Obituary: Sir Michael Gow GCB, 88

Sir Michael Gow at Edinburgh Castle in January 1979
Sir Michael Gow at Edinburgh Castle in January 1979
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A GENERAL who commanded Edinburgh Castle and worked with the Royal family has died in Edinburgh at the age of 88.

General Sir Michael Gow GCB was born in Sheffield on June 3, 1924, into a non-military family. He was brought up in the house of his maternal grandfather after his father died.

After an education at Winchester College, Michael was commissioned as a Scots Guards officer on June 5, 1943, aged 19.

In July 1944, he and the rest of the 3rd (Tank) Battalion landed in Normandy as the Scots Guards fought their way to the Baltics. He was sent home in October after being injured in Belgium but rejoined the battalion in March 1945, serving as quartermaster. When the war ended, he served with the control commission in Berlin.

In 1946, he married Jane Emily Scott, and they went on to have a son and four daughters. As the couple had married so young, their marital status was not acknowledged by the army for many years, making it extremely difficult for them to support themselves. Things got so tight that the couple considered working as maid and butler.

Michael was posted to Malaya in 1949, during the emergency where Commonwealth armed forces fought the military arm of the Malaysian Communist Party. He served as a company commander with the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards on anti-terrorist operations.

The years that followed saw Michael earn a series of appointments: first becoming an equerry to the Duke of Gloucester before being promoted to brigadier major in 1955 and regimental adjutant of the Scots Guards in 1957.

Between 1964 and 1966, he commanded the 2 Battalion of Scots Guards in Kenya and in Britain, arriving after a mutiny by soldiers of the former King’s African Rifles.

Continuing to move up the ranks, by 1975 he was director of all-army training, but was said to be impatient with bureaucracy and unhappy doing a desk job.

He was soon given a post he very much enjoyed – as the general officer responsible for Edinburgh Castle. He then became commander-in-chief of the Northern Army Group, before working with the Royal family, with whom he remained close, for a number of years as ADC (aide de camp) General to the Queen.
When he retired in 1986 he was, with the exception of two very early members, the longest serving member of the Scots Guards since the regiment began in 1642.

As well as articles for military journals and many letters to newspapers, he also wrote Trooping the Colour: A History of the Sovereign’s Birthday Parade by the Household Troops, which had a foreword written by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

He died in Edinburgh, his adopted home town, on March 26.