David William Scott-Barrett, “the soldiers’ general”, born on 16-12-1922 in Cologne. His father, Brigadier Hugh Scott-Barrett, was Judge Advocate General of the Army of the Rhine and was later ordained. Young David was educated at Westminster, where he was a keen oarsman, and enlisted in the Royal Berkshire Regiment in 1941 before being commissioned into the Scots Guards the following year. He served with the 3rd Tank Battalion as a troop leader and subsequently as second-in-command of a company, and took part in bitter fighting in Normandy and the drive across North-West Europe. Robert Runcie, later Archbishop of Canterbury, was a brother officer, tankcommander in Right Flank Squadron. Robert Runcie died of cancer in St Albans on 11-07-2000, age 78.
In April 1945, the 3rd (Tank) Battalion, part of 6th Guards Armoured Brigade under command of Brigadier WDC Greenacre , began a 50-mile advance to Uelzen, south of Luneburg, led by the SG’s Right Flank Squadron and the 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry . On April 15, during the early morning attack on Uelzen, Scott-Barrett, then a captain, was the squadron recce officer attached to 10 HLI HQ when the HQ was completely surrounded after a heavy German counter-attack.
The Germans, numbering about 200 and equipped with AA half-tracks, concentrated their fire on the HQ at increasingly close range. It was vital to get help but wireless contact had been lost. So Scott-Barrett drove his scout car straight out of the encirclement despite being attacked by bazookas, grenades and 20 mm flak.
As soon as he had arranged for reinforcements, he charged back into the position and joined in the defence until the relieving force arrived. Later that day, when his squadron had become involved in tough, close-quarter fighting in the nearby village of Veersen, he played a notable part in organising house-clearing, deploying anti-tank patrols and directing attacks on enemy machine-gun posts and snipers. Scott-Barrett’s role in enabling his squadron and the HLI to hold and consolidate their positions against determined tank and infantry counter-attacks was recognised by the award of an immediate MC.
In February 1945, Scott-Barrett was in command of the leading troop of tanks in support of 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry near Kranenburg, south-east of Nijmegen, when his tank was blown up by a mine and disabled. He jumped out, ran through the minefield which had already killed several infantrymen, took over his corporal’s tank and continued the advance.
As they approached a bridge which he knew had been prepared for blowing, several of his tanks became bogged down. Seeing that one tank was still going, he led it on foot over the bridge where it engaged machine-gun nests and snipers and provided vital support to the infantry at a critical moment.
After the war, Scott-Barrett was posted as GSO3 to HQ Guards Division and, in 1948, he was promoted Assistant Regimental Adjutant and appointed Equerry to the Duke of Gloucester. On one occasion, he was driving to Windsor with King George VI who remarked that he would very much like to hear the bagpipes. Stopping by a telephone box, Scott-Barrett passed on the King’s request to his Regimental HQ. HQ prevaricated, suspecting that their leg was being pulled, but after the King went into the kiosk and Scott-Barrett handed him the telephone, a piper was found with remarkable speed and he was waiting for them on their arrival.
In 1951, Scott-Barrett was posted as a company second-in-command, and subsequently company commander, with the 2nd Battalion in Malaya during the Emergency and took part in operations against the Chinese communists. He was then posted to 1st Battalion in the Middle East, again as a company commander, and went on to attend Staff College in 1955. A succession of postings followed before he returned to the Staff College as an instructor in 1961.
Having planned a trip to Russia, in August that year he found himself in a mini-bus travelling through Berlin. As he passed what remained of the Hotel Adlon, he saw a machine-gun post being set up and realised that a wall dividing the city was going up very quickly and they would shortly be on the wrong side of it. Deciding on a rapid tactical withdrawal, the party sped back through the Brandenburg Gate.
After an appointment as Commandant of the Guards Depot, Scott-Barrett moved in 1965 to BAOR as GSO1 HQ 4th Division. Two years later he took command of 6th Infantry Brigade before attending Imperial Defence College and subsequently becoming GOC Eastern District.
In 1973, Scott-Barrett was appointed GOC Berlin (British Sector). He lived in one of the grandest residences and was, therefore, in a vulnerable position when Whitehall was considering whether substantial economies could be achieved. A senior civil servant was sent with instructions to fly over the residence in a helicopter and report back. Scott-Barrett, having been forewarned, arranged with his French counterpart, who was housed very modestly, to exchange their national flags, prominently mounted on the rooftops, for the day. Nothing more was heard on the subject of savings.
Scott-Barrett was appointed GOC Scotland and Governor of Edinburgh Castle in 1976 in the rank of lieutenant-general. He loved the Tattoo and was a stickler for turnout; if he was displeased, high rank afforded no protection from his tongue. One day, after Scott-Barrett had sharply reminded a brigadier to put his hat on straight, a sergeant remarked: “General, what I like about you is that you are equally bloody to everybody.”
Scott-Barrett retired from the Army in 1979 and, in 1982, became chairman of the Army Cadet Force Association for the next 14 years. An outstanding communicator, often he would tear up a speech and talk to his audience straight from the heart.
In 1995, two Scots Guardsmen, Jim Fisher and Mark Wright, left were convicted of the murder of Peter McBride, aged 18, who had been shot dead in 1992 while they were on patrol in Belfast. The two were sentenced to life imprisonment and Scott-Barrett played a prominent part in the ultimately successful campaign to obtain their liberty.
Scott-Barrett returned to live in Edinburgh for the last years of his life. A devout Christian, he divided his loyalties between the Canongate Kirk on the Royal Mile and St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Palmerston Place.
David Scott-Barrett was appointed MBE in 1956 and knighted in 1976. He died on December 31. He married first, in 1948, Elise Morris, who died in 1985. He married secondly, in 1992, Judith Waring (nee Rogerson) who survives him together with the three sons of his first marriage.
Death and burial ground of Barrett, David William Stuart.
Lieutenant-General Sir David Scott-Barrett, died aged 81, on 31-12-2003 in Inverness, UK, won an MC in Germany in 1945 while serving with the Scots Guards; a formidable leader, he tempered intolerance of all but the very highest standards with great warmth and humour. He is buried on Dean Cemetery Edinburgh.