BRIGADIER ANNE FIELD CB CBE – EULOGY

Editor’s Note: For those that could not attend the Service the Eulogy delivered by our Vice President is printed below.

Forty years ago last month I started my military career at the Women’s Royal Army Corps College in Camberley. Halfway through the 8 month Officer Cadet Training course the Commandant changed, and so did our lives! Colonel Anne Field had arrived and didn’t we know it! One of my first and abiding memories of her was during a practical exercise where we became Platoon Commanders for the day. We were given our own office and telephone and were given problems to solve throughout the day. I was grappling with a flood in the cookhouse when the Commandant arrived and she sat quietly in the corner of my office, observing. She watched me struggle for some minutes as I ordered the cooks to brush out the excess water and mop up the floor before she intervened and said ‘Officer Cadet Westlake, use your common sense, wouldn’t it be a good idea to turn the water off at the mains first!’ That was a defining moment for me – her direct, no-nonsense approach taught me that she was someone who was not to be trifled with! For the next 40 years Anne Field featured in my life in one guise or another – as Commandant, Director, Deputy Controller Commandant WRAC, Deputy Colonel Commandant AG Corps and as Vice President of the WRAC Association. Then, when I became Vice President of the Association, she gave me her unstinting and loyal support as a Life Vice President. I last spoke to her 2 weeks before she died when she asked for an update on the Association – typically, she never took her finger off the pulse!

Anne joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in September 1947, was commissioned in December 1948 and 2 months later, in February 1949, the WRAC was formed and she began, what was to be, a lifelong commitment to the Corps. She had a very varied career spanning 35 years. Her Regimental Duty and Staff appointments took her to Singapore, Aden, Germany and Scotland. She attended the WRAC Staff College at Frimley Park and on completion of this course was posted to the Staff Duties Branch in the Old War Office; this was acknowledged as a ‘career posting’ in those daysand clearly implied that she was being groomed as a ‘high flyer’ which of course proved to be the case.

Promoted full Colonel in 1971, Anne became Commandant of the WRAC College at Camberley where she was responsible for Regular and TA Officer Cadet training as well as Warrant Officer and NCO training. She then moved to HQ UKLF at Wilton in 1975 as Deputy Director – she was now ‘the lady in waiting’.

Anne achieved the pinnacle of her career in June 1977 when she was promoted Brigadier and became Director WRAC and Honorary ADC to Her Majesty the Queen. She was then able to put her experience into practice by encouraging and actively moving towards the fuller integration of women into the various Army Corps and Regiments with whom they were employed. As Director, she became increasingly concerned that married women were leaving the Service unnecessarily, a loss which she stemmed through the simple solution of collocating couples’ postings. She also backed the trial of mixed platoons with Infantry Battalions and the Royal Artillery. The Glosters volunteered to be the first Infantry battalion to take part in this trial – despite many sceptics it was a resounding success and the rest, s they say, is history.

She retired in April 1982 and was awarded a Military CB. She continued to be a staunch supporter of the WRAC after retirement and gave it and its members her considerable and lasting support. She served first as Deputy Controller Commandant and then as Deputy Colonel Commandant of the AG Corps. She was also Chairman of the ATS and WRAC Benevolent Fund, Chairman of the WRAC Association Council, Vice President of the WRAC Association and, finally, a Life Vice President from 1999. In 1995 she received a Civil CBE for her services to the WRAC Association. She was Patron of the ATS Dinner Club for 15 years; sadly, this Club held its final Lunch 2 weeks ago and her absence was keenly felt.

Although Anne was sad, as we all were, that the WRAC was to be disbanded, she realised it was inevitable and the only way forward for Army women. She therefore embraced the formation of the AG Corps with optimism and good grace, going straight in as a Deputy Colonel Commandant. Four months after the formation of this new Corps, I was posted to Germany as the SO1 Female Focus to monitor the integration of women into their new Corps and Regiments. It was a baptism of fire for me – just 8 days after my arrival in Rheindahlen, Brigadier Anne arrived for her first official visit as Deputy Colonel Commandant to AGC Personnel – we spent the next fortnight on the road visiting units across BAOR and Berlin enjoying the hospitality of various distinguished Commanders en route. As you can imagine, we had a ‘Ball’. She enjoyed meeting members of the newly formed AG Corps and although she was obviously interested in how the women were faring under integration, she spent as much time talking to the soldiers as she did to the servicewomen. But that was hardly surprising as she was always at ease with soldiers – one of the boys in fact! They appreciated her quick wit, her banter and great sense of humour.

Brigadier Anne loved all sports but, in particular, Horse Racing, Tennis, Rugby and Cricket, never missing annual trips to Ascot, Wimbledon, Twickenham and Lords. During her career she represented the Army at InterService level in both Tennis and Hockey. She never missed the Army and Inter-Service Tennis Championships – and her picnics for the supporters of the Army Women’s team were legendary. One of the Army ladies veterans wrote to me recently and said ‘we did so miss her at the Inter-Services this year. She was such a loyal supporter and always brought the team a bottle of Fizz to either use for a celebration or, indeed, to drown our sorrows!’

Most of you in the congregation today will have your own particular memories of Anne Field – she was a formidable character, outspoken even, and certainly never lost for words, yet she was always fair and showed no favours; one knew exactly where they stood with her. She was admired by her male colleagues and superiors for her tenacity, steely determination and forthright manner. Generals she had known since they were Subalterns received the benefit of her advice, whether or not they wanted it, but always delivered with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Those WRAC Officers who were at our Corps Farewell Dinner at the Guildhall in 1992 will never forget her rousing speech when she turned to the Adjutant General and said ‘AG, you don’t know what you are letting yourself in for!’ A tremendous roar of approval went up from the assembled gathering.

She was a superb hostess – many of you here today will have enjoyed her generous hospitality at some stage whether at her flat in Chiswick or at her favourite club, ’The RAG’. She was an accomplished cook and her famous ‘Brigadier Anne Field’s Keswick Fruit Cake’ appeared in The New York Times recipe section in October 1992 – I am told it is quite excellent. She enjoyed nothing more than good food, fine wines, entertaining companions and lively discussion.

She never missed a WRAC Association Grand Reunion – she attended the last one, held in Blackpool, 2 years ago. We stood side by side as the Parade went past and we took the salute together. She could barely see and needed her trusted umbrella cum walking stick to hold her steady – but she was there! In her last year her underlying and debilitating health problems sorely tested her. Yet she dealt with failing sigh and other frailties with her usual strength of character and determination; she was a very brave and courageous lady to the end.

She never missed a WRAC Association Grand Reunion – she attended the last one, held in Blackpool, 2 years ago. We stood side by side as the Parade went past and we took the salute together. She could barely see and needed her trusted umbrella cum walking stick to hold her steady – but she was there! In her last year her underlying and debilitating health problems sorely tested her. Yet she dealt with failing sigh and other frailties with her usual strength of character and determination; she was a very brave and courageous lady to the end.

Army women, of all cap badges and ranks, owe Brigadier Anne a huge debt of gratitude. Her significant contribution and example over more than 60 years will have contributed substantially to changing attitudes and to the equality of opportunity that the women of today take for granted. Our serving personnel are honoured to be here today in uniform to represent serving women in recognition, in thanks and in memory of such a strong and highly respected female role model.

And how she would have loved today – surrounded by her beloved family, friends and colleagues – with a party afterward in the Mess too! To those closest to her she was an outstandingly loyal and trusted friend whose kindness and generosity knew no bounds. She lived life to the full and touched so many lives along the way. An absolute legend to those who knew her – she will be remembered with gratitude and much affection.

Brigadier Anne – we salute you!

Comradeship, esprit de corps, benevolence and preserving traditions. The WRAC Association: maintaining contact between former members of Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Auxiliary Territorial Service Territorial Army, Women's Royal Army Corps, Women's Royal Army Corps Territorial Army, WRAC Territorial and Volunteer Reserve and women still serving in the Army.

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