Businessman and soldier

Born: February 12, 1917;

Died: March 28, 2015

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Denis Eadie, who has died aged 98, was a young Paisley businessman who was mentioned in despatches three times and decorated in the field with an immediate military cross for his gallantry in the face of the Japanese.

A modest and humble man, he gave his war service the same commitment he gave to his other roles in life whether it was a sportsman in the Cambridge Boat Race team, a guiding light in the family firm or supporter of charity, family and friends. And hero though he was to others, it was not something that defined him in his eyes.

He had been training in the family manufacturing firm when war broke out and was immediately commissioned into 506 Field Company Royal Engineers of the Scottish Lowland division. He spent the entire six years of the Second World War in the army before returning to take up where he left off, back in Eadie Bros & Co Ltd in Paisley, a leading manufacturer and exporter of ring travellers for the textile industry.

Born Denis Sheldon McGregor Eadie in Bridge of Weir, he was the great grandson of Peter Eadie who founded the engineering business. The family of the late Labour MP Tony Benn, including his grandfather the Liberal MP for Govan Daniel Holmes, also originated from the same Eadie branch, a connection in which Denis Eadie always took great pride.

After being educated locally he joined his elder brother Russell at St Piran's prep school, Maidenhead and then at Oundle School, Peterborough before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied mechanical sciences and won a rowing blue stroking the Cambridge crew in the 1938 Boat Race.

By September 3, 1939, the day war was declared, he had been learning the ropes at Eadie Bros for exactly a year. From there he went to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, trained as a motor contact officer and was posted to Sixth Brigade HQ in France in April 1940 - the day after he had proposed to his sweetheart Isobel Woodsend.

After being mentioned in despatches for the first time, he was evacuated from Dunkirk on a destroyer in early June and married Isobel in Paisley Abbey that December, remaining on duties in the UK until April 1942 when he was posted to Burma.

That December Mr Eadie, then a captain and second in command of 21 Field Park Company, took part in the Arakan Campaign and was then involved in training and combined operations on India's west coast before being sent to Kohima in April 1944.

The Japanese had already encircled the garrison town of Imphal and, determined to take Kohima, waged a brutal battle around the deputy commissioner's bungalow. Mr Eadie's division took over from exhausted Allied troops, separated from the enemy by only the few yards of the adjacent tennis court which was to give the battle its name.

On May 2 his task was to get a six-pounder anti-tank gun up to the garrison in Kohima. It had to be hauled round an enemy position bristling with guns, then towed up a 90ft long ramp, under heavy mortar fire, by a steel wire rope. Though one man was killed, another wounded and the troop sergeant injured by the gun passing over him, the detachment got the gun through.

Mr Eadie, who personally carried the dead and wounded up the ramp, was awarded an immediate military cross for his bravery and was later decorated at the roadside by Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell, Governor General and Viceroy of India.

"Captain Eadie throughout the whole of the operation displayed a high standard of leadership and organising ability while under fire," stated his citation. "The success of the operation was entirely due to his example and his rapid appreciation of the situation."

The relief of Kohima, described by Supreme Allied Commander Lord Louis Mountbatten, as "probably one of the greatest battles in history...naked unparalleled heroism", was a turning point in the Burma Campaign and the Japanese were soon driven out of the region, defeating their plan to advance on India.

Mr Eadie, who was also twice mentioned in despatches for his actions during operations in Burma, fought on with his division and when his commanding officer was killed he was made a temporary major and given command of the company. After the capture of Mandalay his division flew to India before sailing unopposed into Rangoon in May 1945. The war with Japan dragged on until August and after being stationed at Mingladon Airport he was included in a flight to Bangkok to bring back the first British prisoners of war. It was September 3, 1945, six years to the day since he had enlisted.

Returning to Eadie Bros, he ensured the company, which employed more than 500 staff in its west of Scotland works and Manchester offices, maintained its position as a leader in its field through his various inventions and improvements to the original devices.

He was also heavily involved in a number of organisations - as chairman of textile-associated ISO Standards committees and the West of Scotland TSB and a member of the bank's board, as a Paisley Hammerman Deacon and member of the Grocer's Company.

A keen supporter of charities, including the Paisley & Glasgow Society, he helped to found Paisley's Accord Hospice and volunteered for various duties at Paisley Abbey and St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, where he lived latterly.

His sporting interests also continued throughout his life: he coached underprivileged boys in boxing, he was a member of Glasgow University Rowing Club and a Commonwealth Games oarsman; he was also the longest surviving member of Henley's Leander rowing club, captain of Prestwick Golf Club and a long-standing member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. A keen fisher and shot, he had many memories of fishing on the Conon, Garry and the Lochy and shooting on Bute and in Neilston with friends and family.

Warm, charming and generous with his time he was a gifted listener and communicator and a gentle man in every sense.

Widowed in 1983, on the death of Isobel, he unexpectedly fell in love for a second time and is survived by his wife Gillian, whom he married in 1991, and children Brian, Rosemary, Peter and Lucy.

ALISON SHAW