The child of an English father and a French mother, Francis Tilbury, known to all his military friends as Francois, spent his early years in France. He was caught there in 1940, joined the Maquis and did not reach the United Kingdom until the liberation of France in 1944.

He was determined to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the British Army. He arrived with the 3rd Hussars in Palestine where they were the Recce Regiment to the 6th Airborne Division.

Francois quickly distinguished himself by the award of the MBE for gallantry, a rare distinction, when leading his troop of Staghound Armoured Cars to rescue, under fire, a Jewish bus driver. He was appointed Intelligence Officer when the Regiment arrived in Lübeck in BAOR. He could sometimes be persuaded to tell a story or two about his service in the Maquis and his time in Lübeck when the border into the Soviet Zone was comparatively open!

Francois was, of course, bilingual in French and English. He had a natural bent for languages and decided to spend a year, including a period in Istanbul, learning Turkish. This led to an appointment in HQ Middle East in Egypt, the first of a number of intelligence staff jobs.

After attending the Staff College at the time of the amalgamation of the 3rd and 7th Hussars, Francois transferred to the 15th/19th Hussars. Then followed a period as a Squadron Leader and as GSO2 Int in HQ FARELF. He then decided to try civilian life. He joined Lucas and was soon appointed Manager of their subsidiary, Girling Brakes, in France.

The measure of his success was the necessary increase in his staff from ten to five hundred. However, the pressure took its toll and he suffered a very serious illness which led to the replacement of his aorta and his early retirement.

After several years of indifferent health, borne with great good humour and fortitude, he died suddenly on the 8th of February 1994. His death in his sixty-ninth year has deprived his family, to whom he was devoted, and many friends, both here and in France, of a loyal and gallant comrade and a good companion.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 3rd Hussars