James Gavin 'Jamie' Crowe



Pay Respect

Brigadier James (Jamie) Gavin Crowe, late AAC (403275) 1930-1989

Brigadier ‘Jamie’ Crowe served his country as a soldier for most of his life and his military career, outstanding in many ways, would take more space to record, even in outline, than is available to us here. Robert Burns, who hailed from Jamie’s part of Scotland, said “the rank is but the guinea’s stamp. The man’s the gold”, and these notes on Jamie Crowe, the man, are taken from the address given at his funeral service in Middle Wallop Camp church on 13tt October 1989.

Nearly thirty years ago I was sent to find a landing-site for some helicopters which were to bring a number of VIPs to the opening of a major REME Workshop. The site was a converted factory; there were only two possibilities – a coal-store on the railway spur, or a yard surrounded by high buildings with an enormous chimney at one corner.

I decided that if everyone did a vertical approach from about 200 feet – and was then marshalled to one side to let the next helicopter in – the yard would be just big enough. A couple of trial approaches were made without much trouble – completely ignoring the fact that it was an almost windless day.

When the great day dawned there was a howling gale and we flew in our VIP-passengers with some difficulty. The last aircraft to arrive was a little Skeeter; we watched with admiration as its pilot struggled to bring it to a hover and descend into the yard. A Brigadier dismounted and was whisked away, followed by a short, moustachioed Royal Signals pilot in a beautifully-pressed flying-suit and gleaming boots who walked over to join us.

That was when I first made the acquaintance of Captain J G Crowe … and found myself at the receiving end of an uncouth and blistering inquiry about the identity of ‘the steaming, blithering idiot who picked this stupid, bloody, landing-site?’

Brigadier Jamie had the reputation of being a short-tempered martinet, who did everything so well that it was difficult to get back at him. We all have a favourite ‘wee Jamie’ story; most of them end up with everyone being wet, cold and covered in mud suddenly being confronted by an immaculately-dressed, freshly-shaves and often irate Jamie Crowe; an enormous character in a small frame.

Once, when I had accused him of being cranky, and difficult to get along with, he assured me that he was in fact a great friend of his fellow-men. There were, he pointed out, billions of people on this earth; out of whose there were only a few thousand – an infinitely small percentage – that he couldn’t stand the sight of!

In spite of his barking and blustering, Jamie was in truth a kind, sensitive and sometimes even boyish character with a strong sense of fun. He had a typically Scottish sympathy for the under-dog, and little respect for any he considered to be unfit for their rank or appointment. He frequently left subalterns – and even warrant officers – quaking just because he felt that they had been getting too big for their boots. Yet he seldom if ever ‘roasted’ a junior NCO or soldier without a very good reason; there are many who can voucher for his loyalty to his friends and his quiet, usually anonymous and rather embarrassed generosity.

In retirement Brigadier Jamie appeared to withdraw from contact with the Corps, though friends who visited him were greeted warmly and found him alert, busy and amazingly well-informed. He was, however, a sick man and his health was deteriorating faster than he would admit – faster, too, than we his friends had realised. After a sudden collapse he was taken into intensive care, where he fought hard for his life and proved to be a model patient whose main concern was to spare the nursing staff. They gave devoted attention in return; his death in spite of their efforts was hard to accept. The Corps and all of us who knew him are richer for having shared his life.

(Written by Lieutenant Colonel Ian Scott AAC and was published in the AAC Journal 1990)


Additional material from Patrick Pontet-Piccolomini:

James (Jamie) Gavin Crowe was born Scotland 16 May 1930, and died 4 November 1989 at Truro, Cornwall, aged 59.

I do not know his full career history, but I do know he was Colonel at Directorate AAC in 1976 when, in December that year, he was promoted Brigadier and appointed Commander Army Aviation BAOR. Based at HQ 1 (BR) Corps in Bielefeld, I had the privilege to serve with him there from August 1976 to March 1979, during which time I gained an enormous respect for this hither-to perceived ‘difficult’ man, who also gave me some his busy time. He relinquished this post in August 1980.

It would appear he had sufficient faith in me to send me to 1 Regiment AAC at Hildesheim to be temporary Chief Clerk in response to the specific request of the CO Richard Eccles.


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