Sir David House

Sir David House

Sir David House

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AS GOC Northern Ireland, Lieutenant General Sir David House was the architect of the 1975 “Way Ahead” policy which gave greater prominence to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. His time in Northern Ireland was also marked by the ending of a Provisional IRA ceasefire in January 1976.

Sir David, who has died aged 89, served as Chief of Staff of the British Army of the Rhine from 1971 to 1973, and was Director of Infantry from 1973 to 1975, in which year he received his knighthood.

The youngest in a large family, he went to Regents Park School in London, joining the Army when he was 18.

He served in the ranks for a year before receiving an Emergency Commission into the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

He served in the Italian Campaign as a Carrier Platoon Commander, and in 1944 was awarded a battlefield MC.

In 1947 he received a Regular Commission, and that year he married Sheila Betty Darwin, of Aldborough Hall, Boroughbridge, Yorkshire.

Her twin brother, Bobby Darwin, was a fellow officer, and the couple met when he spent Christmas with the family, which was then renting the hall.

The Darwin family subsequently bought it, and thanks to the peripatetic life of an Army officer, it was the
base to which the couple and their two daughters returned for family holidays, memorable for their competitive games of Scrabble and a child-friendly version of poker.

In 1964/65 he commanded the 1st Green Jackets (43rd & 52nd) on the Malay peninsula in Penang, and then Berlin.

It was at this time that Gen Sukarno, Indonesia’s military dictator, was trying to prevent the creation of Malaysia, sparking the Indonesian Confrontation, and in June 1965, Sir David was sent to Borneo to command the 51st Gurkha Brigade.

He was mentioned in despatches in operations against Sukarno’s forces.

From 1967 to 1969, he served as chief of the British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany, based in Potsdam near Berlin, and from 1969 to 1971 was Deputy Military Secretary.

When he retired from the Army in 1977, he was Colonel Commandant of the 
Light Division, having also 
been Colonel Commandant 
of the Small Arms School 
Corps.

In 1978 he was appointed Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, serving until 1985, in which year he was made Knight Commander of the Victorian Order.

Although born and brought up in the Home Counties, Sir 
David adopted Yorkshire as 
his home, and it was to Aldborough that he retired on his retirement from the office of Black Rod.

An Army officer of high rank and with heavy responsibilities, he had the ability, thanks in part to his endearing smile and sense of fun, of making people feel at ease.

And he spent as much time as he was able to with his family, his immense patience in evidence when playing games of skill with his daughters.

The Army and the regiments he was associated with remained important to him, but he was
not a man to dwell on the past, and in retirement, Sir David, who had always done “party” cooking, developed that interest and attended various cookery courses.

His chocolate ice cream was legendary.

He had also enjoyed sketching and drawing, and in retirement he developed that interest as well by attending appropriate courses. He mainly painted landscapes in oils, with the occasional
watercolour and portrait. Many of his paintings are of places in Portugal which he visited while on holiday.

His wife, Sheila, died in 
2006, and Sir David is survived by their daughters Jennifer 
and Elizabeth and two 
grandsons.

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