England.

It was 15 years ago that the crossed-keys flag of the Army's 2nd Division was lowered at Imphal Barracks. The Division, with its commander commander Major General Robert Gordon, was relocated to Edinburgh. York, a city with a long and proud military history, was a divisional HQ no longer.

Until now.

The 1 (UK) Division is one of only two army divisions remaining in the modern, slimmed-down British army.

It has been based in Germany.

But when it was decided to bring the divisional HQ back to the UK, York - with its long military history and strategic location - seemed a natural choice, General Hill says.

"From the start of modern civilisation, its location has meant that York has been a home to a military force," he says.

"With elements of the Army relocating back from Germany, York (was a) natural and perfect choice when headquarters 1st (UK) Division sought a home back in the UK."

With his Yorkshire roots, he himself couldn't be more pleased.

He had a classic Yorkshire boyhood. He grew up in Leeds, and went to Lawnswood School near Headingley. But he also spent time in the Yorkshire countryside. After her husband's death at the hands of a Japanese sniper, his grandmother had remarried. Her new husband was a farmer who lived at Foggathorpe Hall near Bubwith.

"So some of my earlier memories are of lambing on the farm, and picking apples in the orchard," Gen Hill says.

He also remembers visiting York cattle market, and days at York races with his step-grandfather, a keen racegoer.

So he admits to feeling very proud that he will now be able to play a part in the 'long military tradition' of a city he knows well.

But how did the lad from Leeds go from being a part-time private who worked during the week at a furniture company to commanding 25,000 men?

He was with 4 Paras as a reserve private - a machine-gunner with a reconnaissance platoon - for the best part of two years, he says. And then his Sergeant-Major told him 'you should try to go and be an officer with the regular army. You seem OK.'

His time as a reservist had already convinced him that army life was for him. "That had confirmed in my mind that this was a life of service, a life of variety, with a group of people that I could see I would like to work with for the rest of my life. There was a sense of purpose. A sense that I was serving something that mattered - my country."

So he went through the army officer selection process, passed various aptitude tests, and in 1989 was admitted to Sandhurst.

After passing out, he applied to join the Paras as a regular officer, and joined the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment in 1990 as a very junior lieutenant. "And really I have never looked back," he says.

His has certainly been a rapid rise through the ranks.

He served in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as doing three tours of duty in Northern Ireland.

As a Major, he commanded A Company of 3 Paras during Operation Telic in Iraq, and rose to become commander of 1 Paras on operation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2011, already a Brigadier at the age of 44, he took over command of the 16 Air Assault Brigade, a rapid reaction force of more than 6,000 paratroopers, engineers, medics and support staff. And then, in 2013 - still a British army Brigadier - he went out to become the deputy commander of the US 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The 82 Airborne is the US equivalent of our 16 Air Assault Brigade: a 'go anywhere, do anything' unit, General Hill says.

His role was all about working to improve cooperation between military allies.

Putting together an Allied quick response force is never easy, he points out. "You have different radio systems, different ammunition, the vehicles take different fuel." These are problems that take time to, sort out. "But as a rapid reaction force you don't have time."

He was in the US until just a few weeks ago - when he was told that he'd been promoted to Major General and would take over command of the 1st (UK) Division when it moved to York.

The 48-year-old flew from North Carolina direct to Leeds Bradford airport - a real homecoming for a Leeds lad - and started work as CO of one of the UK's two remaining army divisions the following Monday.

He has been in York for several weeks, now. But it was only on Monday this week that the flag of the 1 (UK) Division - a black flag with a white rhino emblem - was officially raised at Imphal.

A new chapter of York's military history has begun...


Military history of York

York's strategic location at the confluence of two rivers in the heart of northern England has meant that it has been an important military base off and on since Roman times.

The Roman fortress of Eboracum was founded by the Ninth Legion in 71 AD, and was later base to the Sixth Legion which helped build Hadrian's wall. One of the greatest Roman emperors - Constantine the Great, who converted the Empire to Christianity - was proclaimed emperor right here.

When the Romans left, the city became the capital first of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria and then of a Viking trading empire: so it is fair to assume it would still have had a strong military presence.

William the Conqueror built a castle on a tongue of land between the Foss and the Ouse from which to oppress unruly northerners following his 'harrying of the North'. And during the Civil War, a Royalist garrison was stationed in Clifford's Tower. After the city fell to the Parliamentarians in 1644, a Parliamentary garrison moved in instead.

York's more modern military importance dates back to the rise of Napoleon in the 1790s, according to the History of York website.

In 1794, a body of infantry was raised in York, with the city corporation donating £500. Two years later, the first permanent cavalry barracks were built at Fulford.

York's military importance continued to grow throughout the 19th entry, and by 1905 the city was home to the British Army's Northern Command. The HQ was first in Fishergate, and subsequently moved to what is now Imphal Barracks.

The 2nd Division moved to York in the early 1980s, reinforcing the city's status as a military HQ. It relocated to Edinburgh in 2000, but the arrival of the 1st (UK) Division under Major General Hill cements the city's military standing once more.


What is the 1st (UK) Division?

The 1st (UK) Division is one of just two divisions in the modern British army. The other is the 3rd Division, based near Salisbury plain.

The division is a light, or 'adaptable' division, made up of eight brigades and about 25,000 regular and reserve troops, who are stationed across the UK and around the world. Troops under General Hill's command are serving in Afghanistan, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Balkan states, as well as the UK.

The division's troops help train other countries' security forces, are ready for rapid deployment to combat zones, and also play a 'community engagement' role in the UK.