Nigel Bedingfield Knocker OBE 1930-2023: He Answered the Call

Nigel Bedingfield Knocker OBE 1930-2023: He Answered the Call

Dear Nigel

The friend of many Churchillians, Col. Nigel Knock­er died 21 Feb­ru­ary at his home in Seend, Wilt­shire, with his beloved wife Angela at his side. In 1997 The Churchill Cen­tre UK was in need of a chair­man, and a kind Prov­i­dence sent us Nigel. He served the UK branch through 2008, skill­ful­ly and with humour. We loved him dear­ly, and are poor­er for his pass­ing. “A man nev­er dies as long as he is remembered.”

From the Seend village magazine

Born in 1930, Nigel was the son of an air com­modore and for­mer offi­cer in the Indi­an Army. Edu­cat­ed at Oakham School, he entered Nation­al Ser­vice in Jan­u­ary 1949. He served with 14/20 Kings Hus­sars before being com­mis­sioned into the Life Guards. In 1951 he trans­ferred to the infantry, join­ing the Roy­al Sus­sex Reg­i­ment on the Suez Canal in 1951. His ear­ly career includ­ed a tour as an ADC before return­ing to the Reg­i­ment as Adju­tant in Korea, Ger­many and Gibral­tar. Sub­se­quent tours includ­ed Aus­tralia, North­ern Ire­land and the Staff Col­lege, Cam­ber­ley.

Nigel was most proud of his long asso­ci­a­tion with Oman. He took com­mand of the Desert Reg­i­ment of the Sultan’s Armed Forces (SAF) at the height of the Dho­far War in May 1971. He received the Sultan’s Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Medal for his skill in com­mand on Oper­a­tion Sim­ba. Nigel was appoint­ed an Offi­cer in the Most Excel­lent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1974.

Pro­mot­ed to Colonel, he returned to Oman as Defence Attaché from 1977 to 1980, and lat­er served with the SAF Chief of Defence Staff from 1982 to 1985. He chaired the Sul­tan of Oman’s Armed Forces Asso­ci­a­tion from 1997 and the Anglo-Omani Soci­ety. His pro­found con­tri­bu­tion to UK-Oman rela­tions was rec­og­nized with the Order of Oman in 2018.

Nigel’s first mar­riage to Car­tiona Mcleod in 1958 was blessed with two chil­dren, Jonathan and Fiona. Catri­ona died in 1979 and in 1981 he mar­ried Angela Willough­by. After retire­ment, Nigel and Angela moved to Seend in 1986. There he became the Emer­gency Plan­ning Offi­cer of Wilt­shire Coun­ty Council.

Mentioned in our despatches

Men­tion­ing young Churchill in despatch­es, his com­man­der wrote: “He made him­self use­ful at a crit­i­cal moment.” Nigel arrived at one of those peri­od­ic crises of the Old Guard. The UK Branch had unex­pect­ed­ly lost its chair­man, and was at a loss over whom to send for. Celia Sandys had the answer: a retired Army colonel. We expect­ed a severe taskmas­ter, per­haps even an offi­cious man­darin. We found instead a warm-heart­ed col­lab­o­ra­tor and devo­tee of the Churchill saga. Unlike some, his sup­port nev­er wavered—a “foul weath­er friend,” as Churchill said.

Nigel wad­ing the Nor­mandy Beach­es 60 years after D-Day.

Nigel paid his first call on us in New Hamp­shire in 1998, join­ing us for a sail­ing cruise on Lake Sunapee. Giv­en the helm of a strange boat in a stiff breeze, he pranged the pier. He nev­er ceased apol­o­giz­ing, even years lat­er, for a minor bump that would have been worse if I’d had the tiller! A few years lat­er we vis­it­ed Angela and Nigel in their beau­ti­ful Wilt­shire vil­lage. We walked leafy lanes and green mead­ows with his Springer spaniels and con­jured Churchill events to come.

Nigel’s great­est tri­umph was the 12th Churchill Tour, “Nor­mandy to Berlin,” in 2004. With the same atten­tion to detail that endeared him to the Omani Armed Forces, Nigel laid out the oper­a­tion. He and 40 part­ners includ­ing Lady Soames wad­ed the beach­es of Nor­mandy and fol­lowed the route of the Allied armies to Pots­dam. There they vis­it­ed the site of the Pots­dam Con­fer­ence, wel­comed at the “pink house” where Churchill stayed. Grand memories.

“One mark of a great man,” Churchill said…

“is the pow­er of mak­ing last­ing impres­sions upon peo­ple he meets.” Nigel Knock­er had that power—accompanied by a wit and dry humour that endeared him to us all. I remem­ber our debat­ing what to do with a cer­tain board mem­ber who had become a bur­den. “You have to admit, Nigel, she’s in Lon­don, con­nect­ed by a line in your organ­i­sa­tion chart.” “Per­haps,” quipped the Colonel, “we could just make that a dot­ted line….”

Those who didn’t work close­ly with him and saw only the suc­cess­ful results may have missed the qual­i­ties of sound opin­ion and judge­ment he brought to our delib­er­a­tions. But qual­i­ties which lay behind we close­ly under­stood. Churchill’s words on his best friend, F.E. Smith, Lord Birken­head, will always remind me of Nigel Knock­er. He’d blanche to hear this applied to him, but he has it coming:

His close friends, and cer­tain­ly I, acclaimed him for what he was…a gay, bril­liant, loy­al, lov­able being…. We met and talked on innu­mer­able occa­sions; nev­er did I sep­a­rate from him with­out hav­ing learnt some­thing, and enjoyed myself besides. F.E was always great fun; but more than that he had a mas­sive com­mon sense and a saga­cious com­pre­hen­sion which made his coun­sel invalu­able…. He had all the canine virtues in a remark­able degree—courage, fideli­ty, vig­i­lance, love of the chase…. Man of the world, man of affairs, adept at the writ­ten or spo­ken word, book-lover—there were few top­ics in which he was not inter­est­ed, and what­ev­er attract­ed him, he could expound and embellish.

The hearts of his friends

And Nigel too deserves Churchill’s final acco­lade: “Some men when they die after busy, toil­some, suc­cess­ful lives leave a great stock of scrip and secu­ri­ties, of acres or fac­to­ries or the good­will of large under­tak­ings.” He “banked his trea­sure in the hearts of his friends, and they will cher­ish his mem­o­ry till their time is come.”

2 thoughts on “Nigel Bedingfield Knocker OBE 1930-2023: He Answered the Call

  1. From Angela Knocker:
    Thank you so much, I feel very hum­bled and proud, you have writ­ten such a touch­ing trib­ute and I have sent it on to the rest of fam­i­ly. So many hap­py times and I know his involve­ment with the Churchill Cen­tre meant a lot to him, a very spe­cial time in his life. He felt very hon­oured to be asked to be chair­man, thank you again for tak­ing the trou­ble to write it.

  2. Your arti­cle on Nigel Knock­er brought back great mem­o­ries of our times togeth­er with our Churchill Cen­tre friends. Nigel’s tour ter­mi­nat­ing in Berlin was most memorable.

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