Former Chief of the Defence Staff

Born: December 18, 1923;

Died: November 12, 2019.

FIELD Marshal Lord Bramall, who has died aged 95, saw action at D-Day, where he was wounded and won the MC, and in Malaysia during

the Emergency; he was in charge of British Forces in Hong Kong, Commander-in Chief of British Land Forces, head of the Army during the Falklands War and, eventually, Chief of the Defence Staff, in overall charge of the UK’s armed services.

He oversaw a reorganisation of the MoD in the 1960s and defended the forces against further centralisation 20 years later. He called for a strategic defence review in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War and

was sceptical about the wisdom of involvement in war in Iraq in 2003, writing to newspapers to warn against an invasion. He became President of MCC, chaired the trustees of the Imperial War Museum, and became a JP and, for 12 years, Lord Lieutenant of Greater London. He notched up successive recognition as OBE, KCB, GCB, elevation to the peerage and, in 1990, the Garter.

Yet his later years were blighted by allegations – which turned out to be malicious and entirely unfounded – of child sexual abuse, made by an

anonymous accuser, “Nick”, and given widespread currency by the support of the Labour MP Tom Watson. They led to Bramall’s arrest by 20 police officers in a dawn raid in March 2015, when he was 91; almost a year later his wife of more than 65 years died before the charges were found to be baseless. His accuser, a fantasist and perjurer named Carl Beech, who invented allegations against a number of public figures for financial gain, subsequently received an 18-year prison sentence for perverting the course of justice.

It was a grim ordeal for Bramall, who received substantial compensation and a personal apology from two separate chiefs of the Met, though not from Watson; but the allegations – which all those who had ever known “Dwin” Bramall found literally incredible – had threatened to taint a lifetime of public service, and one of the most distinguished service careers of the past century.

Edwin Noel Westby Bramall was born on December 18, 1923 at Rusthall, Kent, son of Major Edmund Bramall, RA, and his wife Katherine (née Westby), known as Bryda, an impoverished aristocrat with “progressive” ideas for madcap socialist enterprises (which invariably failed) who refused to countenance a move to Egypt, where her husband’s family cotton business was based. As a result, the household finances declined sharply. All the same, she was a forceful figure (she managed to get the bus route round Sloane Square altered for her own convenience) and there was enough money to send her sons Ashley – later knighted as the hard-Left Labour leader of Inner London Educational Authority – and Dwin to school at Westminster and Eton respectively.

At Eton, Dwin was a notable figure on the sports field and in the art school, if not in more academic pursuits. He led an unbeaten cricket XI through a season, scoring the winning run in the Eton/Harrow match of 1942, which they won by nine wickets, and had two pictures hung in the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition the same year.

Painting and cricket remained lifelong enthusiasms.

He also enlisted in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (the 60th, later to be the Green Jackets); the following year, he was commissioned and joined the Second Battalion for the D-Day offensives, coming ashore as a platoon commander on D+1 (June 7 1944) on Juno Beach, Normandy. He was supposed to bring in the half-tracks that would support the tank regiments that had landed; during one briefing, he and a fellow officer came under sustained fire from German 88mm guns.

They lay together: Bramall survived, while his companion was killed. In the advance towards Caen, he was shot in the thigh, then evacuated.

Within weeks, he was back in action, only to be shot again in the shoulder while crossing the Somme. In October 1944, he and the reconnaissance patrol he led stumbled across a German outpost in densely mined woodland; Bramall attacked, wounding two Germans and capturing another. The seven remaining Germans withdrew. For this action, he received an immediate MC, which was presented by Field Marshal Montgomery.

At war’s end, he was in Denmark, and then promoted to staff captain and posted to India. He took a permanent commission, becoming a major, and was sent to Japan. He arrived after the surrender, but spent a year in Okayama as an administrator.

In 1947, he returned to Britain and turned down a place at Oxford, going instead to the War Office and

becoming an infantry-school instructor. In 1949 he married (Dorothy) Avril Vernon, the daughter of a brigadier-general. He was, at 29, the youngest man of his year at Staff College, after which he spent three years in Egypt and Libya.

In 1963, he was selected to help Lord Mountbatten, then CDS, to reorganise the MoD, and was appointed OBE. He then commanded 2nd Battalion, KRRC, in Borneo, where he was mentioned in despatches. In 1967 he became a brigadier and took command of the 5th Infantry Brigade; three years later he went to the Imperial Defence College, and in 1971 to Germany as the General Officer Commanding, 1st Division, BAOR. He became a Lt-General in 1973, when he became commander of British forces in Hong Kong.

In 1976, he returned to London, and as head of the UK’s Land Forces became embroiled in a row over a freeze on servicemen’s wages, which Bramall thought would lead to a huge reduction in strength; he briefed the press accordingly, to the fury of the Labour government. But it did not prevent his becoming chief of the general staff in 1979.

In 1982, he warned against dispatching a task force to the Falklands, concerned that Britain

had insufficient air power; after the victory there, he nonetheless became CDS, but had to contend with Michael Heseltine as Defence Secretary, whom he thought treated people “with contempt”, and attempted to push through plans for further amalgamation.

Bramall retired in 1985, and was raised to the peerage in 1987. His wife died in 2015; he is survived by their son and daughter.