Gerald Adrian Geoffrey Gilhead (always known as Geoffrey) was commissioned into the 4th Hussars from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in December 1948.

Col GAG Gilhead
Col GAG Gilhead

He was a troop leader (described by a contemporary as “meticulous”) in ‘A’ Squadron, commanded by Major Francis Romney, MC, and was Mentioned in Despatches during the Regiment’s tour in the Malayan Emergency.

After Malaya, he went on a Russian language course, living in Nice with a Russian family, who, unusually, made their vodka in the bath. This was followed by alternate tours on the Staff and at Regimental Duty.

On one occasion his knowledge of the Russian railway system enabled him to allay fears of an imminent Soviet invasion by explaining to the US Authorities that the difference in rail gauges between West Germany and Eastern Europe would hinder the reinforcement by rail of the Soviet No 3 Shock Army.

He had a reputation for always being smartly dressed and was said to have had his battledress tailored in Savile Row.

His last tour with the Regiment was as OC Headquarter Squadron QRIH, in 1966 in Wolfenbuettel. There then followed staff and diplomatic postings in BAOR, the MOD, Bucharest, where he earned a name for himself in the diplomatic community for hospitality and helpfulness, and his Ford, an identical model to that of President Ceaucescu’s brother, was a great advantage in his contacts with the traffic police.

His last posting was as Defence Attache in Peking where he earned the unofficial title of “Friend of China” as someone the Chinese trusted to tell the truth. (This later proved useful, so the story goes, when the Chief of Police arranged for parts of Tiananmen Square to be closed to traffic so that the wedding convoy of Geoffrey’s daughter, Diana, could cross without delay from Church to Reception).

He was an accomplished linguist, bilingual in French, thanks to his French mother and early years spent in France until the outbreak of World War II, and later mastered Russian, Roumanian and Mandarin to interpretership levels, which, together with some German, Spanish and Italian, enabled him successfully to carry out his duties as a military diplomat.

After he retired in 1980 he lived in Brighton, where he pursued a number of business interests as a consultant and director. He was also a trustee of APT (Aviation for Paraplegics and Tetraplegics) and was instrumental in overcoming the potential administrative and diplomatic obstacles which could have jeopardised the success of the flight in 1994 from Old Sarum to Beijing of a specially modified microlight piloted by Trevor Jones, a tetraplegic former Royal Navy pilot.

He maintained contact with his friends in the 4th and Irish Hussars through the 4th Hussars Officers Dining Club and regularly attended their annual dinners in London.

He died on the 19th of January 2017, aged 89, leaving a son and daughter and three grandchildren.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 4th Hussars
  2. A short history of The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars
  3. Malaya 1948-51
  4. Aden and The Persian Gulf 1961
  5. Malaya and Borneo 1962-64