“What a great man, it was an honour to serve with him”. “A true professional”. “He was a real gentleman, and an inspiration to many of us”. “One of the nicest and most sincere men I have met in my time, he loved his troops and was always so proud of them”.
These are just a few of the many tributes to Charlie that were placed on social media following his death on the 2nd of October 2018 at the age of 72, and they are testimony to the high regard in which he was held.
Charlie was born on the 22nd of January 1946. His childhood was spent at Erbistock in North Wales, where his father had taken over the farming on leaving the Army having commanded the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars.
After prep school at Abberley, Charlie went to Winchester where he became head of house, a school prefect, and captain of rowing, and on leaving he spent a year travelling around Australia. On his return, the idea had been to farm with his father, but in the end, the bright lights of London held more attractions than a 5 am start in the milking parlour, and to both his, and his father’s, relief, Charlie went off to Mons Officer Cadet School in 1965.
Charlie joined the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars in Wolfenbüttel as Troop Leader of 4th Troop, ‘B’ (Duke of Edinburgh) Squadron in 1967, on what was initially to have been a three-year Short Service Commission. He ended up leaving 29 years later.
Life for a Cavalry officer in the sixties and seventies was without equal, and Charlie took full advantage of the many opportunities that presented themselves. He was a member of the Regimental Langlauf A-Team, a sport in which he also represented the Army, and for many years a key member of the Regimental Polo Team. This was a sport in which he excelled, the team winning numerous tournaments both in Germany and the UK.
In 1969 the Regiment moved back to the UK where it converted to the armoured role, and became the RAC Centre Regiment, returning to Germany, this time to Paderborn, two years later. After tours as Recce Troop Leader, and then OC Command Troop in Command & Support (Duke of Edinburgh) Squadron, Charlie’s first posting away from the Regiment was as ADC to the Chief of the Defence Staff, Field Marshall Lord Carver. It was whilst in London that Charlie met, and married, Rose Cramsie, whose brother Sandy was also an Irish Hussar.
On returning to the Regiment in 1976, Charlie served as OC Command & Support Squadron, which subsequently became ‘D’ Squadron, and after attending the Army Command & Staff Course at Camberley, took over command of ‘B’ Squadron in Cyprus, Colonel Sir Charles Lowther Bt where it was carrying out a six-month tour as Force Reserve for UNFICYP.
It was then back to the Regiment which was now in Tidworth, followed by a tour as a member of the Directing Staff at the Junior Division of the Staff Course in Warminster. His return to Regimental Duty in 1983 as Regimental Second in Command saw him responsible for planning the Regiment’s Tercentenary
celebrations – something that required considerable organization and preparation. On hearing that the Regimental Sergeant Major was pushing for a Sandhurst-type drill parade, Charlie wasted no time in getting everyone’s agreement that as Cavalry, the Regiment should be mounted in its tanks.
On the day, there was a regiment’s worth of Main Battle Tanks and over 300 men on parade, a polo pony escort dressed in the full regalia of the Light Cavalry, the regimental band playing, and flags waving. The day, along with the rest of the weekend, was a phenomenal success; thanks to Charlie and his firm views on how such occasions should be conducted.
After a posting to the RAC Centre Regiment in Bovington, Charlie assumed command of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars in October 1986. As far as he was concerned, there could be no greater honour for the son of a former Commanding Officer. This was a hectic time for the Regiment, with Challenger
Conversion Training before then moving from Munster back to the UK where the Regiment was split between Catterick and Bovington, to become the RAC Training Regiment, and RAC Centre Regiment, respectively.
Throughout his time in Command, Charlie ensured that the Regiment was not only professional and effective but also one in which it was fun to serve. As a result, the Regiment excelled, and everyone not only had the greatest respect for him, but they also thoroughly enjoyed soldiering under him. As one senior General pointed out, that was no mean feat and something that can elude many Commanding Officers.
Charlie handed over Command of the Regiment in Catterick in April 1989, and on being promoted to Colonel was appointed Colonel HCav & RAC Manning and Records Office in Chester.
This appointment was either the result of a stroke of luck or a lot of string pulling, as it meant that Charlie could spend his last four years in the Army living at the family home, Erbistock.
Aside from his family, Charlie’s great loves were his hunting and racing, passions that Rose shared with him, and his shooting. His faithful staff in Chester never let on that when Charlie was ‘in conference’ on Tuesdays and Thursdays, he was in fact either hunting with the Wynnstay, or on a race course.
Although he continued to be closely involved with the Wynnstay and was Hunt Chairman for several years, Charlie’s hunting days came to end when he had a very bad fall in early 1997. After the accident, and having shown no sign of understanding what was going on, he suddenly sat up on the arrival of the ambulance and declared “I am Chairman of the North Wales Ambulance Service, you had better do a good job” before lapsing into unconsciousness.
Although they did indeed do a good job, his injuries were serious, and he was sadly dogged by ill health thereafter.
Charlie was a member of Her Majesty’s Body Guard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, an appointment that he filled from 1997 until his retirement at the age of 70, and one that his Father had likewise filled some years before him. He also played a prominent part in the community and was High Sheriff of Clwyd in 1997/98.
A member of the Jockey Club, Charlie was also a racecourse steward at Chester, Haydock and Bangor, a Director of the Chester and Bangor Racecourse Companies, and subsequently Chairman of Bangor Racecourse from 2002 to 2016. Such was the esteem with which Charlie was held that on the day after his death, the first of the Winter Season, the flags at Bangor Racecourse were flown at half mast, and there was a minute’s silence, in his honour.
He was a Trustee of the Queen’s Royal Hussars Regimental Association from 2003 – 2013.
Charlie will be remembered for his unending loyalty, humility, and friendship. Our deepest sympathy goes to Rose and the family.