After the usual National Service preliminaries, David joined the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars in Lüneburg in 1955, serving as a troop leader in Harry Wood’s ‘A’ Squadron.
David joined the Regiment with a formidable record behind him; he already had a BA from Trinity College Cambridge, and before that had been Head of Harrow, subsequently winning a scholarship to Princeton University.
Fluent in Russian and French, and a talented musician, he was also extremely well-read, urbane, charming, and distinguishable from the average cornet by the maturity of his manner and his wit.
He was also a very good light-middleweight boxer, representing the Regiment in a team that was unusual in containing three officers (Lindsay-Rea, Cormack and Webster) and which was only beaten by the eventual winners in the fourth round of the Army Cup, having previously proved victorious in the Garrison, Brigade and Divisional Championships.
He left the Regiment in September 1956, spending five years in the Army Emergency Reserve (AER). He was very disappointed at not being accepted for the Foreign Office and allowed himself for a while to slip into what he later called his Rip Van Winkle years. As a friend observed: ‘David was not like some who try to live by the hypothetical Ninth Beatitude… ‘Blessed are they who expect disappointment, for they shall be richly rewarded’…’
Nonetheless, during those years in London, he worked consistently, particularly with a firm that was the major provider of ethical drugs to the National Health Service. But by his own admission, he was hardly the model for a thrusting entrepreneur. As he once said: ‘My ambitions are modest – I should just like to make enough to afford a decent overcoat’.
Throughout his life, his sharp wit, well-informed conversation, and his underlying kindness were qualities that rightly, and lastingly, endeared him to a large circle of friends. He could always be relied upon to bring his sarcastic sense of humour and keen perception to shed light on any situation, even those of no great importance. Once, on passing a parked car in Chelsea showing a construction worker’s yellow hard hat and a grey top hat side by side in the rear window, David simply said ‘Ah, now there’s a good all-rounder.
In the early 1970s, he met Elizabeth Honeywell who inspired David to another 30 years of valuable and loving life. She was crucially important in providing him with the encouragement whereby he secured the post of Secretary of the Rayne Foundation, a position that he held for more than 15 years until his retirement just before his death.
The Foundation admirably suited his talents and in turn required of his qualities of discipline, social finesse, knowledge of the interplay of the financial, political and social worlds, a real interest in encouragement of young and deserving talent, or the relief of distress, and the carapace of charm that was his to the very last.
These were certainly the most valuable and enjoyable years of his working life. He remained to the last an extremely well-informed and amusing raconteur and, with his wife Liz, a very generous host both in London and Dorset.
He often visited his beloved France, once kayaking over 100 miles down the Dordogne, surprising himself as much as his friends. As a young man, David once arrived rather late for a memorial service in the City for a very senior financial figure. In the silence just before the final prayers, there came from the vestry the surprising but unmistakable sound of champagne corks popping, David’s immediate neighbours heard him mutter quietly: ‘Such generous music to forgive my late arrival.’
Appropriately, much the same ‘generous music’ greeted us towards the end of his own memorial service in May this year.
David held a strong affection for the Regiment, attending the 8th Hussars officers’ dinner in September 2001.
He died in London on 25 April 2002, aged 70.