Lieutenant-General Sir Martin Garrod, who has died aged 73, rose to command the Royal Marines, and by force of personality helped bring peace to Bosnia and Hercegovina after the three-way civil war and campaigns of ethnic cleansing there in the 1990s.

Garrod on a temporary bridge in Mostar Garrod arrived in ethnically divided Mostar, southern Bosnia, as a member of the EC Monitor Mission in the summer of 1993. He found the beautiful city, whose Bosnian Muslim and Catholic Croatian populations live on either side of the Neretva river, largely destroyed. The fighting was fierce, and the Stari Most, Mostar’s
extraordinary 16th-century Ottoman bridge, was destroyed by tank fire just months after he arrived.Lt General Sir Michael Garrod

By early 1994 he had become chief of staff to the EU Administrator, Hans Koschnick, who faced obstruction from hardline Croat politicians. Garrod believed that the violence was being orchestrated by just a few people, whom he described in typically plain-spoken terms as “gangsters” (many were later brought to trial). He helped supervise a budget of 300 million Deutschmarks to repair war damage in the city. Schools and water, electricity and telephone systems were rebuilt, as were as nine of the 10 bridges which spanned the Neretva river. The Stari Most itself was reopened amid great fanfare in 2004.

By the time of the Dayton Agreement in late 1995, which brought an end to the fighting in Bosnia, Garrod’s knowledge of Mostar and its problems was unparalleled, and he was appointed EU special envoy there while the city’s administration was being re-established.

In early 1997 he was appointed head of the Mostar regional Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia, with a much larger area of responsibility. In spite of many serious tensions and dangers, by the time he finally left Mostar in 1998 there was freedom of movement, and tentative links had been renewed between its various ethnic and sectarian factions.

It was an achievement built on Garrod’s common touch. He had the knack of making each individual feel wanted and trusted, and he knew everyone’s name. Though slight of build, his physical presence could nevertheless dominate a meeting. If necessary he could rage and thump the table; his booming voice could deliver jokes and tell stories in Russian, Norwegian and Serbo-Croat. For his contribution to peacekeeping and diplomacy he was appointed CMG in 1999.

John Martin Carruthers Garrod was born in Darjeeling on May 29 1935. Although his father was a clergyman, the family were Royal Marines; his great-grandfather, Colonel WG Suther, had commanded the Marines at the capture of Shimonoseki, Japan, in 1864.

Martin was educated at Sherwood College, Nainital, India, and Sherborne School, Dorset, where he excelled in Classics.

After passing in top of the Royal Navy entry for 1953 and winning the Sword of Honour, Garrod became known as an officer of charm, innate courtesy and impeccable manners; by nature modest and unassuming, his integrity made him a strong influence on his classmates.

These same qualities were remarked upon many years later by Ambassador Jacques Paul Klein, the US Deputy to the EU High Representative in Bosnia and Hercegovina, who referred to Garrod’s “unshakeable moral compass”.

Garrod’s Royal Marines career mixed staff and command appointments with service ashore, and he served five times in 40 Commando RM. As a junior officer, he served twice in Cyprus: at the very start of the emergency there in 1955, and again in 1958. Later he was adjutant in Borneo during the confrontation with Indonesia. His graduation from the Army Staff College in 1967 led to two tours in the Far East, on the staff of HQ 17 Gurkha Division (1968-69) and at Headquarters Far East Land Forces (1970-71).

He undertook two tours as a company commander in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, when he was mentioned in despatches. In command of 40 Commando in Northern Ireland (1978-80), Garrod proved a skilled tactician with a clear appreciation of intelligence and its uses. He was a shrewd negotiator and an able administrator, and was appointed OBE in 1980.

Garrod’s courage, diplomacy and unflinching determination were tested on the streets of West Belfast, where he showed an unerring even-handedness in the management of internecine strife – he would apply the lessons learned in Northern Ireland during the five years that he spent in Bosnia. These were qualities which he also applied to his final role, in 1999, as UN administrator in Kosovo’s northern town of Mitrovica, which, like Mostar, was ethnically split across the banks of a river, and was also shattered by war when Garrod arrived there.

Arguably Garrod’s most valuable work was performed as a staff officer at the Ministry of Defence in the 1970s and 1980s: these were difficult times for the Royal Marines, when the focus was on the central front in Germany, defence cuts were biting, and there were no funds for specialist amphibious shipping. The viability of the Royal Marines was linked to this shipping, and by his determined advocacy Garrod made a major contribution to securing the future of his Corps. He had the satisfaction (as Colonel General Staff to the Commandant General RM) during the Falklands War of seeing amphibious warfare at the heart of the naval campaign to win back the islands.

He was a success as commander of 3 Commando Brigade (1983-84), and at the summit of his Royal Marines career, as the Commandant General (1987-90). His understanding of Whitehall, allied to his strength of purpose, ensured that the standing of his Corps remained foremost.

He was appointed KCB in 1988.

A sad episode in his career was the bombing of the musicians’ barracks at Deal in 1989, which killed 11 people. Garrod immediately appeared on television in uniform to condemn the perpetrators as “thugs, extortionists, torturers, murderers and cowards – the scum of the earth”. He went on: “We will emerge stronger and more determined than ever before to end and destroy this foul and dark force of evil.”

His personal bravery was exemplified when, soon after his retirement, he saw two men struggling at Holborn station. Calmly handing his briefcase to a fellow passenger, Garrod plunged in to save both men from falling on to the live tracks, only to discover later that one was a plainclothes policeman in the course of arresting a pickpocket. Garrod prized as much as anything else the silver salver he was awarded for his “courage and selflessness”.

As a young officer, Garrod had been an effective and fearless boxer, as well as a fencing champion at the Royal Tournament in 1954.

Thirty-five years later, in 1989, he was in the team which won the Bargrave Deane trophy at Bisley. His hobby in his later years was portrait photography.

He had a delightful sense of fun and was a generous host who would sometimes entertain his guests on the piano.

Garrod held strong views, and wrote to the broadsheets about issues such as the role of women in the front line, the government’s promise of a referendum on the EU treaty, “the war on fee-paying schools”, British involvement in Iraq and the value of the special relationship with the United States.

Martin Garrod died on April 17. He married, in 1963, Gillian Parks-Smith, who survives him with their two daughters.