Military (& related) obituaries

Major General Corran Purdon CBE MC CPM, hero of St Nazaire raid, captured and eventually held at Colditz, passed away earlier today.
A true gentlemen, a privilege to have met him.
RIP Gripper
 
From the Times:
Nikki Sievwright obituary
International model who later served in the Ulster Defence Regiment

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On a dark night in 1978 near the border in Co Tyrone, “bandit country”, a patrol of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) stopped a car to check its occupants. A second car approached, headlights blazing, and in the confusion shots were fired. The occupants of both cars were able to satisfy the patrol commander with their bona fides, but the patrol’s “greenfinch”, as female members of the UDR were known, was not convinced and insisted on an intimate search of the female passenger. She found the driver’s passport in the woman’s knickers and therefore his real name, which was on the wanted list.

It was just another routine night for the UDR, but a far cry from the international catwalks and photoshoots where the greenfinch, Private Nikki Ross, had made her name.

She had taken off just as Swinging Sixties fashion was hitting its stride. In November 1965 the biggest fashion show Britain had staged abroad was being planned. Funded by the Board of Trade, it was to be held in New York aboard the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth under the direction of Michael Whittaker, who had designed Honor Blackman’s costumes for The Avengers. The aim was to take £1,000,000 worth of orders in a week. One of the models Whittaker chose for the show — “the girls with the million-dollar look” — was 22-year-old Nikki Ross.
Ross had been much sought-after by the Paris fashion houses before coming to London hoping to make it as a photographic model. She tried to get on to the books of the Peter Lumley agency, but he told her she had no personality in front of the camera, nor bone structure. Undeterred, and despite her 35-24-35 figure bringing in the orders in New York, she decided to shed a stone and try again, wearing a hairpiece. This time Lumley took her on without even asking her name. He thrust her into the fast and glamorous world of international photographic modelling, and her income increased tenfold.
Few at the time could have imagined that Ross would one day be wearing a flak jacket rather than couture. Perhaps it was not altogether surprising because she had been in peril even in the womb. In 1942 her father, Charles Ross, an officer in the Colonial Service in Sierra Leone, sent his pregnant wife, Nina, home for her confinement. The west African coast was a hunting ground for German and Italian U-boats. Somehow they made it to England unscathed.
Young Nikki did not see her father until 1947 and four years later her mother died. A godmother took charge until her father returned in 1952, but he then married his Spanish housekeeper, who proved an unsympathetic duenna. They moved to Jersey, where Nikki’s schooling at Victoria College was not memorably happy. She found solace in her pony and became a fearless rider.
As soon as she was 18 she left home for Paris to stay with an honorary sister, one of her godmother’s daughters. Already tall, willowy and strikingly pretty, she was quickly signed up by the fashion house Chloé. Two years later she moved to London and, after Lumley signed her, became a feature of the gossip columns. She was tipped as a contender to replace Jean Shrimpton as the face of the future, but a reputation for clean living gave columnists no scope for scandal, especially when on one assignment she indignantly turned down the invitation to join the other models in Sacha Distel’s bed.
She was serious about her work, going to great pains to discover what look prospective clients wanted. Once, having been given a brief for the bucolic, she was surprised when the clients said they didn’t want her because of her freckles. They were amused and persuaded when she wiped them off.
Amorous photographers and professional charmers were an occupational hazard. In 1968 she married John Venning, a property speculator whose deals proved too risky and whose eyes too wandering. They divorced in 1974.
To raise her spirits, some fellow models persuaded her to accompany them to the Gulf to promote the opening of the Sharjah Carlton Hotel. At the party she met David Sievwright, a dashing British cavalry officer. Six months later they were married. The engagement was the talk of the gossip columns but the bride-to-be was furious with “William Hickey” in the Daily Express for publishing a photograph of her on the beach in Sharjah wearing nothing but an inadequate shemagh.
When Captain Sievwright re-joined his regiment, the 13th/18th Royal Hussars, in Germany the next year, his new bride was something of a sensation. She stood out not only for her looks, but also for her indifference to convention. She was especially popular with the soldiers’ wives. Two years later when the regiment was posted to Northern Ireland for 18 months she astonished everyone by refusing to be confined to barracks and instead enlisting in the UDR. It was probably without precedent, certainly for a cavalry wife.
The UDR had been established in 1970, the year after the IRA began its sustained campaign. To deny the IRA the use of women and children in paramilitary activities the UDR would recruit women; it was the first infantry regiment of the British Army to incorporate women fully into its structure. Although not routinely armed, greenfinches were weapons-trained.
On one occasion, after the bombing of a petrol station near Omagh, the regiment’s quick-reaction force was astonished to find its squadron leader’s wife already on the scene with her UDR patrol. When he arrived she whipped off her beret so as not to have to salute him. The next day she was in Dublin on a modelling assignment.
After Ireland the Sievwrights were posted to Madrid, where the atmosphere during the Falklands conflict was chilly. She did much to improve the temperature. King Juan Carlos was an admirer, as was Queen Sofia. Speaking fluent French and Spanish, good German and handy Arabic, she was an asset to diplomacy in successive capitals. For the next 20 years she followed her husband round the world in his military intelligence work. Two bouts of cerebral malaria did nothing to discourage her.
Maghrebis, Georgians, Chadians and Lebanese alike were periodically astonished by her sudden appearance off-limits, looking as if she were about to take part in a fashion shoot. She was once hauled before the ambassador in Beirut and told to stop her forays into Hezbollah territory while exercising racehorses. It had been a useful means of intelligence gathering, but she was just too conspicuous. Even at 75 heads would turn when she entered a room.
In ostensibly quiet retirement in Wiltshire she resumed her affair with horses and played tennis with an undiminished will to win until on March 3 she was suddenly taken to hospital, where she died of sepsis nine days later. She is survived by her husband, their daughter, Chloé, an interior designer, and their son, David (“Ebe”), who is director of the Guards Polo Club academy.
Nicola Macwilliam Sievwright, model and UDR “greenfinch”, was born on January 28, 1943. She died of sepsis on March 12, 2018, aged 75
My heavens, thank you so much for posting that - I had no idea, wonderful sounding woman, wonderful sounding life
 
I remember him as GOC Near East in 1975/6 when I was a pad brat in Episkopi and my dad was on the HQ Staff.
At a time in his career when he could be swanning around in his staff car and hosting parties on Flagstaff House lawn he was still running in full CEFO and pushing young officers to lift their feet.
A very steely soldier who got an impressive MC at St Nazaire and then spent a lot of time trying to escape, not a friend of the Third Reich!
 
ATA pilot and female aviation legend Mary Ellis died, aged 101, yesterday. It has, rightly, been a feature article on BBC and other news channels. A very attractive woman and talented pilot in her day, she flew / delivered 76 types of aircraft (1000+ in total) during the last war.

Spitfire Pilot Mary Ellis Has Died, Aged 101




 
They were a breed apart, outstandingly brave ladies with bags of derring do. Hard to believe in many cases they transferred unarmed aircraft across hostile skies.
Mary - may you soar in your spitfire into eternity.
 
They were a breed apart, outstandingly brave ladies with bags of derring do. Hard to believe in many cases they transferred unarmed aircraft across hostile skies.
Mary - may you soar in your spitfire into eternity.
I saw her being interviewed on some program a while back. The thing that really stuck in my mind ( apart from her tremendous courage and spirit ) was the wistfulness in her voice when she told of realising, at such a young age, that her life was never going to be as exciting and fulfilling ever again.
 
I saw her being interviewed on some program a while back. The thing that really stuck in my mind ( apart from her tremendous courage and spirit ) was the wistfulness in her voice when she told of realising, at such a young age, that her life was never going to be as exciting and fulfilling ever again.
Thats exactly what Geoffrey Wellum said, his life peaked at 22!
 
I would have loved to have been present at conversations between 'the Gals' and 'Winkle' Brown.
Pure aviation and fun, I would imagine.
You remark on that but recent Saturdays on R4 had a 'dinner guest' themed programme wherein a celeb was given the opportunity to 'invite' personalities to a dinner party.
In essence it was a very detailed edit of a former host of radio and television interviews with the nominated personalities in perfect conversation. Quite outstanding from a technical viewpoint I thought.
 

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