Minister and decorated war veteran;

Born April 14 1918; Died July 26 2011

The Rev Keith Spence, who has died at the age of 93, was a long-serving minister in the Church of Scotland and a decorated war hero.He was awarded the Military Cross in 1945 as British forces advanced through north-west Europe. He was serving with the Ayrshire Yeomanry when an order had gone out to clear some woods but this left both tanks and infantry exposed on a nearby road.

The citation records that the then Captain Spence “on his own initiative brought down fire with remarkable speed and skill whenever it was requested” and this action prevented the tanks and infantry suffering serious casualties.

Once the engagement was accomplished, he then searched for the crews of tanks which had been hit and who had been left in a very vulnerable position, continuing to do so under heavy artillery and shell fire for two hours, carrying at least one badly-wounded man more than half a mile to safety. “He rendered invaluable assistance in most dangerous and difficult circumstances in collecting the wounded, thereby setting a magnificent example to all ranks.”

As well as being awarded the MC, he was twice mentioned in despatches.

Mr Spence was born in Georgetown, British Guyana, but educated at Hillhead High School in Glasgow. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1937, graduating in arts three years later.

From 1940 until 1946 he saw military service and on demobilisation he returned to Glasgow University to study for the ministry of the Church of Scotland, graduating Bachelor of Divinity in 1949. He spent a year as student assistant at New Kilpatrick Church in Bearsden, and in June 1949 he was ordained and inducted to the parish of Henry Drummond in Glasgow.

Throughout his ministry, Mr Spence continued his military service as a chaplain in the Territorial Army. He was appointed Senior Chaplain (Scotland) in 1962, and subsequently became Senior Chaplain to 52 (Lowland) Division. His outstanding service was recognised with the award of the Territorial Decoration in 1961.

In 1958 he moved to the Old Parish in Port Glasgow (now St Andrew’s) and later crossed the Firth of Clyde to Craigrownie Parish Church in Cove, where he remained until his retirement in 1983, when he moved to Helensburgh, and frequently was called on to serve as locum in vacant parishes in the Presbytery of Dumbarton.

At a gathering in St Columba’s Church in Helensburgh, where he became a member, to mark the 60th anniversary of his ordination, he said he had never had any regrets about going into the ministry, and that his whole ministry had been a happy one.

Outside his faithful pastoral work and strong preaching, which exemplified the very best of the immediate post-war generation of Church of Scotland ministers, Mr Spence was very interested in the work of bible societies, and many of his colleagues had reason to be grateful to him for providing them with bibles for couples being married or having a child baptised.

He was a trustee and secretary of the West of Scotland Bible Society and made a director of the National Bible Society of Scotland in 1963. He also gave considerable time to the University of Glasgow, serving on several committees of the graduates’ General Council.

In retirement, Keith Spence spent a great deal of time on mathematics, in which he had a huge interest, and he passed several examinations set at very high levels. His minister, Rev George Vidits said of him: “He was a gentle, quiet man who was a great story-teller and a distinguished preacher. It was always easy to listen to him.”

Mr Spence is survived by his wife Margaret. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in January this year.