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Field Marshall Sir John Wilfred Stanier

Obituary | Entry in Burkes Peerage | Family Tree | Wikipedia


Field Marshal Sir John Stanier, GCB, MBE, Chief of the General Staff, 1982-85, was born on October 6, 1925. He died on November 10, 2007, aged 82

A clever and highly articulate officer, John Stanier was the first post-Second World War general to become Chief of the General Staff (Head of the Army) without having seen active service in that war or in any of the numerous campaigns that followed. He was perhaps overconscious of this, although some contemporaries in the Royal Armoured Corps were also denied active service experience. Between the Korean War of 1950-53 and the Gulf War of 1990-91, the principal need for armoured units lay in the European theatre, where deterrence against Soviet attack was Nato's prime task, a subject Stanier understood exceedingly well.

John Wilfred Stanier was born in 1925 and educated at Marlborough College. He took a short wartime course at Merton College, Oxford, before being commissioned into the 7th Queen's Own Hussars in 1946. During the immediate aftermath of the war, he served with his regiment in Italy, Germany and briefly in Hong Kong. After graduation from the Staff College, Camberley, in 1957, he began to emerge as a highly competent staff officer and became military assistant to the Vice-Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

This first experience in Whitehall's corridors of power during a turbulent period when the War Office and the other single-service ministries were being subsumed into the Ministry of Defence under the Mountbatten reforms was to stand him in good stead. It provided him with experience required for handling national defence issues as they became increasingly centred upon Europe and Nato, rather than military involvements outside the Nato area as Britain's withdrawal from empire took its course. His appointment as MBE indicated his success in this assignment.

After attending the Joint Services Staff College as a student and commanding a squadron of tanks in Germany, he returned as an instructor to the Army's Staff College, where he was to become commandant ten years later. He was already identified as a man of ideas with the personality to put them across forcefully in Camberley's continuing debate. He did not have an altogether easy ride, however. An entertaining role in the Staff College pantomime he had played while a student had revealed the thespian aspect of his character; this led envious detractors to accuse him of consistently playing a part to attract attention. His original regiment had amalgamated with 3rd The King's Own Hussars in 1958 to form the Queen's Own Hussars. Although he had commanded a squadron of this regiment in Germany, he was not chosen to command it. Regarding this as critical set-back in his military career, he decided to leave the Army, even applying — unsuccessfully — for the briefly vacant post of Defence Correspondent of The Times. Then, to the surprise of himself and others, he was selected to command the Royal Scots Greys — Scotland's smart, highly professional only regular armoured regiment. Lacking, as he did, any Scottish affiliation, this posed a challenge. A man of lesser personality might have met with an uncomfortably difficult time, yet he raised the professional standards of the Greys still higher, meanwhile winning their confidence and respect.

After regimental command he went to the Imperial Defence College (now the Royal College of Defence Studies) as a junior member of the directing staff. There were three such appointments, one from each service. Often parodied as mere "bag carriers" for the more senior students, the incumbents shrewdly took advantage of the course to broaden their outlook while making useful contacts. Stanier was in his element, enjoying the cut and thrust of debate and foreign travel.

He was selected to command 20th Armoured Brigade in the Army of the Rhine in 1966 and, having thoroughly refreshed himself on the deterrent strategy of the Nato Central Region during that assignment, returned to London to become the Army Department's director of public relations. Then, as now, this direct interface with the information media and the London press in particular on behalf of the MoD's Army Department was of key importance.

Stanier was media aware and amusing when the occasion demanded. He toured garrisons at home and abroad explaining to all ranks the importance of good relations with the news media, warning his listeners not to treat reporters with disdain while emphasising the need for having the correct facts when speaking to the press and never to bluff if without them.

His style and military grasp demonstrated in this appointment, and consequent high profile in the Army as a whole, undoubtedly contributed to his promotion to command the 1st Armoured Division in the 1st (British) Corps sector of the Nato Central Region. During this period he made a telling contribution to the restructuring of the British Corps brought about by the financial constraints of the 1975-76 Defence Review.

He became the next Commandant of the Staff College at the end of his divisional command in 1975. His energy and ability as a public speaker fitted him well for an institution that requires periodic enlivenment, although some of the less robust students found his challenging humour uncomfortable. He made history by leading a delegation from Camberley invited to visit the Frunze Military Academy in Moscow, the first meeting of its kind between the British and Soviet armies.

Promoted to lieutenant-general in 1978, he returned to the office of the Vice-Chief of the General Staff, this time as the incumbent and as an obvious candidate for the post of Chief of the General Staff and professional head of the Army. He proved a vigorous and innovative vice-chief, instituting adjustments to the structure of Rhine Army formations where trials of the organisation introduced by the Defence Review of 1975-76 had revealed shortcomings. He also visited Rhodesia in 1979 to advise the British Government on the composition of the British Monitoring Force to oversee elections consequent on the termination of the Ian Smith regime that had unilaterally declared independence in 1965.

He was the first to acknowledge that he had no experience of British defence issues outside the Nato area, which still required constant attention, as the Falklands crisis was to demonstrate. This deficiency was corrected in 1981 by his appointment as C-in-C United Kingdom Land Forces, with responsibility for the efficiency of the regular and Territorial Army units at home and for the planning and deployment of forces for operations overseas. In this capacity, he oversaw the provision and dispatch of the army component of the South Atlantic Task Force during the Falklands campaign.

Appointed KCB in 1978 and honorary ADC General to the Queen in 1981, he was advanced to GCB on taking over as Chief of the General Staff from Field Marshal Sir Edwin (later Lord) Bramall in the autumn of 1982. Behind the apparently conventional exterior of a British general officer, Stanier concealed a quick and imaginative mind. It proved a pity that his time as Head of the Army coincided with a period of consolidation after the Falklands rather than innovation, so his abilities as an original thinker were to an extent left unexploited.

In retirement from 1985, he was chairman, 1986-89, of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. He wrote jointly with his friend and political activist Miles Hudson War and the Media (1997) to illustrate the steps they recommended to overcome the mutual wariness between the Armed Services and the information media. He was Constable of the Tower of London, 1990-96, and devoted much of his time to local affairs in Hampshire and to the councils of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and Marlborough College.

He married in 1955 Cicely Constance Lambert. She and their four daughters survive him.

Entry in Burkes Peerage

Family Tree


(§) Annie Susan Self and Nellie Self were cousins.
Annie Susan was the daughter of Charles David Self (RG10/1662 f63 p38), and
Nellie the daughter of Charles' brother James Self (RG11/2886 f47 p16).

The Birth Registrations of Margaret G Stanyard and William H Stanyard are
typed in the index volume for 3rd qtr 1945, and also handwritten in the
3rd qtr 1938 and 3rd qtr 1939 volumes respectively. I suspect that
pre-marital births in 1938 and 1939 were not registered until 1945,
perhaps on Allen Stanyard's return from war, and entered into the correct
index volume by hand.

Letters of Administration for Kate Stanier
of	St Martin's Lodge Harpenden HRT (wife of Allen Stanier)
died	6 April 1910
ADMIN	granted at London 6 May 1910
to	the said Allen Stanier law clerk
Estate	£772
ADMIN	Furthur grant at London 15 January 1924
to	Arthur Allan Stanier stock jobber
Estate	£288 15s

Will of Allan Stanier
of	Bankcroft Harpenden HRT
died	13 September 1923 at the Nursing Home, Lemsford Road, St Albans HRT
WILL	proved at London 16 October 1923
by	Arthur Allan Stanier stock jobber
      	Lilian Emma Stanier (wife of the said Arthur Allan Stanier)
Estate	£4,001 4s 3d

Letters of Administration for Edwin Gordon Stanier
of	Sorrento, Bilkington Avenue, Worthing
died	21 June 1930
ADMIN	granted at London 1 August 1930
to	Arthur Allan Stanier retired stockbroker
Estate	£876 12s 5d

Will of Arthur Allan Stanier
of	Uppington, Dover Road, Worthing
died	13 February 1932
WILL	proved at London 25 April 1932
by	Lilian Emma Stanier widow
	Alfred Henry Lowthian-Matthews agent
Estate	£1,969 13s 9d

Will of Harold Allen Stanier
of	Abbotts Manor, Lechford, Stockbridge HAM
died	23 April 1932 at Uppington, Dover Road, Worthing
WILL	proved at London 10 June 1932
by	Penelope Rose Stanier widow
Estate	£817 8s

Will of Allan Stanier
of	9 Belle Vue, Wordsley STS
died	4 February 1947
WILL	proved at Birmingham 3 April 1947
by	Charles David Stanier glass instructor
	Fred Stanier garage proprietor
Estate	£376

Will of Lilian Emma Stanier
of	Uppington 18 Dover Road Worthing SSX, widow
died	9 April at Worthing Hospital Lyndhurst Road Worthing
WILL	proved at London 24 July
by	Dennis Arthur Stanier, retired stock jobber
	John Wilfred Stanier, captain H M Army
Estate	£10,241 8s 5d

Will of Edward Stanier
of	24 Heath Street Stourbridge WOR
died	10 October 1954 at The Council House, Stourbridge
WILL	proved at London 25 November
by	Beatrice Stanier widow
Estate	£1,081 11s 4d

Will of Percival Stanier
of	10 Bryan Ave, Penn, Wolverhampton
died	11 October 1962 at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton
WILL	proved at Birmingham 12 November 1962
by	Marie-Jose Lee, married woman
Estate	£165 2s

Letters of Administration for Leslie Stanier
of	2 Briars Close, Nuneaton WAR
died	6 August 1963
ADMIN	granted at Birmingham 18 October 1963
to	Minnie Stanier, widow
	Peter Albert leslie Stanier production engineer
Estate	£8,814 13s

Egerton Percy Wilson

Family tradition has it that May Stanier married a bigamist. She married twice: firstly to Egerton P Wilson in 1917 at Fylde LAN, and secondly to George M Hale in 1930 at Stourbridge WOR. However, the death of an Egerton P Wilson, aged 45, is registered 3rd qtr 1932 Birmingham. If this is the same Egerton P Wilson, then May Stanier's first husband was still alive at the time of her second marriage, implying that the first marriage had been dissolved either by divorce or legal invalidity.

The 1911 census of 7 Hope Cottage, Priory Street, Bowdon, Altrincham CHS (RG14/21538 sn176) lists:-

NameRelationship to HeadMarital StatusYears marriedSexAge in 1911OccupationWhere born
Egerton WILSONHeadMarried Male29Chauffeur DomesticAt Sea
Matilda WILSONWifeMarried 6Female32 Filey YRK
Queenie Winifred WILSONDaughter  Female5 Bredenbury HEF
Egerton and Matilda Wilson are presumably the Percy Egerton Wilson and Matilda Elizabeth Sweetman who married 3rd qtr 1904 Croyden.

The British Army WW1 Pension record of Egerton Percy Wilson shows him to have joined the Army Service Corps at Burnley on 11 April 1914, being discharged as medically unfit for further military service on 26 February 1915. The record shows, inter alia, that he was born 3 March 1884 in New York, but was a British Citizen. He was married, but separated from his wife Matilda (for whom no address is known). His next-of-kin is listed as Uncle William Hill, a farmer of Doncaster.

The death of Matilda E Wilson, aged 86, is registered in Nelson LAN 3rd qtr 1964. So Egerton Wilson's second marriage would indeed appear to have been bigamous.


Last modified by Alan Stanier on 5 October 2010