North African MC winner dies.

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North African MC winner dies.

Post by Andy H » 06 Oct 2003 17:34

From today's Daily Telegraph

Colonel Sir Allan Gilmour
(Filed: 06/10/2003)

Colonel Sir Allan Gilmour, who has died aged 86, was awarded the MC and Bar while serving with the Seaforth Highlanders in north Africa during the Second World War.

In March 1943, a flanking attack by the New Zealanders turned the Mareth Line, and German-Italian forces pulled back to another formidable defensive position at Wadi Akarit, Tunisia. The task of 152 Brigade, of which the 2nd and 5th Seaforth formed part, was to clear Roumana Ridge, a steep 100ft-high crest that dominated the anti-tank ditch and surrounding terrain.

On April 6, Gilmour, then a major, was acting second-in-command of 2 Seaforth. By midday, two attacks had been made on the feature but these had eventually been driven back by counter attacks. Two companies of the Seaforths had taken heavy casualties but at 1300 hours the remnants, who had managed to hold on to the lower slopes, were ordered to put in another attack under an artillery concentration.

A second wave was provided by a small reserve force from battalion HQ led by Gilmour. The attack was initially successful but the attackers paid a high price in casualties from the German machine-gun and mortar positions concealed on the reverse slopes.

Gilmour walked up and down the line under very heavy fire encouraging the men. He was shot through the leg but succeeded in holding the line for a considerable time before he had to withdraw his force to the lower slopes to avoid complete annihilation.

The citation for the Bar to his MC stated that his conduct had been an encouragement to a battered force such as few could have given.

Allan Macdonald Gilmour was born at Rosehall, Sutherland, on November 23 1916. His father served with the Lovat Scouts and was killed at Salonika the next year. From Winchester, Allan went up to Trinity College, Oxford, where he rowed for his college and climbed the Matterhorn and other Alpine mountains in the vacations.

He was commissioned into the Lovat Scouts in 1935 and joined 2 Seaforth in January 1939. When the Battalion went to France in 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force, Gilmour and a brother officer tossed a coin in front of the adjutant's desk to decide which of the two should go. As a result, Gilmour took the colours to be placed in safe custody at the depot at Fort George; his comrade was captured at St Valery and spent the war in Colditz.

On October 24 1942, in the bitter positional fighting that marked the first stages of the battle of Alamein, Gilmour was in command of C Company of 2 Seaforth on the left of a two-company attack. Both companies reached their objective but suffered heavy casualties, the company on his right losing three of its four officers.

Gilmour organised the defences, evacuated the wounded, beat off a strong night attack and held on in what was a completely isolated position until he was relieved 36 hours later. He was awarded an immediate MC.

Earlier the same day, as he advanced in broad daylight through the lines of the 7th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, he celebrated what he hoped was a momentary respite in the battle by raising his helmet like a bowler hat to Lt Col Lorne Campbell, their commanding officer (who subsequently won a Victoria Cross), and wishing him a cheerful "Good morning".

At the end of the campaign in North Africa, Gilmour fought with 2 Seaforth in Sicily and then in the drive across north-west Europe from Normandy to Arnhem. In October 1944, he transferred to 7 Seaforth as second-in-command and took part in the battle of the Reichswald Forest, the crossing of the Rhine and the Elbe, the advance to the Baltic and the capture of Kiel.

He was awarded the US Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry at the Deurne Canal, Holland, in 1945 and was also mentioned in despatches.

After the war, Gilmour attended the Staff College, Camberley, and in 1947 was posted to BAOR as deputy assistant adjutant and quartermaster-general.

He was an unenthusiastic staff officer; deskwork did not excite him. Shortly after his appointment as adjutant of 11 Seaforth, the paymaster telephoned him in a fury to ask why the records had not reached him. Gilmour replied that they had been despatched by slow goods train.

After a spell as instructor at the Staff College at Quetta, Gilmour served with 1 Seaforth in Aden, Egypt and Gibraltar as a company commander and subsequently as second-in-command.

He instructed at the RAC School, Lulworth, in 1957, before moving to Accra as chief of staff to the Ghana Armed Forces where he was involved in raising, equipping and training the army for a wider operational role outside the country. He also enjoyed playing polo for Ghana against Nigeria. His services were recognised with the award of an OBE.

In 1960, shortly after the declaration of independence by the Republic of the Congo, soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied and Ghanaian troops were sent in. Gilmour played an important role in helping to contain the insurgency pending the arrival of a UN force.

After an appointment as GSO1 at HQ West Midland Division TA, followed by a move to the Chief Recruiting Liaison Staff in Edinburgh, Gilmour retired from the Army in 1967. He settled at the family home at Invernauld, Rosehall, and embarked on a career in local government.

Gilmour served on the Sutherland County (subsequently District) Council for many years and was chairman from 1974 to 1978. Devoted to the county and its people, he walked the hills and glens getting to know the communities so that when policy had to be decided his opinions carried the weight that comes with knowledge gained at first hand.

Gilmour served on many other boards throughout the Highlands. He was president of the Highland Territorial Army Volunteer Reserves Association from 1989 to 1991, chairman of the Highland Health Board from 1981 to 1983, chairman of the Highland River Purification Board from 1994 to 1996 and a member of the Highlands and Islands Development Consultative Council from 1975 to 1987.

On one occasion, pitted against a senior civil servant at a meeting in Edinburgh, Gilmour marshalled his facts and figures in his usual quiet, concise way. There was a long pause and then the mandarin said: "I see that you are a colonel. I should have known. I have been outfought, outwitted and outgunned."

Behind a natural reserve, Gilmour was the best of company and had a fund of amusing stories. He was a fine piper, a good shot and a first-class fisherman.

He was Lord-Lieutenant of Sutherland from 1972 to 1991, and was appointed KCVO in 1990.

Allan Gilmour died on September 22. He married, in 1941, Jean Wood, who survives him, together with three sons and a daughter.

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