Major Tarry Shaw

Pillar of the Royal Scots Greys
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The Independent Online

Tarry Shaw devoted 34 years to the service of a single regiment, the Royal Scots Greys.

George Boyd Shaw, soldier: born Glasgow 14 May 1917; married 1947 Nancy Cressey (three sons, two daughters); died North Ockendon, Essex 19 June 2004.

Tarry Shaw devoted 34 years to the service of a single regiment, the Royal Scots Greys.

Even after he retired in December 1967, no major regimental occasion was complete without him. To his funeral in Essex, in the beautiful Norman church of North Ockendon where he had served for many years as church treasurer, came a host of senior officers and old comrades of the sergeants' mess, including former commanding officers of the regiment - Field Marshal Sir John Stanier, Lt-Gen Sir Norman Arthur, Maj-Gen Jonathan Hall - and the current Colonel of the Regiment, Brigadier Mel Jamieson, producer of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

That they should drive hundreds of miles to say goodbye demonstrates the regimental bond. Politicians talk of abandoning the regimental tradition of the British army. Shaw's career illustrates the folly of disbanding regiments of such ancient and honourable lineage as the Scots Greys - merged with the Carabiniers, four years after he retired, to become the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

George Boyd ("Tarry") Shaw, born in 1917, was my more than somewhat feared regimental sergeant major in the Greys during my National Service - and friend, for the subsequent 52 years.

His father, who died when Tarry was nine, was in the Boer War and served as a motor engineer in the First World War. His parents moved when Tarry was two from Glasgow to Hawick, in Roxburghshire, where Shaw left Hawick High School, an excellent traditional Scottish academy, to work in a warehouse in one of the town's woollen mills.

He didn't care for the life and joined the Greys as a trooper in 1934. It became apparent at riding school that he had the makings of a brilliant horseman. He took part in ceremonial duties on horseback and in 1938 took an Equitation Instructor's Course at Weedon, in Northamptonshire, obtaining an outstanding "distinguished" certificate, which the great horseman Norman Arthur tells me was most unusual.

In 1994 the Scots Greys came to West Lothian to commemorate their recruiting drives of 1934 and 1974. Shaw said to me with a chuckle: "Of course in 1934 we could all ride and few of us could drive. In 1974 all of us could drive and few of us could ride!" However the truth is that Shaw was perhaps the last of the real horse cavalrymen of the Greys.

In 1952, stationed at Luneberg in Germany, I would see him very early in the morning exercising one or other of the colonel's two horses. Lt-Col Douglas Stewart, then Colonel of the Regiment, would have been the first to acknowledge his debt to Shaw in training his horse Aherlow and also his reserve horse, Bone, captured from the Germans. Shaw was pivotal in preparing his talented commanding officer to gain Britain's only Olympic gold medal in Helsinki that year when Stewart on Aherlow, Lt-Col Harry Llewellyn on Foxhunter and Wilf White, the Yorkshire farmer, on Nizefella carried off victory in the show-jumping event.

Shaw's friend John Foreman of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Association, London Branch, confirmed to me that he did not talk much about his war record. When asked Shaw would reply with a grin: "I kept well back." Hardly!

In 1942-43 he was in the thick of the battle of Alam el Halfa when Rommel nearly reached Cairo. He was at Alamein and Nofilia; in the advance to Tripoli, 1,500 miles in three months; at Salerno in September 1943, against ferocious German opposition; and then on to Naples before coming home to prepare for the invasion of Europe. He landed on 7 June 1944 and took part in fighting at Caen, the Falaise Gap, Hill 112, and the Rhine crossing - for which he was mentioned in dispatches.

After a period as RSM in Luneberg and then at Barc in Libya, he rose to the rank of major, became an exemplary quartermaster and finally retired to his ever supportive wife's home at North Ockendon and the house where her father had been a farrier.

Those of my generation owe servicemen like Tarry Shaw and his generation the peace and prosperity which we wouldn't otherwise have had.

Tam Dalyell