Born: 21 August, 1944, in Glasgow.
Died: 21 April, 2005, in Romania, aged 60.
IAN Durie, who was killed in a road accident in Romania while taking part in a bible conference for Romanian army cadets, was a man who, having pursued a distinguished army career, had become an Anglican minister with a deep concern for the ethics of war and an awareness of the importance of a strong Christian ethic in armed forces across the world.
Ian Geoffrey Campbell Durie was one of twin boys. They spent the first year of their life in Argyll. Apart from a short spell near Salisbury, where their father, who was in the army, was posted, they grew up in Scotland, mainly Aberdeen, Argyll and Edinburgh. He and his twin brother, David, (who later became Sir David Durie, Governor of Gibraltar 2000-3) were educated at Fettes. He joined the army in 1962 and, after two years at Sandhurst, followed his father and grandfather by being commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1964. Shortly afterwards, he took a mechanical sciences degree at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he met and married Janie Whitehead.
In the first part of his army career he had two spells with 29 Commando Regiment RA (having been awarded his green beret despite a severe bout of septicaemia acquired during commando training) first as battery commander and then as CO, following which he was appointed OBE in 1987. In between these postings he spent a period in the Falklands as planning staff officer in 1984.
He was a practical soldier and an intellectual one. He was an instructor at the staff college in Camberley, Surrey, in 1987 as well as chief instructor, tactics, at the Royal School of Artillery in 1988 before attending the higher command and staff course at Camberley in 1989. In 1992, after the Gulf War, he became director, land warfare, working to give a sound basis for future structure and planning for military intervention. He had to draw on all his previous experience, including, notably, from his time in the Gulf in 1992, when, as a brigadier and Commander Royal Artillery 1st (UK) Armoured Division, he led the divisional artillery group.
This was a seminal experience because the firepower of the Royal Artillery in the Gulf was formidable. Durie ensured that the gunners were fully prepared for the role they would be required to fulfill. He was a well-known sight as he visited the troops carrying his cromach. He had no doubt that he and they would be taking part in a "just war" to evict Saddam Hussein’s force from Kuwait despite the massive violence involved.
The part played by the Royal Artillery under Durie was recognised by the British force commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Peter de la Billiere, who later wrote: "The gunners have performed magnificently under Ian Durie and have shown once again that artillery is a key to winning the tactical land battle." He was appointed CBE for his outstanding performance in command.
In 1994, Durie was promoted Major-General and became director, Royal Artillery, the senior serving gunner, where he began to put into practice the lessons he had learned in the Gulf and from his time as director, land warfare. After he retired from the Army in 1996, he maintained his links by becoming a colonel commandant of the Royal Regiment of Artillery
For some time, Durie , strongly influenced by his wife, Janie, had been an increasingly devout and active Christian, drawing on his Scottish Episcopalian roots as well as on the faith and support of Christian friends and colleagues, civilian as well as military. It was therefore widely welcomed when he decided to study at St John’s Theological College, Nottingham, after which he was ordained at Southwark Cathedral in September 1998.
He then spent six productive and happy years as non-stipendiary curate at St Mark’s Church, Battersea Rise, south London. In many ways, Durie was more like an assistant vicar than a curate, deeply involved in pastoral work as well as playing an important role in developing and presenting Alpha discipleship courses. He was a particularly inspiring preacher. He was also heavily involved in Christians Against Poverty and many other community activities.
At the same time he was becoming increasingly involved in the charity which became known as Accts Military Ministries International (Accts MMI). He became (unpaid) executive chairman in 1998 and developed his interest in the concept of the "just war", drawing on his military as well as Christian experience. Accts MMI seeks to serve Christians and chaplains in the military throughout the world by introducing service men and women to active Christian faith and help them explore and apply Christian ethics and values in their working lives. Under Durie’s leadership, Accts MMI had expanded from organising one conference a year to nine, and it was in connection with one in Romania that he was killed alongside two Romanian soldiers, including the head of the Romanian Land Forces Academy, Major-General Nicolae Uscoi.
With regard to the recent invasion of Iraq, Durie had serious reservations that the conditions which pertained in 2003 did not match the principles of a just war and he therefore wrote to the Prime Minister and the Chief of the General Staff, setting out those reservations.
In the light of what has happened since, Durie decided that work was needed to apply the concept of the just war to modern conditions, and to this end, earlier this year, he embarked on a course of study intended to lead to a PhD at King’s College, London. He and Janie had moved to Salisbury, where he had taken on the lighter post of associate minister of St Francis Church, giving him more time to study.
He was always a staunch family man, never losing sight of his origins in Scotland, returning to Argyll whenever he could, always with Janie, and often with his daughter and her family.