The 79"' Field Regiment was stationed in Hohne, Germany in early 1953,
One day, three of us (Bill Pollock 209 Battery, Dave Snow 284 Battery and I, Bob Heitshu 258 Battery) were summoned by the commanding officer, LtCol Lahaie and were told that we were being sent to Lark Hill for the Regimental Officer's Gunnery Course. We took the train to the Hook of Holland, and, while waiting for the ferry, someone came up to us, with brass pips and a smile and said that he was born in Trochu Alberta. Turns out it was Martin Farndale and he was heading for the same course! When we returned, our CO wanted to be debriefed on the value of the course. However, the CO had just received a phone call from the CO of 1 RHA saying that Martin Farndale wanted to invite his three Canadian friends that he met at Lark Hill, to spend the weekend with RHA. We were treated like royalty, wined and dined, served breakfast in bed! We found out that the RHA CO was also born in Canada!
Fast forward to 1978 and I was in London visiting relatives and decided on the spur of the moment to drop into the Officer's Mess for a drink. As I turned off Whitehall, heading for the Mess, I ran into Martin Farndale, then head of recruiting for the British Army.
We had a good chin-wag and he invited me to his home in the country. But before heading there, he invited me to watch the Queen trooping the Colour accompanied by Lord Mountbatten. He had special VIP seats, so we had a close-up view of the pageant (see image below).
Years later, Martin Farndale became the Master Gunner of St. James's Park, as well as the Colonel Commandant of British Army Aviation. We were privileged to have Sir Martin Farndale at our 125th anniversary of the Artillery here in Ottawa in 1996.
General Sir Martin Farndale, who has died aged 71, was unquestionably the most distinguished gunner officer of his generation. He had an outstanding career both in command and on the staff, but was never more at home than when among soldiers in the field. He was an example of what can be achieved with a combination of leadership, intellect, personality, charm and dedication. He was born in Alberta, Canada, and educated at Yorebridge school, Yorkshire. He joined the Indian army in 1946 and, in 1947, transferred to the British army, went to Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in October 1948. He served in several gunner regiments, but his heart lay with the 1st Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, with whom he served on and off for 21 years. He saw service in the UK, Aden and the British Army of the Rhine and, in 1964, took command of the Chestnut troop, the senior battery.
In 1969, to his immense pride, Farndale assumed command of the regiment and, during this period, took it to Northern Ireland, the first gunner regiment to serve there in an infantry role. Later, he became the first honorary colonel of the regiment. His infectious enthusiasm, his encouragement to those who needed a helping hand, his sense of humour and his oratory skills made him a legend within the regiment in his lifetime. Farndale would, I feel sure, see himself first and foremost as a commander. He was at ease with soldiers and they, in turn, followed him without hesitation. Nevertheless, he was an equally brilliant staff officer. After passing out from the Camberley staff college in 1959, he served for two years in HQRA 17th Gurkha Division, where he saw active service during the final phases of the Malayan campaign, followed by a spell in military operations at the Ministry of Defence. He became an instructor at Camberley in 1966. After two years on the defence policy staff, he returned to Germany to command 7th Armoured Brigade at Soltau. This was followed by two years as director, public relations, at the MoD, and a further two years as director of military operations. He then commanded the 2nd Armoured Division in Germany for three years.
Farndale's grasp of the complexities of the all-arms battle, allied to his inspirational leadership qualities, led to his being appointed to command the 1st (British) Corps. Life was always exciting for those serving with him during this period, as he was a constant source of innovative ideas that kept all concerned on their toes. His success led to promotion to commander, Northern Army Group, and commander-in-chief, British Army of the Rhine. As a Nato general, Farndale earned the respect and loyalty of the national corps under his command from Germany, Holland and Belgium, as well as the 1st British Corps. This was fully tested on Exercise Certain Strike in 1987, the largest exercise of its type in Europe since the second world war. Here, Farndale took under his command a fifth corps, 3 (US) Corps, and established a rapport with its commanding general that lasted the rest of his life.
In 1980, he was appointed colonel commandant, Army Air Corps, continuing a line of distinguished senior officers who had filled the post. This was a new area, and, some might have felt, an added burden to his already full and demanding military life. But it was typical of Farndale that, without hesitation, he committed himself completely to his new role. He took a personal interest in every aspect of this small but rapidly developing corps, unstinting with his time and applying his huge capacity for work in an entirely selfless fashion. There is no doubt that the Army Air Corps flourished under his hand.
He retired in January 1988 after 42 years' service, and became a director and senior defence adviser to Short Brothers plc, and defence adviser to Deloitte Touche. He kept his links with the army, and particularly the Royal Regiment of Artillery, when he assumed the appointment of master gunner, St James's Park, on November 5 1988. During this period, he was also colonel commandant, Royal Horse Artillery, colonel commandant, Royal Artillery, honorary regimental colonel, 1st Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, and honorary colonel, 3rd Battalion, the Yorkshire Volunteers.
Farndale was also a man of letters and a military historian of note. He wrote four books covering the history of the Royal Artillery, an undertaking he was still engaged in at the time of his death. He was chairman of the English Heritage Battlefields Panel and, from 1989-1993, chairman of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. In his last years, Farndale threw his energies into safeguarding the heritage of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, particularly as president, and subsequently chairman and chief executive, of its regimental museum project at Woolwich. He was an inveterate and persuasive fund- raiser, to such an extent that some were said to be suffering from donor fatigue. Thanks to his drive, vision and determination to overcome manifold obstacles, the museum will open to the public next year. Martin Farndale was an exceptional man, who lived an exceptional life. He was generous of spirit, an inspiring leader, a true comrade in arms and a firm friend. The world is poorer for his passing but his achievements will be remembered for many a year to come.
He was appointed CB in 1980 and KCB in 1983. He married Anne Buckingham in 1955; she survives him, with their son Richard. It was a source of great pride to Farndale that Richard too served in 1st Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, his old regiment, to which he remained intensely loyal.
Martin Baker Farndale, soldier, born January 6 1929; died May 10 2000.