Robin Fremantle died on 3 April 2004 aged 73.

After Wellington, he joined the Army as a Regular officer like his father before him. He enlisted at Fort George, near Inver, and was a Jock in the Cameron Highlanders. He then went to Sandhurst and was commissioned in the 4th Hussars in 1950. Robin joined us at Tidworth.

He was handsome, elegant and charming and was immediately accepted into the fold. He found time to lead a full social life and was very much into the debutante scene. He seemed to have a lot of romances, and it was said that he fell in love as often as some people changed their socks. It was the era of nicknames and he had two.

He was called Swinger because he was a great party person and negotiated life’s hazards in a carefree way, and Glossy due to his photograph appearing regularly at social events as reported in the Tatler.

After a year or so the Regiment moved to Germany where Robin was a troop leader in a sabre squadron and later Recce Troop Leader – a highly prized appointment.

It was during this time that the Colonel of the Regiment, Winston Churchill, visited on the centenary of the Battle of Balaklava, and Robin was selected to be his ADC for the duration of the visit, because it was considered by an optimistic Commanding Officer that he could keep the great man under control. Robin succeeded admirably, except on one occasion when Winston was reviewing the Regimental Parade – an open vehicle was provided so that Winston did not have to walk during the inspection. When this moment came Robin told Winston it was now the time to get into the vehicle, whereupon the great man said: ‘I would rather walk’.

Robin had been briefed that under no circumstances was he to allow Winston to do anything unplanned so he said: “No, you can’t do that, you must do as you are told“. Winston fixed Robin with a look that had struck terror into the hearts of thousands and said: ‘I am not accustomed to doing things that I don’t want to do, but I will make an exception on this occasion…’ and all was well.

Later Robin was sent to be ADC to the Divisional Commander, George Cooper. This posting was a great success with one or two hiccups, like taking his General and another to visit a French Division in Southern Germany and finding that everyone was out of barracks because he had got the date wrong. Robin, as usual, talked his way out of the problem and probably quite unfairly blamed the French.

About this time The 4th Hussars were due to amalgamate with The 8th Hussars and Robin decided to leave the Army after ten years’ service.

Robin was a much respected officer of great ability and found no difficulty in establishing an easy rapport with soldiers who thought he was very good news. Thereafter Robin continued to be a strong regimental supporter and kept in touch with his friends. He was a member of the Cavalry Club for nearly 50 years and used it regularly.

His military connections continued in the Ayrshire Yeomanry where he served for many years. He was very disappointed that he was ineligible for the Territorial Decoration, because the Regiment was reorganised a few months before he had served the requisite time.

Robin’s career in civilian life working in industry, was as varied as it was successful. He made a large number of friends wherever he went as he had done in the Army. He started working in Glasgow and after several years came south to London, marrying June in 1962. Initially they lived in Tedworth Square, later moving to Wimbledon before going to Ayrshire.

Charlie was born in 1964 and his sister Serena in 1967. After he and June went their separate ways, Robin continued to live in Ayrshire working for the Weir Group. He had a very happy association there and became personnel director. Robin’s skills in communicating across the spectrum were put to the test when negotiating with hard-bitten shop stewards. He succeeded in winning their grudging respect, and managed to maintain industrial harmony – no mean feat. When asked to undertake a review of the management structure it was typical of Robin’s honesty that he wrote himself out of a job, and he left on the best of terms.

He then moved back to London and his next venture was in the field of executive search or ‘headhunting’. He had great talent in this sphere having experience in many different appointments and was successful. He went to much trouble for his clients and was rewarded with plenty of repeat business.

In 1985 he married Diana, and initially they lived in her house in Surrey before moving to Scatwell near Inverness. This was a magnificent house and they were very happy to work hard maintaining the property and gardens. They entertained their families and friends in great style and threw themselves into local activities.

One year Robin was very proud to be appointed Chieftan of the Strathconon Highland Games. At Scatwell Robin was able to use his outdoor skills to good effect, and undertook many building projects. After eight or so years, the upkeep became too demanding and they moved to a smaller house near Alness, where they stayed for a further four years before moving south to Warwickshire.

Robin was a keen countryman. He shot, stalked and fished – he even rode in his youth. He was an experienced stalker having started in Newtonmore where he was bought up. Thanks to the kindness of the Pilkington family he stalked with his friends at Dalnacardoch for nearly 20 years, and later organised parties at other estates, but eventually he had to give up because of his failing eyesight. He was great company on the hill, and always generous in offering opportunities to his friends.

When he was at Sandhurst, he entered and won the Hill Race at the Newtonmore Highland Games, beating all the locals. He always assured me that he did not nobble the opposition by giving them free beer before the race started.

He took up salmon fishing fairly late in life and became a dedicated and proficient enthusiast. He started on the Spey where he caught three fish in half an hour. He was tickled pink – particularly when the more experienced in the party, who had been giving him endless advice, were struggling to catch anything. He organised many fishing parties for his friends and was ever the considerate host. These parties were always full of laughter, and the success could be measured more by the noise generated and the quantity of empty bottles rather than the number of fish caught.

Robin was plagued with deteriorating eyesight for the last 15 years of his life. He coped without complaint, but it became a very limiting factor particularly when he could no longer drive.

However this did not stop him moving around the country by himself, and on one occasion when travelling by train he went to spend a penny, then found he was unable to find the lock on the door, and so was obliged to pull the communication cord, bringing the train to a shuddering halt. Robin was completely unfazed by the disruption he had caused.

He came to rely more and more on Diana, who looked after him with the greatest kindness and affection. However he always maintained that he had no problem recognising a pretty girl, or finding his glass – as long as it was full. His disability did not prevent him from being an enthusiastic roulette player, and on average he won more than he lost.

I think Robin will be remembered most for the laughter and happiness he had brought to his many friends. He had great style, having a most engaging and warm-hearted personality.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 4th Hussars