Maj-Gen The Rev Ian Durie

Royal Artillery director who took holy orders

Ian Durie performed his military duties with the same commitment, humility and courage that he exemplified in his family life, intellectual undertakings and lifelong Christian faith, a conviction that saw him ordained into the Anglican Church in 1998. Despite earning appointment as CBE for his outstanding command in the first Gulf War and later rising to the top job in army artillery, Durie strongly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq on moral and ethical grounds and subsequently embarked on a PhD at King's College London on the theology of "just war" in a modern context. When he died, he was working on behalf of Accts Military Ministries International, giving seminars for cadets at the Romanian Land Forces Academy.

Ian Geoffrey Campbell Durie, soldier and priest: born Glasgow 21 August 1944; OBE 1987, CBE 1991; Chief Instructor, Tactics, Royal School of Artillery, Larkhill 1988-89; Commander, Royal Artillery, 1st (UK) Armoured Division, Germany and Kuwait 1989-91; Director, Land Warfare 1992-94; Director, Royal Artillery 1994-96; ordained deacon 1998, priest 1999; Curate, St Mark's Church, Battersea Rise 1998-2004; Executive Chairman, Association of Christian Conferences, Teaching and Service (Accts) Military Ministries International 1998-2005; Associate Minister, St Francis Church, Salisbury 2004-05; married 1968 Janie Whitehead (one daughter); died Brateiu, Romania 21 April 2005.

Ian Durie performed his military duties with the same commitment, humility and courage that he exemplified in his family life, intellectual undertakings and lifelong Christian faith, a conviction that saw him ordained into the Anglican Church in 1998. Despite earning appointment as CBE for his outstanding command in the first Gulf War and later rising to the top job in army artillery, Durie strongly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq on moral and ethical grounds and subsequently embarked on a PhD at King's College London on the theology of "just war" in a modern context. When he died, he was working on behalf of Accts Military Ministries International, giving seminars for cadets at the Romanian Land Forces Academy.

Durie was born in 1944 in Glasgow. He and his twin brother, David (later Sir David Durie, Governor of Gibraltar), were educated at Fettes. He joined the Army in 1962 and, after two years at Sandhurst, followed family tradition when he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1964. After a short posting to Germany, he took an in-service degree in Mechanical Sciences at St John's College, Cambridge. He married Janie Whitehead just before his final year of studies.

He became adjutant of 27 Regiment RA based in Lippstadt, Germany, in 1973 and, two years later, attended the Staff College at Camberley. Here he established himself as an officer who said and did what he thought was right, whatever the circumstances: in an early syndicate discussion, Durie's member of the Directing Staff happened to remark that, in a particular battlefield situation, there were three alternatives. "No, Colonel," replied Durie, "we have three options or two alternatives."

At the age of 35, he was appointed to command a gun battery in 29 Commando Regiment RA, based in Plymouth. This posting was conditional on passing the physically demanding all-arms selection course. Most of those on his commando course were just under half his age but such was his fitness and endurance that, despite going down with septicaemia following an injury in the final stages of the course, he recovered and was awarded his green beret.

A staff posting followed to Headquarters 4th Armoured Brigade in Munster, Germany. On promotion to lieutenant-colonel and, after a short six-month tour as the planning staff officer in the Falkland Islands in 1984, he returned to Plymouth to take command of 29 Commando Regiment RA. He was appointed OBE in 1987. Next year came a posting as Chief Instructor, Tactics at the Royal School of Artillery and in 1989 attendance at the Higher Command and Staff Course at Camberley. Both postings were instrumental in developing his intellectual grasp of warfare at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.

This knowledge was put to good effect when, as a brigadier and Commander Royal Artillery 1st (UK) Armoured Division, he commanded the Divisional Artillery Group in the first Gulf War of 1991. On arrival in theatre, work-up training was conducted in the US Marine Corps area. Durie's gunners trained hard and he was soon able to report to his divisional commander, General Rupert Smith, that his Artillery Group was ready for war. During this work-up period, despite the heavy pressures of command, Durie was tireless in visiting his troops. He must have been a comforting sight as he went from location to location carrying his distinctive shepherd's cromach (or crook).

Preceded by an immense air and artillery onslaught, the land battle was quickly and decisively won and, for his outstanding performance in command, Durie was advanced CBE. The British Forces Commander, Lt-Gen Sir Peter de la Billière, wrote: "The Gunners have performed magnificently under Ian Durie and have shown once again that artillery is a key to winning the tactical land battle."

After attending the Royal College of Defence Studies in 1992, Durie became Director, Land Warfare until 1994. He reached the pinnacle of his military career when, on promotion to major-general, he became the Director of the Royal Artillery - the senior serving officer in one of the largest regiments in the British army. He retired in 1996, at the age of 52, but continued his close association with the Royal Regiment as a Colonel Commandant.

On retirement, he decided to dedicate his life on a full-time basis to the Anglican Church. After two years at St John's Theological College, Nottingham, he was ordained at Southwark Cathedral in September 1998. His first appointment was as a curate at St Mark's Church, Battersea Rise, where he worked under the charismatic leadership of the Rev Paul Perkin. For six years, Durie worked tirelessly, sharing the leadership of the congregation in its threefold vision.

Spiritually, he introduced many into deeper prayer and the exercise of spiritual gifts - he himself had an effective confidence in the ministry of healing. Pastorally, he had no need for a literal shepherd's crook in London, for he cared with instinctive ease for all sorts of people from the privileged to the oppressed and marginalised - he was instrumental in developing a closer Christian community of rich variety. Evangelistically, he was passionate to take church members further in sharing in word and deed the life-transforming power of Christ, leading the Alpha Course and establishing outreach projects in mediation ministry and debt-counselling.

Throughout his military career, Durie had been a member of the Officers' Christian Union. In 1992, he began his active association with Accts Military Ministries International (Accts MMI) - an organisation dedicated to changing lives and changing nations through serving Christians in national armed forces across the world. Six years later, he assumed the role of Executive Chairman and was able to bring to bear his three primary qualities: the military leader, eloquent preacher and gifted academic. Under his guidance and inspiration, Accts MMI has gone from arranging one conference a year in either Africa or Europe to nine events in 2005. These conferences or seminars are being held in each of the organisation's four operating regions: Europe, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East.

In early 2003, he became much concerned about the justification for the second Gulf War. He was worried about the lack of unequivocal statements from the UK and US governments that all the necessary considerations for a just war had been met. As a military man, he also wrote: "There is a rush to war and, as those of us who are military men know, such large-scale troop deployments carry with them an almost inevitable need to use them." Shortly before the invasion took place, he wrote to express his deeply held reservations directly to both the Prime Minister and the Chief of the General Staff.

It was largely as a result of the experience of the ensuing war that Durie decided to go back to fundamentals by studying for a PhD on the theology of just war. His aspiration was, no doubt, that his work would lead to a clearer basis of understanding for political, military and religious leaders. To find the additional time needed to achieve this, he became an associate minister at St Francis Church, Salisbury, where he and his wife moved in late 2004.

Although Ian Durie had a deeply serious side - at times, a real note of saintliness could be detected in him - he also had a great sense of fun and enjoyment of life. He was a staunch family man, and a committed and loving father and grandfather. He died in a road traffic accident in Romania; he had just completed an Accts MMI conference at the Land Forces Academy in the country. Also killed in the head-on collision were two other officers, including General Nicolae Uscoi, commandant of the academy.

Nigel Richards

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