Scots Guardsman and senior police officer

Born: May 9, 1935;

Died: February 19, 2019

WILLIAM Donald Brockie, who has died of cancer aged 83, was a former Scots Guardsman and a senior police officer. For many years, he was a chief inspector who dealt with complaints and discipline at force headquarters in Glasgow.

Known as Willie Brockie to friends and colleagues, he was born in Glasgow but moved with his relatives to the family croft on North Uist when he was only months old. Four years later the family returned to the city where Willie was educated at Hyndland Secondary School. He was popular and successful at school and, as well as winning the senior boys’ sports championship, achieved sufficient qualifications for university entrance. However, his family had a long history of service in the military and his initial intention was to join one of the Highland regiments in which his forebears had served.

At the age of 18, he called at a recruiting centre in Glasgow where he was interviewed by a regular army sergeant who had seen service in the Second World War with the Scots Guards. When he left the centre, despite his original inclination for a Highland regiment, he had signed up for a career in the Scots Guards.

The following week he presented himself for basic training at the guard’s depot at Caterham where at the entrance an immaculate guardsman stood to attention. Not sure where to go, young Willie approached him and asked for advice.

To his surprise, the guardsman did not reply, blink or move a muscle. Willie persisted only to receive the same reaction until he was momentarily stunned when a voice roared in his ear, "What do you think you are doing!" It was only then that he realised that a guards’ sergeant had come up behind him while he was attempting to attract the sentry’s attention.

Willie nervously began to explain that he was a new recruit but was abruptly stopped by the sergeant who asked which unit he was to join. When Willie explained that it was the Scots Guards he was stunned when the Sergeant shouted at him, ‘If you had been here to join the Grenadier or Coldstream Guards, I would have loved you. If it had been the Welsh or Irish Guards, I would have put up with you. But it’s the Scots Guards and I hate you as I hate all Scots Guards!’ The Sergeant’s response was no doubt for effect but a nervous Willie was not to know that at the time.

In the years that followed, he cheerfully settled to army life in the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards affectionately known as the ‘Rabbits’ from the fact that the guardsmen were invariably under the usual 6ft height standard of those in the 1st Battalion.

Within a year he had impressed sufficiently to be promoted corporal and at the early age of 20 years, was informed that he was to be promoted lance sergeant.

He was all set for a life in the army and would no doubt have had a very successful career but love in the form of his teenage sweetheart, Ailsa, his future wife, came on the scene. In the 1950s, army married quarters were very basic and far from comfortable and this did not appeal to the young couple. So a difficult choice had to be made. Love won and Willie decided to end his other love affair with the Guards.

He plumped for a new career with The City of Glasgow Police. Posted to Maryhill Division he began at Camperdown Street Police Station in the Saracen district of the city. This was a tough working class area but Willie was a tough character and he was well respected by the locals. These were the days before personal radios and instant backup and survival on the beat was often dependent upon wit, quick thinking and good common sense.

After six years on the beat he transferred to Divisional CID and shortly after was promoted to Detective Sergeant. He was a very able detective officer and his CID experience included a successful secondment to the renowned Glasgow Flying Squad.

In 1977, shortly after the formation of Strathclyde Police Force, he was promoted to inspector and appointed staff officer to the new L Division with its headquarters at Dumbarton. The division comprised the former Dumbarton Constabulary and Argyll County Police forces and the position of staff officer was a new concept. It was akin to the role of Adjutant in a Regular Army Regiment and Willie was ideal for the job.

He remained at L Division until 1984 when he was promoted to chief inspector and assigned to the complaints and discipline in Glasgow. This was a difficult and complex role but once again he excelled. The duties of an officer in the branch involved the investigation of complaints against the police and breaches of police discipline. This required a high degree of professionalism and the ability to independently carry our enquiries in a dispassionate and unbiased manner and he gained a reputation for fairness and objectivity. He remained there for the rest of his service.

He never lost his ties with North Uist and every year would spend time at the family croft where he was never happier than when pulling and harvesting ‘tatties’.

He retired from the Police in 1996 and became a volunteer with the Armed Forces charity SSAFA and with the Glasgow branch of The Scots Guards Association where he became a very active secretary.

Willie Brockie is survived by Ailsa, daughters Fiona and Marion and son William.