Havant Colonel who devoted his life to Queen and country 'dies peacefully'

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a decorated army officer who devoted his life to Queen and country.

Colonel Geoffrey Dockerill died peacefully at his home in Fortunes Way, Havant, on Monday, May 20, aged 92.

Col Dockerill's coffin is borne into the chapel. Funeral of Col Geoffrey Dockerill at Portchester Crematorium.            Picture: Chris Moorhouse           (120619-30)

Col Dockerill's coffin is borne into the chapel. Funeral of Col Geoffrey Dockerill at Portchester Crematorium. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (120619-30)

And yesterday close family gathered to say their final farewell to the ‘generous and funny’ officer whose ‘remarkable’ military career spanned almost four decades.

His loving nephew Geoff Keymer was among relatives to attend the intimate service at Portchester Crematorium.

The 60-year-old said: ‘He was incredibly proud, incredibly loyal to his job, career and his country.

‘Although he never had a wife he lived for the army – in some ways it was like he married the army.

Colonel Geoffrey Dockerill served for 38 years in the British Army and died aged 92.

Colonel Geoffrey Dockerill served for 38 years in the British Army and died aged 92.

‘He was a really extraordinary man. He was incredibly successful and had a very rich life. We’re so proud of him.’

The Colonel’s hearse arrived at emblazoned with red poppies at exactly 3pm, the Union flag draped over his casket with his sword and regimental hat placed on top.

Inside the crematorium, his medals – including his MBE – were on proud display.

Family members sobbed quietly as military bugler Lance Bombadier James Slimm, of the Band of the Royal Artillery, played The Last Post.

Arrival of the hearse.        Picture: Chris Moorhouse           (120619-27)

Arrival of the hearse. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (120619-27)

During the 20-minute service, a eulogy – written by the ever-organised Col Dockerill – was read out which chronicled his incredible military service.

Born in Portsmouth on August 29, 1926, Geoffrey volunteered for the army at the age of 17, enlisting into the Royal Armoured Corps on April 15, 1944.

He was soon selected for officer training and was sent to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, where he was commissioned into The Reconnaissance Corps – a passing out parade witnessed by the then-Princess Elizabeth.

This was the start of a long and distinguished career spanning 37 years, mostly overseas, including a nine-year stint in the elite Parachute Regiment.

He completed tours in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Cyprus, Aden, Korea, Malaya, Malta, Norway and Austria.

As a young officer Geoffrey received praise from Jordanian royalty, King Abdullah, following his role investigating, and exonerating, Arab Legion soldiers accused of firing on a Jewish funeral on the Mount of Olives.

In 1954 and as a Captain, he was awarded an MBE for his efforts in evacuating 1,440 military personnel from the doomed troop transport Empire Windrush after a devastating fire ripped through the vessel in the Mediterranean, sinking it.

His military career saw him serving with famed Second World War commander Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery – living in the renowned officer’s Hampshire home – and later meeting former prime minister, Winston Churchill.

Command roles soon followed, with Geoffrey taking charge of 1st Battalion The Loyal Regiment of Malta in 1966. His last appointment was as defence attaché in Vienna before retiring in 1981 where he was recruited by the head of station at the British Embassy in Vienna to conduct ‘security work’ during the height of the Cold War.

Mr Keymer added: ‘He lived with and served with Monty for three years, he met Churchill, he’d played polo with Prince Charles. It was just incredible. Sometimes you would listen to his stories with your bottom jaw on the floor.’

Col Dockerill never married and leaves his nephews and nieces.