b. 01/10/1920 London. d. 15/05/2001 Burnham, Norfolk.
David Auldjo Jamieson (1920-2001) was born on October 1st 1920, the son of Sir Archibald Jamieson, chairman of Vickers Armstrong, and was educated at Eton. Warned by his father of the imminence of war he relinquished a place at Cambridge University and instead was commissioned into the Royal Norfolk Regiment in May 1939. Subsequently he served in France with the BEF and narrowly escaped being taken prisoner near St Valery.
Shortly after D-Day, when the Allies had been able to break out through the German armour around Caen, Jamieson ran into his brother-in-law, Major John Tollemache, who was serving with the Coldstream Guards, and invited him to join them for dinner. Jamieson, who had been living in a trench, was astounded to find regimental silver laid out on crisp white tablecloths. “I knew the Brigade of Guards fought like tigers,” he recalled, “but that they should eat like lords so shortly after a decisive and hard-fought battle in the middle of Normandy amazed me.” Unfortunately for Jamieson, he received orders to move on as he was inspecting this spread, and so missed his dinner.
He was awarded the VC for his actions on 8th August 1944 when serving with the Royal Norfolk Regiment in the defence of the bridgehead over the River Orme. At this point the River Orne runs through a deep, narrow valley, with steep slopes on the western side but gentler slopes on the east where the Grimbosq Forest offered useful cover for the German forces which were preparing their counter-attacks.
Although all the bridges had been destroyed, on August 6 three battalions of British Infantry, including the Norfolks, had waded across, driven back the enemy, and occupied a stretch of the far bank, a manoeuvre which enabled the Royal Engineers to begin building new bridges, although the area was still under heavy shell and mortar fire.
The following day the 12th Panzer Division attacked the bridgehead but in spite of using Tiger and Panther tanks could not dislodge the British from their position. Bitter fighting, much of it centred on the Royal Norfolks, and in particular Jamieson’s company, continued for 36 hours, during which five enemy tanks and an armoured car were destroyed.
At one point Jamieson, who had been wounded in the right eye and left arm but refused all offers to evacuate him, climbed from his trench and stood up fully exposed to German fire to direct the fire of the last survivor of three British tanks. By this time all the other officers in the company had become casualties, so Jamieson – who, at 6 ft 5 in was the tallest man in his regiment – walked around in full view of the enemy, encouraging and reorganising the company as casualties mounted, using his radio to bring down artillery fire on the attacking Germans.
As the Germans continued to press home their attacks the Norfolks’ position in the bridgehead seemed at times hopeless, but Jamieson’s determination, personal courage and inspired leadership enabled each enemy attack to be repulsed until their heavy losses caused the Germans to withdraw to a position farther back. “Throughout this 36 hours of bitter and close fighting, and despite the pain of his wounds,” declared his citation, “Captain Jamieson showed superb qualities of leadership and great personal bravery. . . He personally was largely responsible for the holding of this important bridgehead over the River Orne and the repulse of seven German counter-attacks with great loss to the enemy.”
In 1948 he retired from the Army and on a visit to Australia joined the Australian Agricultural Company, a Royal Charter company of which he became a director from 1949 to 1978, and Governor from 1951-75. During this period, he transformed the fortunes of the company, which controlled a chain of Australian sheep and cattle stations.
Jamieson was also a director of the UK branch of the Australian Mutual Provident Society from 1963 to 1989 (and deputy chairman from 1973-1989), of the National Westminster Bank from 1983-1987 and of Steetley from 1976-1986 (deputy chairman 1983-1986).
In 1968 he was appointed a member of the Hon. Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, the Queen’s Body Guard, and was Clerk of the Cheque, Adjutant from 1981 to 1986 and Lieutenant from 1986 to 1990. During this period, he was also given the informal title of “My Umbrella Man” by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who was always keen that Jamieson should escort her at garden parties, since his height and prestige as a VC enabled him to cut a swathe through the close-knit crowd with his umbrella. Jamieson was High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1980 and appointed CVO in 1990.
David Jamieson was a modest man whose only comment to his parents when he was sent home to convalesce from his wounds was that he “had been in rather a tough spot”. Later he said: “I’m a very nervous man. I have always considered it enormous luck that I got the Victoria Cross at all.” This reticence disguised Jamieson’s remarkable common sense, coolness in moments of crisis, and his ability to cut straight to the heart of any problem.
In early life he had been a keen birdwatcher and naturalist and immediately prior to joining the Army had spent his holidays bird-watching on a Dutch island. His height, unfortunately, meant that he was not an easy figure to conceal either from shy birds or enthusiastic German snipers. Jamieson accepted the loss of his legs and his confinement to a wheelchair in later life with remarkable forebearance. In 1948 he married Nancy Elwes, a childhood friend from an old Norfolk family, to whom he had proposed by post when she was in a War Office job in Singapore. They had a son and two daughters. In 1954 she was killed in a car accident. He married secondly, in 1969, Joanna Windsor-Clive, nee Woodall.
Major Jamieson passed away on 15th May 2001 in Burnham Norton, Norfolk, and was buried in the churchyard of St Margaret’s in the village. His medal group consisting of his VC, 1939-45 Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, and Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977 were donated to the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, Norwich, where they are displayed with his service revolver.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL NORFOLK REGIMENT MUSEUM, NORWICH.
BURIAL PLACE: ST MARGARET’S CHURCHYARD, BURNHAM NORTON CHURCHYARD, NORFOLK.
Royal Norfolk Regiment Museum – Image of Jamieson’s VC Medal Group and Service Revolver.