I know Sir that you were a soldier, and that you were commissioned into the Royal Scots Greys.
There was little choice in the matter. Those were the days of national service. I would have been required to do some sort of military service, but the army was not originally mt first choice. I wanted to be an air force pilot, but my maths and scientific abilities were not up to that standard, so in the end I settled for the army. I never regretted it, always enjoyed it. It was suggested to me at quite an early stage that it might not be a bad idea to look at the army as a career, and not just as a thing to do for a couple of years. That is why I decided to go to Sandhurst and do the thing properly, and I thought it was a good choice. It's a marvellous life, especially for a young person. Perhaps in those days there was rather more variety available than now, and perhaps the fun element was a little more prominent thirty or forty years ago. I think it is still a career that is very attractive.
Of course, your father was in the Royal Navy.
He was in the navy originally and then left after about 10 years. When the war broke out, he was called back to an Admiralty job and then eventually was asked to take over Royal Air Force welfare, which he did for about two years.
You may remember, Sir, that we shared an office in Victory College at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst a long time ago. Did you enjoy teaching young cadets?
Yes I did. Of course, it was a huge challenge teaching these young people, young men they were then almost entirely. Very varied material appeared at Sandhurst wanting to be officers, and lots of them came from overseas. I found it enormously stimulating thinking of ways of generating their interest and enthusiasm and trying to pass on some of the things one had been taught oneself.
Because one taught so many cadets one doesn't always remember them, but they tend to remember you. I'm always bumping into people I taught at Sandhurst. Does this happen to you occasionally?
It certainly does. Frequently I meet people who say "Oh yes, I was in your platoon", and of course, as you say, 99 times out of 100, I haven't the faintest notion who they are and I have to believe them when they say they were in my platoon. Just occasionally one can luckily remember the person. But it is rather fun to think that there is some sort of network of people whom one has known. I often also find that some people say to me that we were in the same intake at Sandhurst, but that is altogether an earlier vintage and stretches the memory even further.
Is there any particular highlight in your army career that you would like to recall?
There are probably quite a lot of highlights, but I suppose, in a way, commanding my squadron of the Greys and taking them to Cyprus, where we served for six months with the United Nations force, was certainly a highlight that I remember very clearly. That was in 1970. We were in Nicosia and had a nice little camp at the then airport, which later closed down after the Turkish invasion. This was before that, and we had the good fortune to have responsibility for patrolling the whole of Cyprus, which was quite a task for one small unit equipped with reconnaissance vehicles called Ferrets. We drove all over Cyprus and visited every village, and our soldiers made themselves known to every part of the island, and we were made very welcome. They found it a rather wonderful experience to be able to do that.
To turn to Freemasonry, was it relevant in your military career?
I don't think I would honestly say that it featured. I was aware that there were a number of army lodges - sometimes regimental lodges - but I didn't encounter one when I was serving in the army, so I can't say that there was any direct connection. But I do think that army life and Masonic ideas fit together fairly well; the ideas of discipline and integrity are perfectly complimentary.