Bob Tozer was born in Hertfordshire in June 1929 and went to two different prep schools before being evacuated with his siblings to Canada in 1940. They returned to England in 1944 and, aged 15, he went to Sherborne School, which was to become so much part of his life.
He was a fine sportsman, particularly good at cricket and all ball games. He was in the cricket XI and had opened the innings with David Sheppard, the England cricketer and later Bishop of Liverpool. He also played rugby, fives and squash for the school, was a school prefect and achieved Oxbridge entry.
He joined the Royal Artillery as a national serviceman at Oswestry in April 1948, and having passed the selection board, went to Mons Officer Cadet School where he was a junior under officer in his troop. He had been given a place at Trinity College Oxford after National Service.
He was posted to 6 Fd Regt RA stationed at Homs, in Libya, and while serving there decided on a military career, which was to last for the next 23 years. He went to the Boys Bty RA at Rhyl in 1951, which, while he was there, was enlarged to become The Boys Regt RA.
In 1953 he joined 3 RHA in Munsterlager and moved with them to the Canal Zone and then with J Bty RHA, commanded by Major Philip Tower, back to Homs. Early in 1956 he took up the prestigious appointment of army instructor at the Junior Officers’ War Course at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich and then went on to Sandhurst as an instructor in Ypres Coy.
He met Penny skiing in Westendorf that winter; they were married in 1958 and in 1959 he moved with the regiment to Kenya, where his parents owned a farm at Lechugu, before going on to Staff College. After a two-year staff appointment at HQ 1 Div at Verden, he joined 1 RHA in Aden, initially to command HQ Bty.
In 1966 he took over command of E Bty RHA. The battery had already suffered considerable casualties from grenades thrown by dissident members of the Federal Regular Army, but Bob’s fine leadership kept up the usual high level of morale. On one occasion he was in the mess tent in Dhala when a grenade was rolled in while the officers were eating and a quick witted officer pushed the heavy dining table over which took the full force of the explosion and certainly saved their skins.
It was for his gallant service during this tour that one of Bob’s troop commanders, Mike Beckingsale, was awarded the Military Cross.
On hearing of Bob’s death, one of his former senior NCOs, Sgt (later Major) Mick Blackmore, wrote: “I was saddened to hear of the passing of Bob Tozer or ‘Twink’ as he was fondly called by the lads, because no matter how hard he tried when giving a bollocking, his eyes always had a twinkling smile behind the glasses. He was one of the good guys, who understood his men.”
At his splendid thanksgiving service at Sherborne School, five of the officers who had served under his command in E Bty RHA were present, which must be almost a record and speaks volumes for the esteem in which he was held.
He was posted to Singapore, on promotion to lieutenant colonel, as the personal staff officer to the C-in-C Far East and from there he went on to command 26 Fd Regt RA in Germany, where he was one of the youngest lieutenant colonels in a command appointment, following which, in 1971, he decided to leave the Army.
He taught maths and cricket at Felsted School for 11 years until he was offered the job of registrar at Sherborne where, after a world tour, he taught some maths, ran the registry and appeals, edited the Sherborne Register and coached some cricket for the next 10 years until he finally retired in 1995. He was also honorary secretary to the Old Shirburnian Society from 1992 to 1998.
He was a brilliant cricketer and at various times in his playing career he played for Sherborne School, Flintshire, the Army, the Royal Artillery, the MCC, Sherborne Pilgrims, Incogniti, RNC Greenwich, Staff College, Sussex Martlets, Sandhurst Wanderers, BAOR, and the Gentlemen of Essex.
After a period of ill health, he died early in the morning on 11 December last year (2008), having spent the night watching the Test match from New Zealand on television.
© The Gunner