Capital novelist James Allan Ford was a man of many talents

Respected Edinburgh soldier, civil servant and novelist, James Allan Ford, has died aged 88.

A man of many talents, Mr Ford was born on June 10, 1920. Although he was brought up by his parents, Margaret and Douglas, in Edinburgh, Mr Ford was proud of his Auchtermuchty birthplace.

He grew up in Leith with his elder brother Douglas, and younger sister and brother, Betty and John and he attended the Royal High School then, from 1938, worked with the Ministry of Labour and Inland Revenue.

In 1940, he joined the Royal Scots and was dispatched to the Far East as a second lieutenant.

He was promoted to captain, along with his brother Douglas, while serving in Hong Kong. However, by the end of December, 1941, the colony had been captured by the Japanese and Mr Ford was held as a prisoner of war.

For four years he was held captive, during which time his brother was executed at the prisoner of war camp at Sham Shui Po.

On his release in 1945, Mr Ford was awarded the Military Cross for "his untiring energy, courage and good leadership" and for remaining in action after twice being wounded.

Mr Ford remained devoted to the traditions and history of the Royal Scots and was chairman of the veterans' association of the 2nd Battalion (Hong Kong) Branch.

At the end of the war Mr Ford returned to Edinburgh and resumed work in the civil service and studied law part-time at Edinburgh University.

Mr Ford married Isobel Dunnett, who was originally from Caithness, in St Columba's Free Church in 1948 and the couple set up home in Bruntsfield, later living in Southside and Blackhall. They had two children, Elizabeth and Douglas, as well as a grand-daughter, Zara.

In 1966, Mr Ford became registrar general for Scotland, operating from New Register House in Edinburgh.

For a decade from 1969, Mr Ford acted as the principal establishment officer at the Scottish Office. It was a time of much rearrangement in the Scottish Office and he used all his diplomatic skills to alter some entrenched practices. He was awarded the CBE in 1978 and retired in 1980.

He also served on the advisory panel for the Highlands and Islands and was private secretary to the minister William McNair-Snadden. They had an excellent working relationship and Mr Ford was known as a man who "gave it to the minister straight".

In the 1960s and early 1970s Ford wrote five novels. His first two were deeply personal: The Brave White Flag (1961) recounted the despairing days leading up to the fall of Hong Kong, and two years later came Season of Escape, about the life and death of his brother Douglas, which won the Frederick Niven Award.

He followed these with three more novels about his subsequent and more agreeable life in Edinburgh, A Statue for a Public Place, A Judge of Men and The Mouth of Truth.

In retirement, Mr Ford used his skills to improve the constitution and organisation of the Scottish Centre of International PEN, the worldwide association of writers. He was President of Scottish PEN from 1980-86 and one of the trustees of the National Library of Scotland.

He died on March 30, 2009.