The music playing is the Regimental Quick March of the SAS
"Marche des Parachutistes Belges"

The Obitury
Col Ian (Biffo) Cartwright

1st Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

22 SAS

Alistair Cartwright
Dad 19 Dec 22
My father was shaped by his early years. Born in 1933 in Manchester to John
Henry (Harry) and Margaret (Meg) Cartwright much of his early childhood was
spent with his mother’s parents, the Smiths, in Auchterarder, Perthshire due to
his parent’s War Service. His father with the Royal Air Force and his mother a
Theatre Nurse first in Manchester and later in Edinburgh. His youthful
Mancunian accent made him a target among his new class mates and this was
when, in his own words ” I learned to look out for and after myself”. His
Grandparents disciplined him regularly for fighting despite his repost that. “No
- I’ve been defending myself”. For the remainder of his life he rarely
deliberately sought trouble but once it found him, he rarely walked away. He
found solace wandering the hills, glens, rivers and burns of Strathallan and
Strathearn developing two of his lifelong passions - fishing and bird watching
though in his early days they should be more accurately described as poaching
and the now illegal activity of bird nesting. Both developed in him the
outstanding field skills including; guile, observation and patience and an ability
to move quickly and quietly across land and through water - in later years
often to the great surprise and disadvantage of his children. He was a very
proud of his Smith heritage and we all loved visiting with the them. Having
exhausted his grandparents he moved, as a boarder, to Morrisons Academy in
Crieff where he enjoyed his time, excelled academically and was introduced to
rugby. After the war his parents recalled him to their new home in London in
order to “get to know him”. By the end of his school years he would be
described “as a most capable but occasionally troublesome young man”’ He
certainly surprised everyone by turning down an offer from Cambridge
University, he had once considered a medical career, to enlist as a soldier in
the Lancashire Fusiliers with the intention of gaining a Regular Commission in
the Army.
His remarkable military career began in Oct 51 at the Lancastrian Brigade Trg
Depot in a hut he shared with 17 “scousers”. Despite not understanding a
word they said, in time they accepted him and he learnt a whole new language
and much about the realities of life. Many of his fellow recruits could not read
or write and looked to him to help. This gave him a compassionate insight into
their backgrounds, the importance to them of their families and the their
colourful use of dark humour in the face of adversity. He later considered
himself a better officer for their early comradeship and it was a reawakening
of his Lancastrian heritage. His deep attachment to his Lancashire family and
Lancashire never diminished.
He struggled at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst which he thought
snobbish but excelled at sports in particular swimming and rugby. He was glad
to leave on being commissioned in Sept 53 to XX The Lancashire Fusiliers (LF).
He joined 1LF in West Germany in 1953 and began to seriously learn his trade
from the older officers many highly decorated veterans and robustly entered
into the active social and sporting activities, in particular rugby, swimming and
water polo, that were a major part of BAOR life. However from the outset he
expressed a wish to seek excitement through more active service. Prevented
from joining the Parachute Regiment he volunteered for the Special Air Service
(SAS) because volunteers for the SAS had to be allowed to attend SAS
Selection. In the months before he departed he did find time to woe my
mother, Patrica (Pat) Ford, a Nursing Officer of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army
Nursing Corp. It would however be some years before they were able to be
He passed selection and joined 22 SAS in Malaya in Jan 57 at the start of what
would be three eventful, demanding and rewarding years first as a Troop
Commander in D Squadron and then Trg Troop Officer. For his “leadership, skill
and personal courage over a sustained period of operations” he was to win the
first of his Mentions in Despatches (MID). The move to Training Officer
provided the opportunity to marry Pat who tired of waiting had arrived in Kuala
Lumper, under her own initiative. Together they would form a close team an
she would be an essential part of their future success and happiness. Towards
the end of the Malaya tour D Squadron were hand picked for a secret operation
in support of the Sultan of Oman against some rebellious mountain tribes.
Newly married he wangled a return to duty with D Squadron as a Troop
Commander. In late January 59 D Squadron and the newly arrived A Sqn
climbed the 6,000-foot high, almost vertical wall of the Jebel Akhdar (Green
Mountain) to attack the main rebel base in a location the rebels considered
impregnable. This was done in just one night, they carried the rebel positions
by surprise, astonished the rebels and their leaders, who hastily retreated
along the one remaining trail into Saudi Arabia. The success and audacity of
the operation remains a classic example of “Who Dares Wins”.
Returning to the UK in May 1960 he was soon summoned back to Regimental
Duties as IO and then Adjutant of 1LF in Germany, where encouraged by his
Commanding Officer, the future Lt Gen Sir Jim Wilson, he sat and passed the
Staff College Exam and found , much to his surprise, that he had been
selected, to attend the Indian Staff College, Wellington in 1962. He passed the
course, making many friends among the Indian officers, who he remembered
as intelligent, tough and kind. Tragically many of them would be casualties of
the Second Indo - Pakistani War of 1965. Post Staff College from 1964 to
1971 there then followed a series of Staff and Regimental appointments; 21/c
21 SAS (Artists), Cyprus during the EOKA Independence campaign, when he
was named in the local Greek Cypriot news papers as a spy who should be
shot on sight, then as a Coy Comd in 1 LF Hong Kong during the violent
political upheavals caused by Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution which
introduced him to Large Scale Public Order operations and Urban Patrolling
tactics and then a return to the UK as OC Trg Wing then Ops Officer of the
newly formed SAS Group. During this ten year period he and Pat found time to
start and extend their family by the birth first of Patricia Jane , then Alistair
Ian, then John Bruce and ultimately Guy Gibson. Though frequently absent he
was an engaged Dad who loved his children and and was loved by them in
Promotion in 1971 to Lt Col and selection for command took the family in Oct
72 to Colchester and the appointment he was to enjoy above all others.
Commanding Officer 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. On first
meeting his Battalion he was taken aback by how young they were and
seriously wondered how they would stand up to the rigours of a forthcoming Ni
Operational Tour. He was delighted to be quickly and thoroughly disabused of
his mistaken thought. Under his leadership they were to prove to be an
outstanding Battalion in every way and at every level inning an operational
reputation second to none. His character and previous experiences can be
seen in their resolute collective capability to find the terrorist small arms,
ammunition and explosives, their timely and aggressive follow ups to all
attacks against them and steadfastness in tense situations. The Bn earned
many honours and awards, though not as many as their Commanding Officer
would have wished. An additional highlight was the Bn’s emergency
deployment to Cyprus to protect the Sovereign Bases at the time of the 1974
Turkish invasion. He was mentioned on the front page of the Times for his
response to a Turkish Armoured Column firing into the Dhekelia Sovereign
Base. “ Lt Col Ian Cartwright Commanding 3 RRF “calmly drove forward in an
unarmed land rover to demand an explanation - though not without first
checking that the RAF Phantoms were in the air”. He always believed his
subsequent award of an Operational OBE for Outstanding Leadership belonged
to all who served with him in 3RRF. In his final Annual Report he was delighted
that special mention was made of Pat “He has been magnificently supported by
his wife who has made a significant contribution to the welfare and morale of
the wives”. In later years I have been struck on meeting 3rd Fusiliers of this
time by their awesome pride in their Battalion’s achievements, their shared
sense of comradeship and fun and their lasting affection for their then
Commanding Officer and Pat.
The remainder of his career, less a wonderful three year family posting in the
USA as the BLO at the US Army Command and General Staff College, would
involve high level CT Intelligence jobs mainly based in NI; including
Commanding Officer Intelligence and Sy Group (NI) and Col ACOS G2, HO NI.
Though undertaken willingly and with great success, over time the secretive
nature of the work, the long hard hours , the constant negotiation of political
and moral mazes and the often difficult decision making would ultimately
encourage him to seek fresh pastures. He told an interesting story from this
time of when on a flight from Belfast to London, he found himself sitting next
Jerry Adams then President of Sinn Fein and a Senior Commander in the IRA.
He said they exchanged civil pleasantries and small talk. He only lasting
observation from their encounter was that “Adams had black teeth and bad
breath”. The encounter appealed immensely to his well known sense of
humour and the absurd. His selfless, unique and mostly hidden, extraordinary
contribution during these long years would be recognised by another MID in
1979 and on retirement an 1984 of his OBE to CBE. In the words of the then
VCGS “ how splendidly well deserved is your CBE” followed more cryptically by
“It will not be the same without you.”
He left the Army having turned down promotion to join Provident Mutual as
Director of Administration. Not a title many would necessarily associate with
his skill set. But he wanted a change and under the patient hand of the then
CEO and later close family friend Brian Richardson and with the support of a
good team around him he learnt new skills and enjoyed the challenges of
working in a new environment. Though even after over 10 years he always
struggled to understand Corporate HR Rules and Regulations.
On retirement he remained active by participating fully in family weddings first
Jane to Bill, then Alistair to Tracey, then Bruce first to Helen and later to Claire
and then Guy to Hillary. He and Pat enjoyed the steady arrival of their beloved
grandchildren in the following running order; Richard, Alasdair, Jack, Will,
Charley, Rebecca, Hamish and Cameron. My parents took real pleasure and
interest in the academic, professional and sporting successes of their children,
their spouses and the grandchildren and nothing pleased them more than
home and away family visits and gatherings. Among this family background
noise Dad remained active in the in Fusilier and SAS Associations, became
Chairman of the Crieff BLESMA Home, was an active member of the Perth and
Kinross Conservative and Unionist Party, Chair of the Williamson Hall
Committee, helped found the Abernethy Burns Society, Captained the GASP
Shoot, was an active member of the Perth Angling Club and the Newburgh
Widfowler’s Association, trained his beloved spaniels Charlie and Jenny and
made regular pilgrimages to the North Yorkshire Moors to shoot and Lewis to
fish. He and Pat were fortunate to have many friends close to home and
further afield and Pitverise Bank was always a warm hub of hospitality. After
my mother’s passing he continued that tradition with the his partner of his
later years Helen. For her warm, loving companionship and often more
practical help we his children owe her a lasting debt of gratitude. Finally when
free from all his family and civic responsibilities he could on occasion be found
propping up a corner of the bar of the The Cress Inn, with in my mother's
affectionate words his “Cress Cronies”, tormenting their friend the late ,much
missed, Brian Johnson. That he was able to remain active, still shooting,
fishing and gardening to the end is a tribute to his fortitude but also to family
and many kind friends who did so much to support him. To you all - we thank
I close with this words from Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan. I choose them
as a salute and farewell:
“Then said he, I am going to my Father’s: and though with great difficulty I am
got here, yet now I do not repent of all my trouble I have been at to arrive
where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage,
and my courage and skill to him who can get it. My marks and scars I carry
with me, to be witness for me that I have fought His battles who will now be
my rewarder.
And so he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other Side

The Telegraph Obituary