Major-General Errol Lonsdale

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Born: 26 February, 1913, in County Durham

Died: 3 April, 2003, in Somerset, aged 90

MAJOR-General Errol Lonsdale was devoted to transport - some would say besotted by it - and was the last Transport Officer-in-Chief (Army) to have a steam locomotive named after him. The engine lives on, hauling trains on a preserved line in Wales.

Lonsdale had a command of logistics and enjoyed a lifetime interest in the subject. His ability was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Transport, which conferred a fellowship on him. On his retirement from the army in 1969, the Transport Trust made him a vice-president.

But it was as a serving major-general that his name was bestowed on the 1953 0-6-0 steam locomotive - he was the last general to be so honoured.

There had been a long army tradition of naming military locos after heroes and generals. Errol Lonsdale was one of a final batch of 14 engines built to the Second World War "Austerity" design and was delivered in 1953. It was christened by the general at a ceremony in 1968 on the Longmoor Military Railway in Hampshire.

When Longmoor closed in 1970, the Errol Lonsdale locomotive was bought by railway enthusiasts to serve on various heritage railways, and this summer is working on the Gwili Railway in Carmarthenshire.

The younger son of a Church of England parson, Errol Henry Gerrard Lonsdale was brought up at Barnard Castle, County Durham, and educated at Westminster and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. He took a university direct-entry commission into the Royal Army Service Corps in 1934, from where he was seconded to the Sudan Defence Force in 1938. For his bravery in the campaign against the Italians in the Sudan and Eritrea, he was made an MBE (Military) in 1942 and later mentioned in dispatches.

In 1943-44 he was the senior supply officer to the 10th Armoured Division in the Middle East, and in 1945 he went to join Headquarters 20th Indian Division in Saigon, where the Japanese were giving up their occupation.

He was commander RASC 1st Commonwealth Division in Korea 1953-54 and then in Malaya with the 1st Federal Division during the communist insurgency, for which he was again mentioned in dispatches. Chief-of-Staff (G4 Logistics) at Nato Headquarters Northern Army Group in Germany, Lonsdale took over positions in the Royal Army Service Corps as colonel and latterly brigadier until called to the Ministry of Defence in 1966.

A keen sportsman, he was the manager of the British modern pentathlon team at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. After he retired, he was appeals secretary of the British Olympic Association (BOA) for two years from 1969, and introduced corporate financial support for the British team in the 1972 games. In a deal that would not now be countenanced, he created an arrangement with Rothmans cigarettes that involved coupons included in packs being returned by the public: the more people smoked, the more money went to the BOA.

A member of the executive board of the International Union for the Modern Pentathlon and Biathlon, he was also president of the Modern Pentathlon Association of Great Britain. From 1971 until 1979 he was chairman of the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

He married Muriel Allison Payne in 1944. They had a son and a daughter.

GORDON CASELY