Obituary: Andrew Houstoun, Soldier, farmer, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Angus, councillor and JP

Andrew Houston
Andrew Houston
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Andrew Beatty Houstoun OBE MC DL, soldier and farmer. Born: 15 October, 1922 in Sachel Court, West Sussex. Died: 16 December, 2017, Dundee, aged 95

On the battlefield, in business and in public life, Andrew Houstoun displayed the grit and poise that made him an outstanding leader.

Though wounded twice, the cool-headed and courageous young soldier had a good war, winning the Military Cross and defeating many enemy troops while inspiring his own men. In peacetime he became an army major, farmer and vice lord-lieutenant of Angus and remained a walking encyclopaedia of war history, country life and much else besides.

The middle child of five, he was born on the West Sussex border to Isabel and her husband William Houstoun who had returned home to farm after working in Calcutta on duties including responsibility for the British India Steam Navigation company.

Educated at Harrow, the schoolboy was struck down by polio as a teenager but made a full recovery, and as a youngster enjoyed holidays in Angus where the family rented a grouse moor on the Airlie estate each summer.

When it came to a career, though he planned to join the army it had been thought he would go up to Oxford. However on the eve of his interview, with the Second World War under way, he was so busy clearing fire bombs off a neighbour’s roof that he forgot his university appointment and the army won the day.

After initial training as a trooper he attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and his first posting, in 1943, was to Homs, Syria, with C Squadron, The Royal Dragoons, followed by service in Italy that same year.

Then 1944 saw him on the French coast, aiding 12 Corps with beach landings, before returning to C Squadron for the remainder of the war. He sustained his battle wounds in Holland, while fending off a tank attack, and later in Germany when he was shot at close range but pressed home a successful assault to wipe out an enemy outpost.

Both incidents illustrated his bravery and composure and were detailed in his Military Cross citation, awarded in 1946, which stated: “During the whole of the European campaign Lt Houstoun has shown himself to be an outstandingly good troop leader showing on many occasions the greatest powers of leadership and a disregard for his own safety.”

In the Dutch incident, when his troop was helping to keep the Nijmegen-Eindhoven road open, he was instrumental in delaying several German tanks for long enough to allow American anti-tank gunners to get into position and finally hold off the attack. Despite his injuries he remained in command of his troop until the emergency was over and a medical officer ordered him back.

On many other occasions during the advance through France, Belgium and Holland, his ability and courage led to many Germans being killed or captured and much enemy equipment being destroyed. While leading a dismounted party against a small enemy outpost in a wood near Uelzen, in Germany, he was shot by a nearby German. Despite a leg wound he remained in control.
“This officer’s outstanding leadership and personal courage has been a continual inspiration to his Squadron,” the citation concluded.

He was also one of the first Allies to enter Copenhagen at the end of the war – but not without incident. His squadron had been deployed to liberate Denmark on VE Day but en route they came across a German U-boat captain who had not heard the conflict was over. A show of force persuaded him to surrender.

After the war Houstoun was stationed in Germany, as second-in-command of his squadron, and where he was involved in the War Crimes Commission. He became adjutant to the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry in 1949 and after three years in Fife, during which he met his future wife Mary Spencer-Nairn, he returned to the Royal Dragoons, deployed to Egypt’s Suez Canal. The couple married in 1953, not long after he had marched in the Coronation Parade, and after commanding C Squadron in Egypt, Houstoun and Mary moved to Germany.

He retired from the regular army a couple of years later after being offered a farm with some good shooting near Kirriemuir and subsequently took command as Lt Colonel of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry as a territorial.

Meanwhile he mastered the business of farming, the couple raised four sons, Houstoun became a county councillor and was heavily involved in the National Farmers’ Union and various other local organisations. He was convenor of the Scottish Landowners’ Federation and was its European representative, work for which he was awarded the OBE in 1983.

He also sat as a Justice of the Peace, was a member of Dundee University Court, a trustee of the National Trust for Scotland and a Deputy Lieutenant for Angus, later Vice Lord-Lieutenant.

Houstoun lived at Lintrathen Lodge in Angus and farmed at Clintlaw, Lintrathen and at Glenkilry in Glenshee for roughly 35 years. Then following his third hip replacement the couple downsized nearby where they created a beautiful garden, with an impressive rhododendron collection, which they opened to visitors in aid of the local parish churches where he was a loyal member.

He is survived by his wife, sons William, David, Sandy and Neil and extended family.