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Major Charlie Bucknall
Late The Blues and Royals
by Major J McM Carr-Ellison
formerly The Blues and Royals


Charles Corfield Bucknall died on 23rd December 2017 doing what he loved best.  He died on his horse after a fast hunt with the Percy Hunt of which he was a Joint Master.  He was just 63, but he had packed a huge amount into his life and had, and had given, more fun than most of us. His irrepressible sense of humour and lack of pomposity brightened many lives.  If Charlie was at the party, it was never going to be dull.

 He was born and brought up in Dorset, the eldest son of Robin and Diana Bucknall.  Robin had been a Captain in The Royal Dragoons and Charlie’s grandfather was Lt Gen Gerard Corfield Bucknall who commanded XXX Corps during the invasion of Normandy.  Both his brothers and his brother in law were in the Coldstream Guards and his brother, Lt Gen Sir James Bucknall is currently Regimental Lieutenant Colonel.  Charlie always maintained that they were misguided to opt to march on their feet when they could perfectly well have ridden a horse like him.

He was educated at Harrow where, while being bright, he did not always apply himself with full academic diligence, there being other distractions.  He was destined for the army, initially planning to do a short service commission before university and the Bar; following Sandhurst he joined The Blues and Royals in April 1974. As a subaltern in Windsor and Northern Ireland and Detmold, Germany, he was an excellent if at times a somewhat unconventional troop leader.  Plenty of élan and cavalry dash despite losing all his troop’s rifles at the bottom of Loch Neagh when their patrol boat capsized.  A tour as a troop leader at Knightsbridge with the Household Cavalry Regiment (as it then was) followed.  Charlie was an excellent horseman and he made full use of all the opportunities whether it was eventing, team chasing or hunting, and he trained some good horses.  Much to his Foot Guard friends and relations’ chagrin he perfected the art of collecting street liners’ rifles by hooking them up by the slings with his foot when trotting past on an Escort or State Visit.  He also punished many a Bentley or Mercedes by running his spur down their doors if they happened to pass too close to his horses when mounting the Queens Life Guard.  Sadly, at about this time his much-loved scruffy reddish terrier, Rockley, failed to negotiate the traffic en route to Charlie and Julia’s flat.  At dead of night on the following day he and Trooper Booker stole out and buried Rockley behind the Cavalry Memorial in Hyde Park - a good reason to remember them both each year.


The Blues and Royals Squadron officers, Sep ’78 - Lieutenants Charlie Bucknall, Toby Browne,
Major Brian Lockhart, Captain John Carr-Ellison,
Lieutenant Ted Barclay, and Brian’s dog Lovely

After another spell at regimental duty as Regimental Gunnery Officer he became an instructor at RMA Sandhurst.  His mix of charisma, good humour and professionalism persuaded many aspiring young officers the Army could be a lot of fun as well as a demanding profession.

It was as ‘D’ Squadron Leader with the service regiment in Detmold that he really excelled.  Charlie was a first rate, experienced tank soldier.  He was a leader and motivator of men and was popular because he was reliable and did what he said he was going to do; always cheerful and always positive, especially if things were not going well.  He was fiercely loyal to his soldiers and took great interest in them and their families and always put himself out for them.

Their time in Germany was a very happy one for the Bucknalls. They made great friends with Falk and Beate von Oeynhausen and lived in a wing of the Oeynhausen’s lovely house at Schloss Grevenberg. Falk liked a party as much as Charlie did and what fun they all had.

He left the army in 1988 at the age of 34 and with a young family. He then launched into the world of entrepreneurship. There were various adventures from selling financial services to Bedouins in their tents and old Germans in Paraguay; to running an American helicopter crop spraying company in Cyprus.  Here he had to finish the servicing of the helicopter himself when the pilot went on the run from Interpol.  When he was left with a capful of nuts and bolts and no idea where they went he realised it was time to move on from a career in aviation.

The family returned to live in Northumberland where he made his home for the past 26 years.  He fell in with a kindred spirit in Capt Nick Barker RN of Falklands War fame who was captain of the survey ship HMS Endurance.  Their company did everything from victualling ships, to holding the wet fish contract supplying truck ferries across the North Sea and the servicing of airline life jackets. The latter was especially profitable because, as he pointed out, not many customers used them and came back to complain.  Between them they set up an international metals warehousing company.  It was based initially in Sunderland and then latterly in Shanghai where he made many friends through his irrepressible good humour and his ability to communicate with everyone who came into his life.  People loved dealing with him: for part of his duties he travelled widely and could always be relied on to sniff out the best late night bar whether in Lima, Moscow, Cajul or Lubumbashi in the Congo.

Charlie’s life was always full.  He was an accomplished sailor, competing in the Fastnet race, though he did lose a couple of boats on the rocks of the Northumberland coast.  He threw himself into many aspects of Northumbrian life, often but not exclusively to do with horses.  In his youth he had been a talented event rider and he was always courageous. As a Master of the Weser Vale Bloodhounds in Germany he was known as always taking on the highest part of the hedge and the widest ditch.  He developed a middle aged and enduring interest in polo which surprised many of us because he was hardly built like the lithe Argentinians of a Jilly Cooper novel.  But his interest and enthusiasm for the Percy Hunt gave him much joy, first as District Commissioner of the Percy Pony Club; he was so good at enthusing and encouraging children to learn and have fun. Then as Chairman and Joint Master of the Percy Hunt, his sense of humour, his ability to laugh at himself and his lack of pomposity made it fun and enjoyable for everyone. How he laughed when he jumped a stonewall wearing his newly made Chinese hunting coat and the pressure was so great that all the seams split from top to bottom.

Charlie would have been the first to admit that none of this would have been possible without his rock-solid marriage to Julia and the support that she gave him.  They were a team and his love for her and his daughters, Antonia and Victoria was of the utmost importance in his life.  To them we offer our deepest sympathy; what memories they will have.   

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