Obituary: Maj-Gen Sir Christopher Welby-Everard

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The Independent Online
Major-General Sir Christopher Welby-Everard was the last British army officer to command the Nigerian army. It was in the years 1962 to 1965, a difficult transition period for Nigeria, which had only been granted independence a couple of years previously, but Welby-Everard was a natural diplomat who carried his authority with ease. The young General (later President) Gowon, who was his adjutant general, saw the power of command that Welby-Everard could exercise when he anticipated a potential coup in 1964. He called the senior officers together and firmly reminded them where their loyalty lay.

Twenty years earlier, on 10 March 1944, at the age of 34, Christopher Welby-Everard had taken command of the 2nd Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment. This gave him little time to prepare for the task ahead, namely D-Day. However, as the regimental history recalls:

Such was his untiring zeal and ready insight, his persistent attention to detail and his amazing memory, the product of a well-disciplined mind, that after the three short months given for preparation, he took to France a battalion in which everyone had the upmost confidence in his leadership. Always aware of a very real pride in command, he must surely have come near to the ideal commanding officer.

Propelled into command, Welby-Everard led his highly motivated battalion with distinction into Hermanville for some of the fiercest fighting of D-Day. Tough action was also to come at Caen. In the stubborn, defensive action by the Germans, known by the Allies as Operation Goodwood, he was severely wounded in the back and leg. The way he had trained the battalion, however, ensured that they carried the flag high in a number of successful actions until the end of the war. His batman was ordered back to the battalion, but demanded that he be allowed to accompany Welby-Everard to hospital in England.

Christopher Welby-Everard was born in 1909 and educated at Charterhouse, where he played cricket and soccer for the 1st XI before going up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Commissioned into the Lincolnshire Regiment in 1932, he served in the 2nd Battalion where he excelled at most sports and in particular shooting and cricket. Tall and powerfully built, as a fast bowler he represented Lincolnshire and the Free Foresters.

After he had recovered from his injuries in the Second World War, Welby- Everard held a series of staff appointments in the Army until 1949 when he took over the (by now) Royal Lincolnshire Regiment in the Canal Zone of Egypt. With Egypt having been defeated by Israel in 1948, and with much terrorist activity, this was a turbulent time. Welby-Everard at one point found his medical officer had been taken into custody. Livid, he stormed into the local police station and demanded his release. The bewildered constabulary moved even quicker when he took out his sten-gun.

In 1954, he was appointed commander of 264 Scottish Beach Brigade and 157 Infantry Brigade (TA). After a period as BGS (Ops) HQ Northern Army, he was promoted Major-General and in 1959 posted to Oslo as Chief of Staff to the Allied Forces Northern Europe. He served there until 1962 when a fresh challenge was offered - command of the Nigerian army. It was a precondition of this appointment that he resign from the regular list of the British army and work on a contract basis. For his work in Nigeria he was created KBE.

On return to Lincolnshire in 1965 Welby-Everard worked for Securicor and a number of charitable organisations: he was President of the County Red Cross, County Chairman of the Royal British Legion, Chairman of the Normandy Veterans, Chairman of the Lincoln Diocesan Finance Board, and for 23 years President of the Royal Lincolnshire Regimental Association. He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Lincolnshire in 1966 and High Sheriff in 1974.

Christopher Welby-Everard was a Lincolnshire man whose life was underpinned by a strong Christian faith. He was a private man devoted to public service. In life as in action, he was unruffled, unhurried and self- assured. His men knew where they were with him and so did everyone else. He had a robust sense of humour and a highly developed ability to listen. He adored his wife, Peggy, and delighted in her superstitions - at the New Moon she would bow seven times, turn the silver in her handbag and spit. On her death 20 months ago his wish was to join her soon.

Christopher Earle Welby-Everard, soldier: born Gosberton, Lincolnshire 9 August 1909; OBE 1945, CBE 1961, KBE 1965; Chief of Staff, HQ Allied Forces, Northern Europe 1959-61; GOC Nigerian Army 1962-65; married 1938 Peggy Shorrock (died 1994, two sons); died 10 May 1996.