Lt Col John Jacob

John Jacob

John Jacob

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Lieutenant Colonel John Howard Jacob, who has died aged 85, was the last commanding officer of the Durham Light Infantry and during the Malayan emergency was awarded the Military Cross.

That episode started in 1948 and continued until the Communist insurrection was finally quashed in 1960.

Lt Col Jacob was born in Danby, North Yorkshire, where his father, the Rev Lloyd Jacob, was vicar, and he and his two sisters spent an idyllic childhood in several country parishes dotted around the county.

Educated at Durham school where he played for the first XV, he was an astute tactical runner and a highly skilled horseman. The modern pentathlon and polo were both sports he loved and excelled at.

Inspired by his uncle Tim, who had won the Military Medal during the First World War, he decided to become a soldier.

At Sandhurst, he captained the modern pentathlon team and also represented the Army.

Later in life, sport became more of a leisure activity but he could still get very excited watching rugby on the television upsetting the family dog which cowered under his chair.

He was commissioned into the Durham Light Infantry in 1948, which he was to serve proudly and enthusiastically for the next 20 years.

The banter and humour of the Geordies were constant sources of enjoyment for him and he also relished life in the mess.

Three years into his military career he was seconded to the 2nd Battalion 10th Princess Mary’s Own Ghurkha Rifles who were operational in the Malayan Emergency.

He brought youthful vigour, enthusiasm and his excellent Sandhurst training to the task that faced him, but at the outset things looked less than promising because his role as company officer was to sort out the accounts.

Then there was an inspection of the regiment by Lord Harding, and he was sent into action. Now he was taking patrols out into the jungle for days at a time where initiative, drive and sheer determination were required to get the job done.

By all accounts he was fearless, but most importantly effective, and won the respect of the men serving under him. He was mentioned in despatches before being awarded a Military Cross in 1953.

In January that year the patrol he was leading came under concerted attack which was vigorously fought off. Three of the terrorists were killed, two being accounted for by him.

While serving with the Gurkhas, he developed a passion for curries. In the kitchen he was part tortured artist and part mad scientist, and the result when he made a curry won him friends and admiration. Invariably he left the kitchen looking like a chemistry experiment that had gone horribly wrong and he never did the washing up.

After his Malayan adventure, he returned to the Durham Light Infantry and attended Shrivenham Staff College before going back to the Far East – this time to Borneo where he found time to play polo with the local tribesmen. He was eventually to command the regiment over its transition from Durham Light Infantry to the 4th Battalion, Light Infantry, for its last posting with the United Nations peace keeping force in Cyprus

After leaving the army, he was to serve as secretary of the North East Yorkshire Community Health Council as well as a county councillor, campaigning successfully to save Welburn Hall School from closure and being chosen to be chairman of the North Yorkshire County council – a deeply satisfying conclusion to his working life.

Lt Col Jacob could show a gruff exterior, he disliked showmanship, he did not suffer fools, and he said it how it was. He had a clear sense of duty and strong moral compass.

He married Jane Keenlyside in 1965 and she together with their two sons, Richard and Carey and daughter Rosemary survive him.

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