Obituary: Col David Lloyd-Jones OBE, soldier

BORN: 29 December, 1924, in Lincolnshire. Died: 6 February, 2015, in Angus, aged 90.
Former soldier who became administrator of Glamis Castle after a life of adventure. Picture: ContributedFormer soldier who became administrator of Glamis Castle after a life of adventure. Picture: Contributed
Former soldier who became administrator of Glamis Castle after a life of adventure. Picture: Contributed

He often used to comment that he had the best commute a man could wish for – motoring up the mile-long drive to a fairytale castle with the Angus hills behind him.

His previous work locations, the Tower of London excluded, had undoubtedly been less salubrious but Colonel David Lloyd-Jones’ final “posting” was spectacular: the glorious Glamis Castle, childhood home of the HM The Queen Mother, where, after an army career that took him all over the world, he was appointed administrator.

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It was a role in which he deployed many of his army skills, and all of his personal charisma, to usher the Angus estate into the commercial world, instigating, among other initiatives, the launch of Glamis Whisky and Strathmore bottled water.

But it was altogether a much more sedate life than his earlier experiences serving Queen and country. He was badly wounded during the Second World War, mentioned in despatches while serving in Cyprus during political unrest and in between army service had been thrown into jail in Iran during an oil crisis.

Returning to soldiering after extricating himself from prison, he enjoyed a distinguished career which included overseeing the training of countless national service recruits for active service and the honour of being the last commanding officer of the XX Lancashire Fusiliers, a regiment dating back to 1688.

Born in Lincolnshire, where his father was the vicar at Gate Burton, he was educated at Greycotes and the Dragon School in Oxford before attending Wellington College where, during an air raid in which the school was bombed, he resolved to sign up.

Lloyd-Jones, who joined the Home Guard in 1940 as a 16-year-old despatch rider, explained years later: “I was shivering in a shelter. Two boys in my house were killed. I turned around and saw they were shot down. After that I decided to join the army. I was fed up looking at Latin and wasn’t much of an academic.”

The Master of Wellington College was also killed in the raid and, true to his word, a couple of years later and just a week after leaving school, Lloyd-Jones arrived at the Royal Marine depot at Lympstone in Devon, where he was one of the top recruits and proved an excellent shot.

He was selected for officer training and subsequently posted to command a flotilla of landing craft, first to North Africa and then to Naples, where he was badly injured when he was caught in an explosion during a German bombing raid on the harbour.

He lay unconscious in hospital for 36 hours but recuperated from jaw and arm injuries and returned to his flotilla before being sent with a small company of men to Villa Emma near Naples, residence of the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, Admiral Sir John Cunningham.

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Their task was to guard a VIP guest who, it transpired, was King George VI.

Relating the story to the Royal British Legion decades later, Lloyd-Jones reportedly recalled: “I had a sentry outside his bedroom door at night but he didn’t like that. So I put the sentry in a linen cupboard and bored a few holes in the wall so he could keep an eye on things. This was a hugely interesting week in my life, one that I will always remember.”

He went on to take part in landings in the South of France before being demobbed and working briefly on a farm in Fife where his father was by then rector of St Michael & Angels Church in Elie.

From there he went to Iran where he spent four years working with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – later to become BP – laying pipelines in the desert.

His aim, to return home with £1,000, was thwarted in 1951 when Iran decided to nationalise the venture.

British workers were all rounded up but he was caught up in riots, arrested for “pamphleteering” and jailed.

He managed to get out of prison by paying a bribe – all of his earnings – but suffered the horror of seeing his beloved dog Rex and black polo pony Satan shot in front of him by the Iranian authorities.

Returning to England, he re-joined the army and was commissioned into the Lancashire Fusiliers, a regiment he loved and which he would ultimately command.

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In 1952 he married Helen, daughter of Col Sir Ramsay and Lady Maitland of Burnside, with whom he had three children. The family went all over the world as he pursued a professional military career, seeing service in Trieste, Italy, Cyprus – where he earned a Mention in Despatches – Germany with the British Army of the Rhine, British Guyana, Jamaica and Hong Kong.

He also had a variety of UK postings including to Aldershot, Warminster, the Tower of London and Bury, where he commanded the Fusilier Depot, training national service recruits. His last appointment was as Commandant of the Cadet Training Centre at Frimley Park where he was in charge of 1,300 detachments nationwide, work which he found hugely rewarding and which earned him an OBE.

After leaving the army in 1978 he took up the post of administrator at Glamis Castle and the family moved back to his wife’s family home, Reswallie in Angus, where he was closely involved in local affairs.

He was honorary colonel of the Angus and Dundee Cadets; chairman of Save the Children and of the Rescobie Loch Riparian Owners Committee; a member of RM Condor and a staunch supporter of St John’s Episcopal Church in Forfar.

At Glamis his organisational and leadership skills plus his hands-on approach helped to make the castle a dignified commercial success. Never one to sit behind a desk, he would be in the thick of things, chatting to tourists, encouraging staff and even conducting some of the tours himself to get feedback from visitors.

He was also the one who instigated the commemorative gates in the Italian garden there for the late Queen Mother’s 80th birthday. He held the Strathmore family in great affection which was fully reciprocated.

He was a regular at the Glamis Vintage Vehicle Extravaganza and had a collection of vintage vehicles at home, a passion that stemmed from his childhood. The first vintage car he rebuilt was a 1924 six-and-a-half litre Bentley which he spotted, discarded in pieces, at an old sugar mill while he was serving in British Guyana.

He contrived to have the bits brought back on his troop ship and assembled it over the years. He also restored a rare 1935 Brough Superior car which he had discovered inhabited by roosting chickens, a Jaguar XJS he picked up in New Zealand, 
an Austin Healey Frog Eyed Sprite, an Austin 7 and a Bullnose Morris.

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Tall and handsome, an inspirational role model and brilliant raconteur, he lived his exceptionally busy life by the army values of courage, discipline and humour.

He never once utilised the technology of a mobile phone or computer but preferred instead to give his time and wisdom in person, never more generously than when with friends and family who were constantly entertained at Reswallie.

Predeceased by his wife a few months ago, he is survived by their children Jock, Peter and Caroline, and seven grandchildren.