Pat Uniacke was an extraordinarily talented and versatile man and was perhaps too much of a dilettante ever to realise his proper potential as a soldier.
Tall, strikingly handsome, acutely intelligent, as at home with music or art as he was with riding a horse, sailing a boat or piloting an aeroplane, he tended to pay greater attention to the trappings and outward show of soldiering than to the more mundane matters of training and man-management.
Yet he was well able to apply is fertile mind to an improvement in tank gunnery technique or to the presentational excellence of an Officers’ Mess function. His most valuable contribution to the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars’ well-being was as 2IC from 1953 to 1955, when he carried out the duties of Band President, PMC and editor of the journal with marked dedication and success.
He was born in London in 1914, educated at Marlborough and Sandhurst, and was commissioned into the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in 1935. Although he served with the Regiment both during and after the war, he spent much of his time with the Iraq Levies and with our Military Mission in Iraq.
He was in that country from 1939 to 1941 and from 1944 to 1948, but he was with the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars from 1942 to 1944, taking part in the desert campaign, and he commanded ‘B’ Squadron in Cyprus and Egypt with notable flair and dash.
While stationed near Cairo, he took full advantage of available fleshpots and was frequently to be seen driving an impressive sports car from Beni Yusef camp to Gezira Sporting Club. Under his leadership, ‘B’ Squadron rapidly mastered the new Sherman and Honey tanks with which the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars re-equipped in 1943 on becoming the armoured reconnaissance regiment of the 1st Armoured Division.
Before going to Italy, however, Pat Uniacke left the Regiment after some disagreement with the Commanding Officer and was posted to Iraq, where, among other things, he indulged his enjoyment of flying.
After returning from Iraq in 1948 he continued his Arabic studies, served on the Regular Commissions Board and then rejoined the Regiment in 1952, first commanding ‘A’ Squadron then from 1953 to 1955, in Germany, was a most successful 2IC.
He excelled in organising Regimental ceremonies, and perhaps his obey d’bere was the Balaklava Ball which he supervised in October 1954 to celebrate the centenary of the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava. The Officers’ Mess at this time was in Schloss Bredebeck, a mile or so from the barracks at Hohne, and Pat Uniacke saw to it that the Schloss itself, the lake, the gardens and the drive up to the Mess were beautifully decorated and illuminated.
As for the Ball, the reception was splendid, the wines noble, the supper sumptuous, the company distinguished, the music in two areas satisfying both elderly waltzers and younger nightclubbers, and in all was a most memorable affair, whose success owed much to Pat Uniacke’s imaginative planning and faultless execution.
He was in some ways more at home in the company of such people as Tallulah Bankhead and Noel Coward than those fiery colonels, both horsemen and military experts. Yet his exceptional and varied talents, his organisational flair, his aura of glamour and adventurousness – he once flew alone a single-engined aeroplane from Iraq to this country – his kindness and courtesy and singular charm all added up to a remarkable man, seldom to be met among today’s military figures. And his undoubted determination that the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars should play a significant and enviable role on the military stage made him a Regimental character both to admire and to reckon with.
Pat Uniacke’s contribution to the reputation and record of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars was both substantial and unique. He retired from the Army in 1955 and spent his latter years in Hampshire. He died on 26 December 1997 and many of his old 4th Hussar comrades attended his funeral 17 days later.