Page 161 - The Chapka 2016
P. 161

 Ever since he joined the 17th/21st Lancers
in December 1981 as an armoured troop
leader in Munster, William (sometimes Bill)
English has been hard to miss. On first im-
pressions William appeared ill-designed for a
career in British tanks. Tall and always very
elegant, in appearance and manner, he seemed
more suited to the drawing rooms of his be-
loved Kent than the oily, smelly, somewhat
unreliable Chieftain tank upon which he was
to cut his teeth as a young officer in the Regi-
ment. And yet appearances lied. As a troop
leader and then throughout the rest of his long
and successful career, William showed an ap-
plication and determination to make the best
of whatever resources he was given. He looked
after his tanks as a troop leader as if they were
the finest cavalry mounts. They were cosseted,
loved, carefully stabled, well fed with their oils and lubricants and always gleaming. He got a song out of them and they and his people loved him for it. Accordingly, his was the go-to troop of his squadron, and when a squadron leader it was his squadron that was always ready.
This single-minded professionalism as a regimental officer accompanied him all over the world. Very few officers of his generation have served in so many far flung places as William. Indeed as with his demeanour, there was something of an earlier, imperial age about his drive to carry the motto to seek adventure and service in foreign parts and alongside foreign armies. Even as a regimental officer he managed to serve on foot in Northern Ireland and in Hong Kong and Brunei, on Loan Service in the Oman and at the Indian Staff College. His subsequent appoint- ments carried him to service in Iraq and Kuwait, with tough UN missions in the Sudan and the Congo, with the US military in Gaza and the Horn of Africa, particularly Somalia, and with US Central Command all over the Balkans. His final appointments, as by then a trusted and experienced military internationalist, were on behalf of the British Government in Montenegro and
the Ukraine. Even when serving on the staff within the British military system his expertise was in planning and policies with special focus on Africa and the Middle East, which gave him ample opportunity for more adventure.
In many ways William has been a role model for the varied opportunities of a military ca- reer. It is not hard to see how he has managed to engage his foreign colleagues, as he does his regimental friends, with his quirky charm, his manners and his boisterous sense of fun. While not old-fashioned, he has brought to his career those values and attitudes which in the minds of foreign observers so typifies their image of that increasingly rare species, the English gen- tleman. But he was no bit part actor, playing to his name, for underneath that characterful ex-
terior, all quickly learned lay a tough, hard-working professional soldier who knew his business and got things done. Those early days in the Regiment were foundational.
In the last eleven years of his service William has spent seven of them overseas and away from his family. And yet William has always been such a strong family man. Frances has been his muse, his support and his companion in adventure since 1989 and it has been good to see how despite William’s insatiable itch to travel and serve in exciting places, together they have brought up three happy children with deep roots in Kent. The costs in this process, if there were any, have always been well managed. Just as in his chosen career, William has brought a competence to his family life which with his wide interests, pastoral, aca- demic, sporting and charitable, will set him up well for any sec- ond career outside the Army. It is typical of the man that he wishes to continue to serve as Chairman of the Royal Lancers Old Comrades Association, and, those who know him, will be cheered that the Association will surely have fun but will also be in good and conscientious hands.
Valete Colonel William English

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