Mervyn Phipps sadly died in April 1983 after a short illness.

The son of Sir Erie Phipps, British Ambassador in Berlin and Paris before the war, Mervyn was commissioned into the 7th Hussars in the winter of 1933 at Aldershot, after a somewhat notorious Oxford University career.

He moved with the Regiment to Egypt in 1935 and with his diplomatic background soon had many friends in the varied population out there.

Mervyn was remembered for his joie de vivre and in particular his impersonations of Groucho Marx-wearing a cavalry cloak along with his dark hair and moustache.

In Cairo, he became an expert at climbing the smart curtains of Shepheards Hotel – most Saturdays. He had some political argument with the Greek Consul one such Saturday and hit him on the head with a bottle! Jim Astley-Rushton had great difficulty in getting Mervyn out of the clutches of the Provost Marshal the following morning!

This amusing man was excellent company, a first-class linguist and a wonderful cavalry character. He had a go at most things and knew no fear. When the war started he went with the 7th Hussars into the desert but, because of his excellent French, was soon seconded to the Free French Army.

In June 1942 Mervyn was the British Liaison Officer with General Pierre Koenig’s Free French Brigade. At Biv Hacheim the Brigade occupied the most Southern ‘box’ and fought a bloody fight against elements of Rommel’s 15th and 21st Panzer Division and 90th Light Division.

The Free French put up a brave and spirited defence, and after some bloody hand-to-hand fighting General Koenig broke out of the ‘box’ with only half of his Brigade. Mervyn always wearing his 7th Hussars red side hat and infamous (and conspicuous) sheepskin coat was always by General Koenig’s side.

For this action, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre and Palm.

At the end of the war, Mervyn moved with his wife Joy to Geneva, working for the International Red Cross where his linguistic abilities were well used.

On retirement, they moved to France and settled in Fontainbleu while his family of five daughters grew up. He died quietly and is much missed by many.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 7th Hussars