The extract below is from The Cheshire Regiment Association Newsletter December 2001
Written by General Sir Napier at the request of RHQ
LT GENERAL SIR NAPIER CROOKENDEN KCB, DSO, OBE, DL
LT GENERAL SIR NAPIER CROOKENDEN KCB, DSO, OBE, DL succeeded General Sir Charles Harington as Colonel of the Regiment in 1968 and held the appointment until 1971 when he was succeeded by Major General Peter Martin CBE. General Sir Napier sent the newsletter the following piece with specific instructions that it was not to be edited and I am delighted to comply with his instructions.
When you are first commissioned into the Regiment, your only ambition is to command a Battalion of the Regiment, but if you are lucky enough to rise through the ranks beyond Lieutenant Colonel and even to reach the rank of General, you come to believe, that you are really rather a valuable person. It is a shock therefore, when the Military Secretary tells you to retire in three months time. You find it hard to believe, that the Ministry of Defence is so blind, that they cannot see, that you are just the man to be the Chief of the General Staff.
This happened to me in 1972. Since my Army pension was not enough to cater for my expensive tastes, I sought and failed to find an important and well paid, civilian job. However, I did succeed in picking up a little extra money as a non-executive director in Lloyds Bank South East Region and in one or two other commercial enterprises. In the very next year Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the President of SSAFA, more or less ordered me to take on the Chair of the SSAFA Council. There followed 13 happy — and paid — years until 1985, when Admiral Sir Peter Herbert took over from me. 1985 was SSAFAs Centenary and my wife, Patricia, and I had a most moving year visiting SSAFA Branches all over the world and thanking God for SSAFA in 14 English Cathedrals.
That great man, Field Marshal Sir Geoffrey Baker, by now Constable of the Tower of London, recommended to the Queen my appointment as Lieutenant of the Tower. I had no formal duties there, but for the next six years Patricia and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the life of that ancient fortress.
In 1973 also the Prime Minister made me a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum for ten years. This was another fascinating job, since at our quarterly meetings I met a number of distinguished historians, academic and Service Chiefs and Patricia and I enjoyed some interesting visits, such as our time in Jordan advising the King on the formation of a War Museum. That was again a lucky year for us in that the P&O Steamship Company were looking for a lecturer on Military History for their SS UGANDA. So began 12 years of a free, Mediterranean cruise every year for both of us at the price of four lectures each time.
As I passed 70 these semi-formal appointments faded away and my wife and I found equal pleasure in our four children, in our ten grandchildren, in our garden and in the pleasant, Kentish countryside, where we are lucky enough to live. Our Church of England Parish of Hever, Four Elms and Mark Beech is lively and full of problems and my Second Lieutenant contemporaries of 1936 in the 2nd Battalion will not believe, that I reached the dignified role of Church Warden for a year or two.
Have I any regrets? Only a few, I am sorry I have seen so little of the Regiment since 1949; I much regret, that in my three wartime years in Battalions of the Regiment, we never went to war; and I wish I had been allowed to finish my time as Colonel of the Regiment. As a 22nd man I am full of admiration for the way in which the 1st Battalion are once again showing the way to the rest of the Infantry; for the splendid work of our TA soldiers in keeping the flag flying under great difficulties; for the leadership and vigour shown by the CRA and the excellent work of our Regimental Secretary and all the Staff at RHQ.
Whilst complying with his request I felt that I must add an addendum re his service during WW2. Sir Napier writes in the penultimate paragraph that in my three wartime years in other Battalions of the Regiment, we never went to war. However he volunteered for Airborne forces and became a parachutist. As a brigade major in 6th Airborne Division he took part in the D Day Assault and then commanded the 9th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment from July 1944 until 1947, including the Rhine Crossing in March 1945. In December 1963 (at the age of 48) he completed a nine month course to qualify as a fixed and rotary wing pilot at the Army Air Corps Centre at Middle Wallop. It is recorded that he was 16 years over the average age of the other officers on the course. General Sir Napier was commissioned into the Cheshire Regiment in 1935 and it is a pleasure to recall his achievements and support for the Regiment over the past 66 years.
Sadly General Sir Napier passed away 31 October 2002
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