Obituary: LT Col Lionel Gregory OBE, 95

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LT Col Lionel Gregory OBE, a Gurkha and organiser of the first Commonwealth Youth Expedition, has died, aged 95.

Born in Surrey on September 2, 1918, two months before the end of the First World War, he never met his father, who was killed in the latter stages of the conflict.

Following his death the family returned to the southern Indian home in the Nilgiri mountains where Col Gregory was raised with his brother Harry and sister Esme.

As part of a family with a strong military tradition it was not surprising that Col Gregory went on to serve in the Gurkhas as part of the British Indian Army during the Burma campaign of the Second World War.

The Gurkhas played a major part in his life, and he also served with the unit during the Malayan War, with his actions earning him five mentions in despatches. He would go on to become the first commander of the Queen’s Gurkha Signals (QGS), part of the British Army’s Royal Signals, before his retirement in Edinburgh, and his brother Harry was also a commander in the Gurkha Rifles.

Unsurprisingly he would go on to be a staunch supporter of Gurkha veterans’ rights, a campaign given a high profile by the support of actress Joanna Lumley.

Despite his military history however, Col Gregory was for most of his life focused on the idea of peace and multiculturalism, and would go on to shape the lives of many through his work.

In 1959 he used his military background to devise the Ten Tors, an annual hike for youngsters including boy scouts and military cadets over ten rocky outcrops, known as tors, on Dartmoor.

His wife Annie said he hoped that the younger generation would never have to fight, and wanted “to explore the idea of offering young people ... the challenges, the outlet, the sense of achievement and comradeship which Greg himself had experienced, but without the shooting and the killing, which he abhorred.”

In the 1965, with the backing of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Col Gregory led the first ever Commonwealth Youth Expedition, which would later be known as Comex-1, in a bid to bring youngsters together with their peers from the Commonwealth countries.

Among the first participants was a group from Edinburgh University, including the future foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and the participants drove their own buses and carried out repairs as they travelled to India. The first expeditions led to a dozen more over the years, and ultimately brought the creation of the Green Pennant Awards, later known as the Little Green Flags, presented by the Duke of Edinburgh and handed out in Edinburgh itself.

Lt Col Gregory died at his home in Lennox Street, Edinburgh, on February 17. He is survived by his wife Annie (nee Murray).