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Lieutenant Colonel Conway Seymour LVO
Late Grenadier Guards
by Lieutenant General Sir Anthony Denison-Smith KBE DL
formerly Grenadier Guards

Grenadiers and a great many across the Household Division and elsewhere will have felt a deep sadness and sense of loss on hearing of Conway’s death on 20th November 2019.  He was 78.  He occupied a very special place in the hearts of so many.  His infectious gravelly chuckle, his beaming welcoming smile, his sudden burst of uncontrollable laughter, his kindness to all and his generosity of spirit are characteristics which will long be remembered about this remarkable and much-admired Grenadier. Conway became an encyclopaedia of Grenadier history and customs.

He entered Sandhurst from Eton in 1959, a fourth generation Grenadier.  There was one incident at Sandhurst worth recording. Confined to the Sandhurst sailing boat, Wishstream, in a French harbour, whilst the instructors went ashore to dine, he decided to entertain the local fishermen to a medley of songs starting with the Eton Boating Song, then The British Grenadiers, then Men of Harlech and so on.  His rich baritone echoed across the harbour.  Amused locals on the quayside gathered to listen and wine flowed.  When the instructors returned from their dinner, the young cadet, well-imbibed, was commended for promoting Anglo-French relations.

He joined the First Battalion in 1961 and spent his first five years as a platoon commander in the UK, Germany and on the Emergency tour in Cyprus.  His charisma and sense of fun quickly marked him out as someone rather different. His immediate rapport with all ranks made him both popular and respected.  In Cyprus, he and John Baskervyle-Glegg vied with each other for the deepest tan.  This competition ended when Conway, now sporting a moustache, was arrested by Greek policemen who suspected he was a Turkish terrorist disguised as a UN Officer. He was convinced he was about to be shot.

From Cyprus, he was posted to Yorkshire to become ADC to Rex Whitworth a much-respected Grenadier general who was commanding Northumbrian District.  Not at all satisfied with the HQ Officers’ Mess, he moved with speed into the comfort and style of the Officers’ Mess of The Queen’s Own Hussars, the local cavalry regiment.  He became a very popular member of that Mess and is remembered even today for being told off for wearing his service dress cap at breakfast, a good Grenadier Custom.

Next, to his delight, he was selected to be Second Captain of The Queen’s Company at Caterham.  There followed two Grenadier command appointments, first as Company Commander Headquarter Company 1st Battalion in Sharjah and Londonderry, followed by two years commanding the Grenadier Training Company at the Guards Depot.

It was now time for Conway to undertake a staff job to further his career.  Many such appointments were within reach of his home, one of which was on the staff of the Parachute Brigade in Aldershot. Offered this post he responded with the immortal words ‘If God had wanted me to fly, he would have given me wings!’  He settled for an appointment in Quartering.

In 1976 he returned to the fold as Headquarter Company Commander 2nd Battalion, which took him to Hong Kong and then Londonderry as Community Relations Officer, the perfect appointment for his skill with people.  He used to arrange football matches with the local schoolchildren in the Creggan Estate, followed by enormous teas, thus helping to diffuse the hostility in the largely Republican area.

Two Grade 2 Staff appointments followed, one in Defence Sales where he excelled hosting foreign visitors and the next in PS12 involved in all ceremonial events; right up his street.

With a sigh of relief he returned once more to his Regiment as Senior Major 2nd Battalion, serving in Germany, Chelsea and Cyprus.  In Germany, the Officers’ Mess decided to celebrate the Commanding Officer’s 40th Birthday with an Indian night, in deference to his birth in Bangalore.  Conway arrived for dinner with a bottle of champagne and dressed as a Red Indian!

The Battalion deployed to Cyprus in November 1982 on an unaccompanied six-month tour and Conway was given command of one half of the Battalion, with the task of securing the Eastern Sovereign Base Area based in Dhekelia. He was promoted to Acting Lieutenant Colonel.  ‘Do you realise that I am the first Seymour in four generations of Grenadiers to reach this rank’ he proudly declared.

He was a very safe pair of hands and was much admired in the local area.  There was also the latent showman in him.  As the Battalion was about to leave Cyprus, Conway was tasked with arranging a farewell party in the Dhekelia Beach Club for all the VIPs on the Island, including the seven UN commanders from the line.  On the night of the party, Conway decided that the Corps of Drums should march up the beach from the sea, in tunic order, to Beat Retreat in front of the guests. He proudly took the salute.  It was a spectacular event.

Two more staff appointments in the MOD, both in the Planning world, led him gleefully in 1985 to a five-year tour as Regimental Adjutant.  He was brilliant in the appointment and loved it. He considered The Regimental Band to be his personal command and took a great interest in all the musicians and the music. But much more than this, he crisscrossed the country visiting all the Association Branches, speaking at their events and boosting their morale with his extrovert good humour. He loyally supported his Lieutenant Colonels and fundamentally kept the Regiment safe.

The one drawback to the appointment was that he had to attend the Trooping every year on horseback.  He was a reluctant rider, as confirmed by the verdict on his riding course in 1962 ‘I would not recommend him as a future horseman’. But, typically, he got on with it cheerfully and, in the end, rode on the Birthday Parade a great many times.

His final job in the Army was back to the Guards Depot as Headquarter Company Commander and Officer Commanding the All Arms Drill Wing.  He was described by the Commandant as a wise old bird, which sums him up perfectly.

On retiring from the Army in 1992 he helped to raise money for Basingstoke Hospital, working out of a shoebox for an office. Imagine his delight when, three years later, he was asked to return to RHQ to be Regimental Adjutant as a retired officer.  Back to the Regiment came this extraordinary personality, bubbling with enthusiasm and loyalty, who continued to serve in the appointment for a further eleven years.  The culmination of this tenure was the 350th Anniversary of the Regiment in 2006 when, due to reductions in staff and with the Battalion away on operations, the responsibility for all the events fell to him.  It was an outstanding success.  For this success, coupled with his years of unwavering loyalty to the Regiment and to the Crown, he was awarded the LVO.

Many readers may remember the ITV documentary about the Regiment ‘Guarding The Queen’ when, with his enormous charm, good humour and panache, he promoted the spirit of the Regiment and, in particular, the Regimental Band; indeed at one point bursting into the opening bars of the Grenadier Quick March.

But, this was not the end of his service with the Regiment.  He accepted to continue as the Regimental Archivist. His knowledge of the Regiment was unparalleled.  He seemed to know every member of The First Guards Club and was immediately available to answer questions about any former Grenadier family from across the country and indeed the globe.  He much enjoyed the research.

Conway Seymour is quite simply a Grenadier legend. In all, he served his Regiment for nearly 50 years and he became a permanent source of wisdom and counsel on all Grenadier matters. But perhaps he will best be remembered for his endless supply of limericks, many unprintable, and his fund of funny stories, which he would deliver with perfection, leaving the punchline until the last safe moment and then doubling up with laughter.  He was such fun to be with, always so kind and attentive and blessed with enormous charm.

He loved to sing, was a staunch supporter of his village church, adored opera, was an excellent fly fisherman, a good shot, a keen sailor and a cunning spin bowler, tossing the ball way up so that the flight deceived the batsman. There was a lovely occasion when fishing on the Helmsdale.  It was late in the afternoon and an invitation to dinner that night further downstream had been accepted.  There had been no fish all day and Conway asked to remain on the river to be picked up later.  His hosts duly arrived to collect him, but there was no sign of Conway. It was almost dark when a figure was seen struggling up the bank some way off with an enormous fish.  Carrying rods, nets and the fish, he was bundled into the car and taken to the dinner party unchanged, in tremendous form hugging his salmon to his chest.

Conway married twice, first to Elizabeth Holdsworth Hunt.  They had two children, Harry and Arabella. They divorced in 1978.  He married, secondly, Diana Trefgarne in 1981, who survives him along with their daughter Emily and three stepchildren.  He loved all his family very much and gained great strength from them. Our sympathies go out to all of them, including his three grandsons.

Conway had so many friends and it is tragic that this generous lovable personality was carried away so early by vascular dementia.  But, his indomitable spirit and sense of humour remained to the end, as witnessed by so many friends who went to visit him in his final years.  A week or so before he died, I repeated to him, over the telephone, the first line of a favourite limerick and, although he could hardly converse, he completed it without a mistake and roared with laughter.  He was a very special man, who will be much missed.

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