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Major George Llewellyn MC
Late Scots Guards
by Major General Sir Christopher Airy KCVO CBE
formerly Scots Guards

George Llewellyn died on 26th March 2020, aged 97. His father, Brigadier General E H Llewellyn DSO, was Welsh, his mother Scottish, his Record of Service lists him as English but he was a Scots Guardsman through and through.  

He had what sounds to have been an idyllic childhood on his father’s Devon estate of fertile land bordered in the south by cliffs above the sea. George used to ride this land and neighbouring estates free and alone on his Welsh pony. His father, fifty years his older, was a real countryman who taught him about the flora and fauna and the ways of the country which developed into an enduring love. 

George Llewellyn went to Eton which he enjoyed, but he was disappointed when he left a year early. He underwent a version of the modern gap year during which he was a farm worker for four months and spent a further eight as a brewing apprentice with Mieux of Chelsea during the Blitz.

When nearly nineteen his eagerly awaited call up papers arrived. Interviewed by the Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment he was asked, ‘Why, with a name like yours, do you want to join the Scots Guards?’  ‘My Mother was a Ross and Alan Cathcart, who is in the Regiment, grew up with us’ was the reply.

He spent two months in the Brigade Squad at Caterham followed by four at Sandhurst, at the end of which he was granted an Emergency Commission. At the end of 1942 he started his regimental life posted to the 4th Battalion then on Salisbury Plain with a baptism of a week’s night exercises. But soon the Battalion was moved to Norfolk and he was given command of No 14 Platoon. By degrees, the Battalion was milked of officers and men to reinforce other battalions and the remnants were formed into two Companies. S Company was attached to 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards in Italy at terrible cost, and X Company, with whom George spent the rest of his active war, was attached to 3rd Battalion Irish Guards.

To start he was seconded as an instructor to Barnard Castle Battle Training Camp, a tough place where soldiers were acclimatised to active service conditions. While there he was reprimanded by the Commandant for poaching! He did have a professional poacher in the Platoon.

The Irish Guards were part of the Guards Armoured Division with whom their first offensive action was during Operation Goodwood, near Caen. In the evening of 19th July, the Battalion came across the remnants of 11th Armoured Division’s tanks, which had suffered devastating losses near Cagny. They became heavily involved in close quarter fighting and were well and truly bloodied.

There ensued more weeks of hard battles won and then X Company were moved from the Irish Guards, which had been a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable experience, to be then attached to 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and thence to take part in the extraordinary advance from the Normandy Bocage to Brussels and its relief. On 8th September X Company was engaged in the Battle of Hechtel, a village on an important crossroads. 13 and 14 Platoons fought their way to their objectives and dug in but became isolated from each other and Company Headquarters.

Lieutenant Llewellyn’s Platoon took up position in a garden in front of a row of police houses and were soon under fire from north, south and east. They maintained their position for 24 hours against the attacks of the Hermann Goering SS Parachute Battalion upon whom the Platoon inflicted many casualties. Llewellyn, wounded and unable to walk, was forced to order the withdrawal of his last 12 Guardsmen but stayed with two who also were wounded, together with the crew of an anti-tank gun. They were taken prisoner. He was awarded the Military Cross for which his citation read: 

This officer led his platoon at Hechtel with the utmost skill and courage and complete success. Wounded in the face at the start of the attack he took no notice and went on.  When he reached his objective he still refused to come back or even have his wound dressed. Later when his platoon was cut off and heavily attacked he maintained control and beat off several attacks with great loss to the enemy of whom some were found dead within five yards of the platoon positions. Wounded again in the head and too weak to walk he continued to command and when a big counter attack threatened to overwhelm the position, he ordered a withdrawal which was successfully carried out. He himself insisted on remaining so as not to hinder the withdrawal of his platoon, also to try and extricate an anti-tank gun. The platoon was now reduced to 12 men but the resolute defence of the position had a big effect on the battle. This officer held up the enemy counter attack for most of the day and broke up their formation.  His action of staying behind was one of heroic self-sacrifice. To reach and hold his objective entirely unsupported as he did was a very fine feat.

For the next six months he was a prisoner of war, a period of the greatest deprivation. At six foot, his weight dropped to seven stone. Returned to duty at home he was posted to the Regiment’s battle training camp in North Wales in which he found great enjoyment for nine months before becoming Adjutant of the Training Battalion at Pirbright, after which he became senior ADC to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Slim, a most interesting and happy job for more than two years. After several years of determined courting he was married to Loveday Bolitho in Jersey on 9th August 1950.  She introduced him to hunting, which became a huge enjoyment for him and followed with enthusiasm in this country and abroad.
Back to the Regiment he was given command of Right Flank in Malaya where the Emergency was at its height involving strenuous five-day patrols to hunt out bandits in the jungle. In May 1951, the Battalion returned to England by troopship.

His last three years in the Army included Public Duties in London, a tour commanding K Company at Caterham, and a year in Germany. In March 1953 he returned once more to the 2nd Battalion where he was given command of the Guard of Honour which received Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey for her Coronation. 

At Hubbelrath in Germany, the home of 4th Guards Brigade, Major Llewellyn and his wife lived in a married quarter, but he decided that while Army life had suited him perfectly as a bachelor, it held little appeal for him as a married man, and he retired in April 1954 terminating a most successful and promising military career.

A new life started, with George and Loveday establishing their first home in South Devon. Renting 20 acres, together with his brother, they ran a dairy business making a ton of Devonshire cream a day. 1000 pigs were a linked part of the business and together with a number of extra tasks and responsibilities it was a demanding life which took its toll. The dairy was sold.

A complete change of life ensued with a move to the City after an introduction by Major General Sir Julian Gascoigne to Grieveson Grant, a firm of stockbrokers. Aged 45, it was not easy starting at the bottom, but within four years he was a full partner. After thirteen years he decided it was time to return to Devon to farming. He committed himself to ‘local duty’ with several charitable organisations and was High Sheriff of Devon. 

He became a cabinet maker of professional standard, having received training with John Makepiece’s furniture making school at Parnham. He made beautiful pieces of furniture and established a fine reputation, receiving commissions.

Photography was a lifelong passion, a skill first taught at Eton. His mother gave him a good Leica camera which interested Mr Gaddum his chemistry teacher. He found a George two-bath developer which he used all his life. He did all his own developing and enlarging, producing the most exquisite photographs, particularly those of flowers with extraordinary detail. He embraced digital photography and held a successful exhibition in London. 

He was an expert plantsman with a great love and deep knowledge of rare plants and trees.  He went on two major plant finding expeditions, to South Africa and Argentina.  He was a member of the Garden Society. One day I spotted him getting into a train at Taunton wearing his Scots Guards tweed overcoat and cap. He was experiencing some difficulty getting through the door with a six-foot tree, no doubt an interesting specimen to show at the annual dinner.

For physical recreation he enjoyed bicycling on his Moulton folding bike. Dr Alex Moulton was a friend and George was on his Company Board. To celebrate his 80th birthday he rode 800 kilometres in France raising a very large sum of money for the charity Sightsavers.

His deeply loved wife Loveday predeceased him.

George Llewellyn had a an astonishingly full life of contrasting pursuits, in each one of which he could have had a professional career, but there was always something which drew him on to satisfy a new vocation. In his natural modesty, he was inclined to say that he achieved no distinction in any of them. His many friends and admirers vigorously refute that because in all his endeavours he achieved remarkable success.  

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