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Major General The Lord Alvingham CBE DL
Late Coldstream Guards
by Colonel Malcolm Havergal CVO OBE
formerly Coldstream Guards

Guy Alvingham, who died on 29th March, aged 93, was a most loyal and devoted Coldstreamer who combined a long and very successful military career with wider interests outside the Army.

Guy was born on 16th December 1926. His father was the busy MP for South Dorset and, tragically, his mother died six weeks after he was born. Brought up by nannies, Guy was rather a lonely small boy before being sent to Amesbury School, a preparatory school in Hindhead, and then to Eton.  Here he was happy, made lifelong friends and was a member of Pop.

Obligatory service in the Corps kindled his interest in the Army and on leaving school he was commissioned into the Coldstream from Mons OTCU in June 1946.  This must have been a testing time to be a new officer when so many of his near contemporaries had seen action.  Over the next twelve years he served in the 1st and 3rd Battalions, including tours in Palestine and Tripoli, as an instructor at the Signals Wing of the School of Infantry, and as a Company Commander in Germany. While stationed at Hubblerath he captained the Battalion Cricket XI with great enthusiasm, arranging matches all over BAOR, including a memorable tour to Berlin. Padre Godfrey Farmsworth umpired and Beryl Alvingham was the scorer.

Guy attended the Staff College in 1959, after which he became Brigade Major of 47th (London) Brigade.  Returning to the 1st Battalion in early 1962 he commanded No 1 Company during the nine months tour in British Guiana and was then appointed Battalion Second in Command. Against stiff internal competition he was not selected for command of a Coldstream battalion, and turned down the offer of a TA command.

In early 1964 Guy was posted to the Army Staff in Singapore as one of the operational planners during the confrontation with Indonesia. Returning to England two years later, he embarked upon his next nine years in a series of ever more demanding and senior positions in the Ministry of Defence including: Military Assistant (MA) to the Adjutant General (AG), Head of Staff to two Chiefs of the Defence Staff, Deputy Director of Army Staff Duties, and finally the Director of Army Quartering, a two star appointment. The Editor reminds me of a story about Guy when he was working for an irascible DASD.  A new Grade 2 staff officer was summoned by the DASD to discuss his first brief on the future of the Gurkhas. After two minutes of silence, the DASD asked if it was a good brief, to which the officer replied nervously that he hoped so. ‘I shall be the judge of that’ came the response, and not long after, the brief was flung across the room by DASD, breaking the India tags which held it together. A quivering staff officer collected the pages of his brief from the floor and withdrew to the outer office where Guy asked if all was well. The major explained what had happened, and Guy told him to put the brief back together and give it to him. Guy quickly perused the brief, signed it off, and sometime later walked it into DASD’s office and placed it into his in tray, commending the brief; DASD grunted and nothing further was said. Not unsurprisingly, Guy was held in great admiration and respect by all who worked with, and for, him. 

It was also on their return from Singapore that the Alvinghams moved to Bix Hall near Henley-on-Thames, taking on a herd of milking cows just as the bottom fell out of the premium milk market.  Undaunted, over the years they set about expanding the property, improving the farming, developing the shoot, and greatly increasing the woodland. It is reckoned that Guy himself, always accompanied by his faithful labrador, planted more than ten thousand trees.

Guy’s intense interest in agriculture and conservation led to his being for three years President of the Royal Lancashire Show, and President in 2004, and later Life President of The Henley and District Agricultural Show which was of real local interest and importance.

Guy was also a very keen and gifted games player and sportsman. For many years, a very active member of the Brigade Cricket Club and Guards Golfing Society, he was a revered inhabitant of the IZ Asylum and a member of MCC for seventy years; he was the oldest member of Swinley. A correspondent reminds me of the time when he shot in the winter and fished the Loddon and the Test in the summer; he and Beryl also made one very successful and action-packed fishing trip to Alaska.

While living at Bix, Guy gave quiet but generous support to The Royal British Legion and the Army Benevolent Fund.

He was for sixteen years the very hands-on President of the Henley Branch of The Guards Association who held and will still hold their monthly meetings in the Shoot Room at Bix where the garden is the delightful setting for their Summer Party.

The politest of men; always kind, thoughtful and approachable with all the time in the world to listen to and encourage others, Guy’s easy-going charm and sense of fun hid his ferocious work ethic, his intelligence, and his determination to make every minute count.

Guy and Beryl were a magnificent team. Beryl’s unfailing support in matters great and small and their sharing of responsibilities enabled them to achieve such continuous success in so many and disparate fields. Guy never missed a Black Sunday or Nulli Dinner; during the latter Beryl would line up with the other chauffeurs under the portico at the Riverside entrance to The Savoy waiting to collect Guy and drive him safely home after the dinner.

Guy and Beryl were married for two days short of sixty-eight very happy and eventful years.  The heartfelt sympathy of all who knew them is with Beryl and their children on their great loss.

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