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Maj-Gen Robin Brockbank

1 Sep 2006

Major-General Robin Brockbank, who has died aged 84, was a cavalryman whose dash and initiative on patrol in Tunisia won him an immediate MC.

During the Allied thrust on Tunis in 1943 Brockbank, then a lieutenant, was a troop leader in the 12th Lancers. On the morning of April 23 his troop approached a farm near Goubellat, which turned out to be a cleverly concealed enemy stronghold. He was engaged at a range of 30 yards by three anti-tank guns, supported by a company of infantry. He told his driver to ram the nearest gun, and they drove across a ditch, crushing the gun under their armoured car. The driver was killed, while Brockbank and the wireless operator were wounded as their vehicle was set on fire by shelling from the other guns.

The two men were taken prisoner, and put in a slit trench. Meanwhile their troop sergeant sprayed the area with machine-gun fire, causing the Germans to let off a hand grenade by mistake. When one German put down his machine gun for a moment, Brockbank jumped out of the trench, grabbed it and shot dead the nearest guards.

He then assisted his signaller, who could hardly walk, as they dodged the enemy fire and disappeared into the standing corn. Brockbank went for help, and both men were picked up by another troop and returned to base. The citation for his MC stated that he had shown the greatest initiative and gallantry.

John Myles Brockbank, the son of Colonel JG Brockbank, was born in London on September 19 1921. Always known as Robin, he was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he read History, before being commissioned into the 12th Lancers in 1941.

The regiment landed in Egypt that November, and was involved in the ebb and flow of the North Africa campaign with all its early setbacks. On one occasion Montgomery, wishing to find out how his forward units were coping with life at the sharp end, asked Brockbank and two comrades to dinner. He initiated a lively exchange of views by suggesting that armoured car troop leaders were "a windy lot" before leaving them with a bottle of whisky and retiring early.

After being wounded in the action in which he won his MC, Brockbank found himself in the American base hospital in Alexandria. While convalescing he and a brother officer were wearing GI uniforms, all that were available, when General Eisenhower visited the hospital. "Ike" asked them whether they were not in the habit of saluting senior officers. Only when they had their hats on, he was told.

Brockbank served throughout the Italian campaign and was mentioned in dispatches in 1945. After serving in Malaya during the Communist insurgency, he attended Staff College. Several staff appointments included a move to the British Embassy, Washington, as GSO1.

In 1964 he took command of the regiment, by then the 9th/12th Royal Lancers following the 1960 amalgamation. He was promoted brigadier in 1966 on his appointment as Commander, RAC, 1st (British) Corps. He subsequently became chief of staff of the same formation and then Director, RAC.

Brockbank served as Vice-Adjutant General until he retired from the Army in 1976. He was colonel of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers from 1982 to 1985.

After settling in a village [Steeple Langford] near Salisbury, Wiltshire, he devoted himself to the preservation of the countryside, its wild life and its sports. [Vice Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire 1990-1996]

Robin Brockbank was appointed CBE in 1972.

He married, in 1953, Gillian Findlay, younger daughter of Sir Edmund Findlay, Bt, who survives him with their three sons and a daughter.