Major Dick Stevens, who has died aged 90, was awarded an MC in the Suez Campaign.
In 1956, at the start of the campaign, 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment (3 Para), together with their French opposite numbers, 2nd RPC Colonial Parachute Regiment, were tasked with leading the Anglo-French landings at Port Said.
Their role was to carry out an airborne assault to seize El Gamil airfield, to the west of the port, 24 hours ahead of the amphibious landings planned for the next day. “B” Company, commanded by Major Stevens, was to capture and clear the east end of the airfield.
The company dropped in the early hours of November 5, but by ill chance they landed right on top of the Egyptian troops defending the airfield. In the sharp firefight that ensued, Stevens was wounded in the hand. Ignoring his wound, however, he led his company in two more attacks.
After they had achieved their objective, he was wounded again, this time in the leg. Despite his protests, he was evacuated to the battalion’s makeshift regimental aid-post. After treatment, he was taken aboard a French Air Force Dakota while the airfield was still under fire and eventually brought back to England. He was awarded an immediate MC.
Richard Guise Stevens (always known as Dick) was born in Bristol on June 6 1921 and educated at Sherborne. He attended a short course at Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry.
He saw active service in Burma in a specially raised Reconnaissance Regiment and was mentioned in despatches. After the war he rejoined his parent regiment and took part in operations in Malaya during the Emergency.
In 1955, after volunteering for a tour with Airborne Forces, he was posted to 3 Para in Aldershot as a company commander. In January the following year, within 48 hours of returning from Christmas leave, the battalion was ordered to fly out to Cyprus and prepare to mount a parachute or air-landed operation into Jordan to assist the possible evacuation of British nationals.
The battalion was deployed instead on internal insurgency operations in Cyprus, the Eoka campaign in support of Enosis (union with Greece) then being at its height. Stevens led his company with great skill during many exacting operations in the Troodos Mountains and the Kyrenia range. He was again mentioned in despatches.
He retired from the Army in 1964 and went to work for Berger Paints, initially as regional sales manager for the Midlands and then as its manager in Barbados. In 1976 he finally retired and moved to Italy.
Stevens and his wife lived near Montepulciano in a villa which had been inherited by his Italian wife. Together they renovated the house, which had been occupied in turn by the German and Allied armies, extended the estate, created a fine garden, planted olive groves and built a swimming pool dug out of the hillside. The most generous of hosts, for the next 30 years they entertained their wide circle of friends.
An imposing figure with a commanding voice, Stevens had an undeviating sense of what was right and wrong – and where Italian drivers were concerned, he had a very short fuse. On one occasion, when he was “carved up” by a Carabinieri patrol car, he protested in his usual uncompromising manner. The driver objected to being called an imbecile and Stevens was led off to the police station. He was called in front of the Commandante but spoke only a little less forthrightly than before and won an unqualified apology.
Dick Stevens married first (dissolved), in 1942, Rosemary Bamford. He married secondly, in 1966, Isabella de Gaetani, who survives him with a son and a daughter of his first marriage and a son of his second.
Born June 6, 1921, died December 1, 2011
© Telegraph 8th January 2012