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Field Marshal Lord Bramall obituary

The Guardian logo The Guardian 12/11/2019 Dan van der Vat
a man wearing a hat: Lord Bramall saw his home raided after allegations about a VIP paedophile ring were made by one man before police admitted there was insufficient evidence and the case was dropped. © PA Lord Bramall saw his home raided after allegations about a VIP paedophile ring were made by one man before police admitted there was insufficient evidence and the case was dropped.

Field Marshal Lord Bramall, who has died aged 95, was chief of the defence staff from 1982 until 1985, the pinnacle of a long military career that began just in time to land him on the beaches of Normandy as a freshly minted second lieutenant in the D-day invasion of June 1944.

But in March 2015 he was drawn into the saga of claims of historical paedophilia and child abuse in high places that began with the unmasking of Jimmy Savile in 2012. Bramall’s cottage in a village near Farnham, Surrey, was raided by police as part of a co-ordinated initiative that also included the homes of Lord (Leon) Brittan, the former home secretary, who died in January 2015. All this was part of Operation Midland, set up by the Metropolitan police in response to allegations against a number of notable public figures.

Queen Elizabeth ll chats to Field Marshall the Lord Bramall and Lady Plastow, the sculptor of the bust of Lord Bramall seen on the right, as she bids farewell to the Royal Green Jackets ahead of a major restructuring of the army during a reception at Buckingham Palace on October 10, 2006 © Getty Queen Elizabeth ll chats to Field Marshall the Lord Bramall and Lady Plastow, the sculptor of the bust of Lord Bramall seen on the right, as she bids farewell to the Royal Green Jackets ahead of a major restructuring of the army during a reception at Buckingham Palace on October 10, 2006 Bramall said in a statement: “Categorically, never have I had a connection or anything to do with the matters being investigated.” He was vindicated when, in March 2016, the investigation collapsed. No charges were brought as a result of allegations made by Carl Beech, known as “Nick”, and in July this year Beech was convicted of perverting the course of justice.

Born in Tonbridge, Kent, Edwin was the son of Major Edmund Bramall and his wife, Katherine (nee Westby). At Eton college he achieved distinction not for academic prowess but for cricket, a lifelong passion. He became captain of cricket, playing at Lord’s for a public schools team and later for the army. Some said he could have made a career in first-class cricket. When commander of British forces in Hong Kong at the age of 51, he was the last player to hit a century at the Victoria cricket ground. In 1988-89 he served as president of the MCC.

Although his army postings were many and various, his career began only really took off in 1967, when he made the promotional jump from lieutenant colonel to brigadier. After officer training at Sandhurst he was commissioned in 1943 as a second lieutenant in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (now part of The Rifles). After D-day he fought in the final campaign against Germany, winning the Military Cross for bravery. After promotion to first lieutenant in 1946 he was briefly posted to Japan for the allied occupation, which soon became an overwhelmingly American responsibility.

The Duke of Edinburgh attends the Army Benevolant Fund 60th Anniversary Dinner at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London. * He is pictured with front row seated left-right Field Marshal Lord Inge, FM Sir John Chapple, FM Sir Nigel Bagnall, FM Lord Bramall, FM Lord Carver, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, FM Sir Roland Gibbs, FM Sir John Stanier, FM Lord Vincent. HRH The Duke of Kent, Back row. Viscount Marchwood, Karan Bilimoria, Sir John Mills, William Ware, Paul Charlesworth, Richard Moon, Ron Gerard, Michael Portillo, Ralph Djanogly, Lord Mason, Michael Heseltine, Lord Carrington, Eric Hotung, John Major, Lord Gilmour, Sir John Knott, Sir David Scholey, Tom King, Michael Ethelston, John Asprey, Dr. Tony Heathcote, Scott Graham. © Getty The Duke of Edinburgh attends the Army Benevolant Fund 60th Anniversary Dinner at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London. * He is pictured with front row seated left-right Field Marshal Lord Inge, FM Sir John Chapple, FM Sir Nigel Bagnall, FM Lord Bramall, FM Lord Carver, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, FM Sir Roland Gibbs, FM Sir John Stanier, FM Lord Vincent. HRH The Duke of Kent, Back row. Viscount Marchwood, Karan Bilimoria, Sir John Mills, William Ware, Paul Charlesworth, Richard Moon, Ron Gerard, Michael Portillo, Ralph Djanogly, Lord Mason, Michael Heseltine, Lord Carrington, Eric Hotung, John Major, Lord Gilmour, Sir John Knott, Sir David Scholey, Tom King, Michael Ethelston, John Asprey, Dr. Tony Heathcote, Scott Graham. Bramall’s first staff post was as an instructor at the school of infantry in 1949 and he became a captain the next year. He was stationed in the Middle East in 1953 and moved up to major at the end of 1957. He became an instructor again in 1958, this time at the staff college in Camberley. In 1963 he was appointed to the staff of Lord (Louis) Mountbatten, the first holder of the post of chief of defence staff.

In 1965 Bramall was appointed OBE, promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of the 2nd Royal Green Jackets, as his old regiment had become. He took his battalion to Borneo and participated in the final stages of “confrontation”, an undeclared war of skirmishes focused on the divided island of Borneo, between an expansionist Indonesia and Malaysia, a new federation of former British colonies, which ended with an Indonesian withdrawal in autumn 1966. Bramall won a mention in dispatches.

At the end of 1967 he was promoted to brigadier in command of 5th (Airportable) Infantry Brigade. Five years later he was made a major general commanding the 1st Division. In 1973 he was appointed commander of British forces in Hong Kong as a lieutenant general, and knighted.

In May 1976 he was made C-in-C of UK land forces, advancing to full general. Two years later he was vice chief of the defence staff. In 1979 he became head of the army as chief of the general staff. He was promoted again to field marshal in 1982, and then appointed chief of defence staff.

Soon after retiring from the army in 1985, he became lord lieutenant of Greater London (1986-98). In 1987 he was made a life peer. He was appointed a knight of the garter in 1990.

In the Lords he was an active crossbench member, renewing a friendship with Field Marshal Lord (Michael) Carver, his wartime commanding officer, but not sharing his radical views, such as opposition to nuclear weapons. Traditionalist and conservative, Bramall did not believe in rocking the boat and raised his voice mainly to contest cuts in the defence budget and the strength of the forces.

Field Marshal Lord Bramall (L) and Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham at the unveiling of the statue to Polish wartime leader Wladyslaw Sikorski, outside the Polish Embassy in London. * General Sikorski was the Prime Minister of Poland and Commander in Chief of its armed forces until he died in a plane crash off Gibralter in July 1943. © Getty Field Marshal Lord Bramall (L) and Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham at the unveiling of the statue to Polish wartime leader Wladyslaw Sikorski, outside the Polish Embassy in London. * General Sikorski was the Prime Minister of Poland and Commander in Chief of its armed forces until he died in a plane crash off Gibralter in July 1943.

In 1994, he made an impassioned speech against the strains then being imposed on the army in Northern Ireland and Bosnia: “There was this awful pretence that the government was doing its best for the armed forces when the driving force has been saving money.”

In the same year, he all but called the prime minister, John Major, a liar. Angered by what he saw as inadequate plans to mark the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995, he complained: “To suggest, as John Major did, that I had been consulted was a bit far-fetched. I had not been.” The programme was hurriedly revised and Bramall took his place next to Major at the commemoration. In 2003 he spoke out emphatically again, against British involvement in the Iraq war. He retired from the Lords in 2013.

In 1949 Bramall married Avril Vernon; she died in 2015. They had two children, Nicolas and Sara.

• Edwin Noel Westby Bramall, Lord Bramall, army officer, born 18 December 1923; died 12 December 2019

• Dan van der Vat died in May this year

Gallery: People we lost in 2019 (Photos)

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