Col Jon Sutro died peacefully at home on 5 December 2007 at the age of 78.

Col J Suto OBE MC
Col J Suto OBE MC

Born in New Zealand, he came to England when he was six. After being a pupil at Marlborough College, he passed out from Mons OCS in 1948 at the age of 19 and was commissioned into the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars then taking part in the Malayan emergency.

Ten days after his arrival in Malaya, Ct Sutro went out on patrol with 4th Troop ‘A’ Squadron under his troop leader, Lt Questier.

The patrol was passing through a cutting on the Jalong Road North of Ipoh when it was ambushed by machine guns and mortars, resulting in the troop leader and others being killed. Although wounded twice, Jon took command and drove the enemy back in spite of their superior numbers and weapons. Still, under fire, he collected any wounded he could find and drove on through the ambush with the two remaining APCs.

For his remarkable coolness, leadership, and gallantry under very adverse conditions, he was awarded the Military Cross.

On returning from Malaya, Jon spent a short time in Tidworth before moving with the Regiment to Hohne in 1953. As Recce Troop leader he was in his element with his love of shooting and fishing and had a good eye for the ground.

Among his skills, he acquired the technique of using explosives for stunning fish which he once put into practice in Mill Lake behind the Brederbeck officer’s mess. The result was highly successful with stunned trout everywhere. Unfortunately in the process, the roof of the mill house was blown off. The Garrison Commandant was not amused.

After his marriage to Jane In 1957, Jon was posted a year later as Adjutant to the Shropshire Yeomanry where he was very highly thought of and is still well remembered.

On his return to Hohne, he was selected to take over as adjutant from his great friend Ken Bidie, shortly after the successful and happy amalgamation of the 4th and 8th Hussars to become the QRIH in 1958.

They both played a key role in ensuring the success of the amalgamation, and it was very fitting that these two outstanding officers, together with Lt Col John Strawson and Maj Tom Tilbrook, should later form the Insignia party in the funeral procession for our Colonel of the Regiment, Sir Winston Churchill, in January 1965.

In 1962, Jon was a student at the Staff College and subsequently went on to take up staff appointments at HQ 3 Div and then 44 Home Counties Div in the UK. He was promoted to major in 1966 on rejoining the Regiment in Wolfenbuttel and became an excellent and very popular ‘C’ Squadron leader.

There is an amusing story of Jon and his squadron returning along the autobahn from an exercise in Bavaria in their armoured cars. It was the day after the final of the Football World Cup and Jon thought it appropriate that an order should be given for every vehicle to fly a banner showing England 4 Germany 2. Perhaps not very good for Anglo-German relations!

Jon`s last regimental posting was to Paderborn in 1972 where he was a most effective second in command to Lt Col Chris Troughton. He will be particularly remembered for his role as guardian of the then newly established QRIH Serving Officers Trust.

He had the brainwave of publishing in the Regimental Newsletter a list of subscribing officers and marked each name with a red star. It was remarkable how quickly others joined the list! Later, when he became a Regimental Trustee, he kept an eagle eye on the constitution of the Trust and was quick to bring to heel any spendthrift commanding officer!

All those who served under Jon`s command were as devoted to him as he was to his Regiment. He masked his military skills with modesty and a wry grin, never seeking the limelight. He was wonderfully laid back and totally unflappable in any crisis, as he showed in the Malaysia campaign. The young officers learned much from his leadership and thoroughly enjoyed serving under him, as did the soldiers.

Jon subsequently moved on to hold several other important staff appointments including Protocol Officer in the MOD, when he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire, RMA Sandhurst, Dep Comd RAC Centre. He finished his 36 years of service as Col GS of the DVT&C (TA and Cadets) in 1984.

After retirement, Jon worked for Mohammad El Fayed’s charities and then became Executive Secretary of the International Society for Trenchless Technology (ISTT), concerned with minimising or eliminating unnecessary digging and excavation of pipelines and trenches.

The Chairman wrote to his wife Jane to record Jons’s outstanding contribution to ISTT, and to tell her that tributes to him had come in from other national societies all over the world. Jon also went out of his way to find time to set up a telephone helpline to keep in touch with old comrades of the Regiment who were obviously lonely, in need of help, or only wanted to have a chat. He was a true samaritan.

Jon`s favourite pastimes were shooting and fishing, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Loopy Kennard. He was an excellent shot, and he and others made frequent successful shooting trips to the Baltic.

His only failure was when he decided to make a plan to release 30 pheasants around Bredebeck Officers’ Mess, under the name of Operation Ortus (‘Sutro’ spelt backwards!). Sadly It was not a great success as only one bird was put in the pot, the poor bird having strayed into the MI room where a medical orderly captured it.

But Jon was really at his happiest standing on a river bank, rod in hand, hat in place, sometimes with a dog at his feet, and his pipe sending up smoke signals. With his great friend Robin Fremantle, Jon organised a regimental fishing week in 1994 which was so successful and enjoyable that it became a permanent fixture in the calendar.

Throughout Jon was the rock on which the success of the week always depended. Sadly no more, but no doubt the very many fishing tales and happy memories of fun and laughter with Jon will always remain with those who took part.

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. Gallantry Award: Citation and Award for The Military Cross: 2Lt JL Sutro – 4H
  5. Article: The Ambush of 4th Troop ‘A’ Squadron, 4th Hussars