Maurice Sucliffe



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It is with deep sadness that we report the death of Brigadier Maurice William Sutcliffe OBE (10 Oct 22 – 8 Apr 19) who passed away in the morning of 8 Apr 19 at the age of 97. Brigadier Maurice will be known to many of us in the Army Air Corps for his service with the Glider Pilot Regiment, Presidency of their Association and for the important part he played in the foundation and development of the modern Army Air Corps. Our thoughts are with his wife, Pam, his sons and daughter, his wider family and his many friends and comrades.
Brigadier Maurice Sutcliffe stands out as a very remarkable man in an era when there were many remarkable men. He enlisted for service in 1940 and was commissioned into the Royal Irish Fusiliers in 1942, in time to deploy with the 1st Battalion for operations in Northern Africa. In February 1943 he was badly wounded on a patrol, only a few weeks after his older brother had been killed in action whilst serving in the Battalion. He was evacuated to the UK with a question mark over his ability to walk again. Undaunted, he was released from hospital in August 1943 to serve as a Liaison Officer with the RAF. He used that as an opportunity to serve as supernumerary aircrew, taking part as a crewman for twelve daylight raids over occupied France, including attacks on the V Bomb launch sites.

In February 1944, whilst en route to another RAF LO posting in Italy, a chance meeting with Brigadier Fitzroy McLean resulted in a transfer to the Special Operations Executive. Following a short period of preparatory training, which included a parachute course, he was inserted into Croatia where he joined a Partisan group operating under Tito against the German occupying forces. His tasks included establishing supply drops, organising the exfiltration of some 200 Allied aircrew and the evacuation of wounded partisans. His small unit was frequently bombed by the Germans and he also experienced an assassination attempt by a German Counter Intelligence unit. As the War in Europe drew to a close he led his small British SOE group back to Allied lines, bringing to a close an interesting period in the life of a 22 year old Army officer. He rejoined his Regiment as Adjutant and served with them in Austria as part of the Army of Occupation, Palestine and Egypt. A brief period at the Regimental Depot in Northern Ireland allowed him some time to gain more skill as a rider, where he was able to hunt and to compete in point to point races.
In 1952 he volunteered for service as an Air Liaison Officer during the Malayan Emergency and the Korean War, and also took the opportunity to gain a civilian pilot’s licence. On return to the UK from his operational duties he joined the Glider Pilot Regiment, which was operating light aircraft alongside the Air Observation Flights in the command, liaison, reconnaissance and observation roles. When the remains of the GPR was disbanded in 1957 he was in command of the Regiment and marched it off parade (the propeller from the Auster that flew over the parade that day is mounted in the Middle Wallop Officers’ Mess). He thus became one of the founding members of the modern Army Air Corps when he transferred across from the GPR on 1st September 1957.
Following a period at the RAF Staff College he was attached to US Army Aviation at Fort Rucker from 1960 to 1963. This was a time when the US Forces were gaining experience in the use of helicopters across a variety of roles from utility to attack. His experience of flying a variety of fixed and rotary wing aircraft in conditions that ranged from Colorado to Alaska took him onto the development team for the Iroquois helicopter.

He brought his knowledge and experience back to British Army Aviation in 1964, where he went on to command 1 Wing Army Air Corps in Germany, then 2 Wing Army Air Corps in UK and later as Brigadier Army Air Corps. In those appointments and later with the Joint Warfare Establishment he was a champion for the Army Air Corps as a fighting unit in the Order of Battle.
Retirement from military service in 1977 was followed by employment in Saudi Arabia, working for British Aerospace, in his own words, “ a harsh lifestyle, but the desert had its fascination.

Brigadier Maurice Sutcliffe OBE was a man who lived a life a lot less ordinary than most. He was an enthusiastic and competent sailor and rider, a brave and professional officer, Vice President of the British Yugoslav Society, President of the Glider Pilot Regiment Association and founding member of the modern Army Air Corps, to which he gave much service. He will be much missed by all who knew him, served with him and under him.


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