Mark Strudwick joined the army for adventure and it certainly wasn’t in short supply: he served in numerous trouble spots, was mentioned twice in despatches, helped catch a triple killer and became General Officer Commanding the army in Scotland.
When he had finished soldiering he went on to head the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust, (PSYBT) helping countless youngsters make their way in business, including Scots bra queen Michelle Mone, now Baroness Mone of Mayfair OBE.
His was a life defined by service which included passionate commitment to the Order of St John where he was both prior and chair of St John Scotland, supporting its international work and recognised for his inspired leadership with the award of Officer of Merit military division (with swords).
The son of book publisher and artist Ronald Strudwick and his wife Mary, he was born in Kent and educated at St Edmund’s School, Canterbury before training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Commissioned into the Royal Scots in 1966, he served in the UK, with the British Army of the Rhine, in Cyprus, Canada, India and Northern Ireland where he was mentioned in despatches. His first MiD, in 1984, followed a challenging tour of duty in west Balfast where he dealt with some serious rioting. The second was as Brigade Commander, 3 Infantry Brigade, in South Armagh. He was awarded the CBE for his leadership during the building of permanent vehicle check points and observation towers in the area.
In the mid-1980s he commanded 1st Battalion, the Royal Scots, and faced one of its blackest days when three soldiers were executed by one of their colleagues during a pay roll heist. Corporal Andrew Walker had signed out a sub-machine gun from an armoury before shooting the three men who had just picked up the £19,000 army payroll for Glencorse barracks in Penicuik. The bodies of paymaster Major David Cunningham, 56, Staff Sergeant Terrence Hosker, 39, and Private John Thomson, 25, were found in the bloodied snow of the Pentland Hills in January 1985. All had been shot in the head.
Strudwick ordered the battalion to account for and check all weapon systems. It was later found that a bullet in one of the victims forensically matched the gun signed out by their killer, who was convicted and sentenced to 30 years, reduced to 27 on appeal.
Meanwhile Strudwick spent a year as an instructor at Staff College, Camberley before going to Northern Ireland as assistant chief of staff at G1/G4 HQ. Among subsequent posts, he was deputy military secretary at the Ministry of Defence and aide de camp to HM The Queen, 1996-97, before becoming General Officer Commanding, Army in Scotland and, in tandem, Governor of Edinburgh Castle, 1997-2000.
After retiring from the army he applied to become chief executive of the PSYBT, motivated through his love of working with and supporting young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Over 12 years he led a team supporting youngsters to start and grow their own business, with a small army of volunteers providing advice, professional support and mentoring and the charity funding more than 650 companies with loans and grants.
However, he realised that, once they were up and running, further support was needed to help them flourish and so he introduced the charity’s Growth Fund for those who wanted to take their business to the next level. Many helped through the PSYBT have gone on to become household names, such as Michelle Mone and Louise McDonald who set up the women’s health and fitness club franchise Curves.
Another large part of his life was the Order of St John, of which he had been Prior since 2015 until June this year. He led the organisation through a period of significant change, refocusing its efforts on building charitable services run by St John volunteers to benefit Scottish communities. He was also enthusiastic about St John Scotland’s international work, visiting the St John eye Hospital in Jerusalem and St John Malawi on several occasions.
He died two days before he was due to be invested with the order’s Officer of Merit award. The citation praised his leadership which led to a substantial increase in charitable services, the stabilisation of membership and impressive growth in volunteers. During his tenure the patient transport provision for renal and cancer treatment more than doubled and training was given to 500,000 citizens in bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation with more than 200 public defibrillators supplied around Scotland.
He was also a senior member of the Royal Company of Archers (the Queen’s bodyguard for Scotland) and had been involved since 1994, a lieutenant since 2018. Other offices he held included: Her Majesty’s Commissioner, Queen Victoria School, Dunblane; governor of the Royal School, Bath and Gordonstoun; chairman of Scottish Veterans’ Residences and trustee of Historic Scotland Foundation.
Although his life was hectic, he also managed to squeeze in hobbies of golf, shooting, fishing and sailing and had served as Commodore of the Infantry Sailing Association.
In all of his endeavours he always had the backing of a supportive wife, firstly Jan, whom he met at a tennis party in Glencorse and who predeceased him, and then Sue, whom he met on the sidelines while watching their grandchildren play sport at the same prep school.
He is survived by Sue, his children Piers and Sara, step-children Jeremy, Robin and Sacha, four grandchildren and 11 step-grandchildren.
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