OBITUARY:John Bruce Lockhart

John Taylor
Saturday 13 May 1995 00:02

In 1941 John Bruce Lockhart, then a major in the Seaforth Highlanders, was chief instructor on an introductory course at the Intelligence Corps depot (officers' wing), then located in Pembroke and Oriel Colleges, Oxford. It was the prelude to his 25-year career with British intelligence.

The student body which faced "JBL" in wartime Oxford was a very mixed bag, consisting both of young regimental officers who knew some German, and newly commissioned wartime officers (mainly teachers) who had been recruited primarily for their linguistic or other specialist qualifications and who, in most cases, had no military experience whatever. To design a course to meet these two requirements was a challenging task to say the least, and the fact that it was in most cases successfully accomplished was thanks in large measure to the enthusiasm and patience which JBL and his three fellow instructors brought to it.

As a gunner subaltern just posted back from the Western Desert I had applied for a posting to intelligence duties, and found myself on JBL's course. After he left the Oxford Depot in 1942, for an undisclosed (to us) Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) appointment in the Middle East, I did not see him again until 1948. I had gone on to join the SIS myself and was in Bad Salzuflen when he came to take over control of SIS's then quite large organisation in Germany. His warm personality and the tact and skill he displayed in bringing together amicably the other intelligence agencies in Germany, ably supported by his wife Margaret's charm, won him widespread admiration and affection and were a triumph of leadership.

Looking back it has to be remembered that at that time the Cold War was at its most frigid, Stalin was still very much alive and the Soviet blockade of Berlin was clear evidence of how far they were prepared to go in confronting the Western powers. With the Third World War only too real a prospect, a view fully shared in many quarters in Whitehall, demands for intelligence on Soviet intentions were overwhelming, and none of us there at the time would claim that we had the success in meeting them that we had all hoped for. Risks had to be taken, sometimes leading to embarrassing consequences, but throughout all of these JBL never lost his cool or his ability to encourage others to try again.

The only period of his service I believe he found disappointing and frustrating was during his later responsibility for Africa in 1963 and 1964, when the need to do something positive to thwart and counter the ever- increasing activities of the KGB in former British colonial territories was constantly left unsupported by departmental rigidity in Whitehall. Though the East African mutinies of 1965 at last put an end to this lethargic approach, by that time JBL had retired to seek new challenges in other fields and to find more time for his many other interests in sport, music and the arts.

John Bruce Lockhart was born in 1914, into a family of rugby-playing schoolmasters. His father, J.H. Bruce Lockhart, a one-time headmaster of Sedbergh School, played rugby for Scotland, as did two of his brothers; his uncle, Sir Robert, was the author of Memoirs of a British Agent. John was educated at Rugby School, where he captained the rugby first XV, as he did at St Andrews University, where he graduated in French and German before returning to Rugby as an Assistant Master in 1937. He served with the Intelligence Corps from 1940 until joining the SIS in 1942.

After retiring from the SIS in 1965, JBL took up a career in education, heading up planning and development at Warwick University until 1967, before becoming personnel manager of Courtaulds. He was instrumental in setting up the City University Business School, and in 1974 founded and directed the Business Educational Council.

In the years after leaving SIS he, like many others, found the security restraints irksome in not being able to refute some of the books and articles that appeared from time to time giving wholly incorrect and misinformed accounts of past SIS activities. And this feeling remained with him until his death. His devoted care for all his family, particularly his wife Margaret during her recent times of ill-health was at all times outstanding.

John Macgregor Bruce Lockhart, intelligence officer, administrator, lecturer: born Rugby 9 May 1914; Assistant Master, Rugby School 1937-39; OBE 1944; Assistant Military Attach, British Embassy, Paris 1945-47; Control Commission, Germany 1948-51; CMG 1951; First Secretary, British Embassy, Washington 1951-53; Foreign Office, London 1953-65; planning and development, Warwick University 1965-67; CB 1966; Head, Central Staff Department, Courtaulds Ltd 1967-71; Director, Post Experience Programme, City University Business School 1971-80; Chairman, Business Education Council 1974-80; married 1939 Margaret Hone (two sons, one daughter); died 7 May 1995.

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