Maj-Gen Sir Roy Redgrave, who has died aged 85, was awarded an MC in the last week of the Second World War in Europe, and afterwards commanded the Household Cavalry.
On May 1 1945, Redgrave was leading a troop of the 1st Household Cavalry Regiment (1 HCR) west of the village of Düdenbüttel, near Bremen, when his armoured car was hit by bazookas and set ablaze. He was standing beside the car and then came under accurate fire from a machine gun.
Redgrave climbed on to the turret, which was burning fiercely, and pulled out his wireless operator, who was wounded and helpless. As he got the man down on to the engine cover, he himself was wounded and fell to the ground.
He got up, lifted the operator, whose legs were shattered, and placed him in the comparative safety of a ditch. He grabbed two hand grenades and a Sten gun and returned to the car to help the driver. The side door of armoured car had been blown off and the driver was dead.
The wireless operator was too heavy to lift more than a few yards; so Redgrave, making use of what sparse cover there was, crawled, wriggled, rolled and, in places, ran through fields and hedges until he reached the village.
He came back with six troopers. They engaged the enemy, drove them off and brought the wounded operator back to HQ. It was past 2am when Redgrave finally reached a field hospital, where his own injuries could be attended to. He was awarded an immediate MC.
Roy Michael Frederick Redgrave was born on September 16 1925 in the Athénée Palace Hotel, the smartest hotel in Bucharest. His mother, Micheline Capsa, the daughter of a Romanian general, had just managed to check in there minutes before her confinement. The actor Sir Michael Redgrave was his father’s half-brother.
As a small boy, Roy liked to think himself related to the proprietors of the most famous patisserie in Romania, who bore the same name as his mother’s family. His mother was not amused. “Your grandfather was the illegitimate son of a very important man,” she informed him. “We are not related to a family of pastry cooks.”
Roy was brought up at Doftana, to the north of the capital, where his father carried out drilling for Romanian oil companies. When war broke out, he was at school in England; the family was not reunited for six years.
After Sherborne, aged 17 he enlisted as a trooper in the Royal Horse Guards (the Blues). He was subsequently commissioned into 1 HCR, based at Aldershot. In his memoirs, he recounts a visit to a variety show in the town where the high spot of the evening was a striptease by a buxom blonde. At the climax of her act, the lady removed the last of her clothing behind a screen which consisted of a flock of white doves perched on a stand. But a soldier in the front row, frustrated at being denied a glimpse of her in complete undress, drew a pistol and fired off a blank cartridge. The exposed performer stood for a moment open-mouthed in shock before rushing off the stage. The doves, meanwhile, fluttered around the theatre depositing evidence of their displeasure on the heads of members of the audience.
Redgrave accompanied 1 HCR to Holland in time for the forced crossing of the Rhine. A few days after the action in which he won his MC, the campaign in north-west Europe was over and he was discharged from hospital.
After the war he remained in Germany with the Blues and, as a GSO3, was involved in intelligence gathering. During this period he played rugby for the Rhine Army and was in its athletics team. He commanded a squadron in Cyprus during the Eoka campaign in 1959, and was mentioned in despatches.
From 1960 to 1962 Redgrave served as military assistant to the Deputy Supreme Commander Europe at Shape and then commanded the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in London.
He learned to ride and became known as “Colonel Daffodil” after his wife acquired a Pekinese of the same name which accompanied him on his rounds of the barracks.
From 1965 to 1967 Redgrave commanded the Blues in BAOR and, after a move to HQ 2nd Armoured Division, was promoted to brigadier as Commander Royal Armoured Corps (RAC), 3rd Division, where he served from 1970 to 1972. His HQ was at Tidworth and he lived in a manor house that was supposed to be haunted by a headless drummer boy. In 1973 he became Commandant of the RAC Centre at Bovington and Lulworth .
Two years later, Redgrave moved to Berlin. On a visit to Spandau Prison, Rudolf Hess told him that he was the 14th British commandant to have done so but the first to have spoken to him in German.
Redgrave’s final appointment was that of Commander British Forces Hong Kong. The interception of illegal immigrants into the New Territories proved an onerous task. In his first year, they numbered an estimated 200,000, of which about half were apprehended and returned to China. He was knighted at the end of his tour and retired from the Army in 1980.
He became Director General of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and was subsequently appointed Honorary Colonel of the 31st Signal Regiment Volunteers. He was Grand Master of the Order of Knights Templar for seven years .
He travelled widely. His journeys included trips to China, Tibet and the Arctic Ocean. In 2000 he published Balkan Blue (2000), a collection of family and military memories, and followed this with The Adventures of Colonel Daffodil (2006).
Roy Redgrave died on July 3. He married, in 1953, Valerie Wellesley. She predeceased him and he is survived by their two sons.
© Telegraph Online 31 Jul 2011