Brigadier Donald Fletcher, who has died aged 87, was awarded a Military Cross in Burma in 1945 for rescuing wounded comrades under fire.
In February 1945 Fletcher, then a lieutenant, was in action in the Arakan with the 82nd West African Division Recce Regiment (82 WARR). On February 27, it was detailed to capture a village at the junction of two tidal creeks.
During the engagement the soldiers came under heavy rifle and machinegun fire from a Japanese bunker position on a hilltop overlooking the village. One Bren gunner was killed and an officer and several other men were wounded.
Fletcher, who was acting second-in-command, ran forward through the enemy fire without regard for his own safety and carried back one of the wounded African men. He then brought in a second casualty but when he tried to rescue a third, the fire was so intense that he had to be ordered to take cover. The citation for his MC stated that his courage and leadership had been beyond praise.
Donald Murray Fletcher was born at Cowes, Isle of Wight, on August 18 1922 and was brought up above his father's high street fruit and vegetable shop. He was educated at Newport Grammar School where he became head boy.
Donald once found himself in front of the headmaster for an escapade in which he climbed out of the school train while it was passing through a tunnel. He moved along the running-board and entered the next carriage. This was occupied by the school caretaker, who promptly fainted.
Fletcher went up to King's College London to read Geography and Geology, returning there after the war to take his degree. In 1943, he was commissioned into the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders and posted to West Africa to train Nigerian troops.
After serving with 82 WARR in Burma, he volunteered for service with Airborne Forces and finished the war with the Parachute Regiment in the Indian Airborne Division.
Fletcher returned in 1948 to the Isle of Wight where he farmed in partnership with his two elder brothers. On one occasion, he came across a group of men in one of his cornfields and asked them to leave.
The ringleader challenged him to a fight, and lost. It seems likely the men then discovered that Fletcher commanded a company of the 14th (Royal Hants) Battalion The Parachute Regiment for, the next week, the whole group turned up at the TA drill hall asking to sign on as paratroops.
After the compulsory purchase of a large acreage for development, the farm was no longer viable and, in 1953, Fletcher rejoined the regular Army and took a commission in the Manchester Regiment. He was posted to Malaya during the insurgency and, after transferring to the Parachute Regiment, commanded a company of 1 PARA in Cyprus during the EOKA campaign.
He went ashore by landing craft during the Suez crisis, then moved to 13th Yorks and Lancs Bn The Parachute Regiment as training major. Command of 16 Independent Company The Parachute Regiment (Pathfinders) was followed by promotion to lieutenant-colonel in 1963.
Fletcher then took take command of the Brunei Malay Regiment in the aftermath of the 1963 Brunei Revolt. This was a difficult period which involved rebuilding the regiment throughout the British "confrontation" with Indonesia.
During his command, he saw its transformation to an All Arms Force, with its own helicopters, fast patrol boats and hovercraft. On completion of this tour he was appointed OBE. After a short spell in the MoD, he was promoted colonel and posted to Bahrain as Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of British Forces in the Persian Gulf.
In 1970, Fletcher attended the Nato Defence College in Rome and then took up a staff post in Shape. Promoted to brigadier in 1974, he was posted to South Korea where he served as defence attaché. His geological expertise proved highly useful following the discovery of booby-trapped tunnels under the Demilitarised Zone between South and North.
Fletcher retired from the Army in 1977 and returned to the Isle of Wight where he worked as an estate agent and a consultant to a mainland engineering firm. As a young man, he was the Southern Counties sprint champion. He had a football trial for Portsmouth, played county rugby and turned out regularly for the Trojans in Southampton.
On finally retiring, he devoted his time to boating, fishing, shooting, painting and travelling.
Donald Fletcher died on January 9. He married, in 1946, Heather Sinclair. She pre-deceased him and he is survived by their two sons.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Daily TelegraphRead More