Phillips, Lionel M

Phillips, Lionel M

The following obituary appeared in the Gurkha Magazine.

“Always known in the Regiment as Phil, Lionel Martin Phillips was born in Hove on 12 December 1924, the youngest of three sons of Cecil and Betty Phillips. He was educated at Hurstpierpoint [where he was a prefect and House Captain], leaving there in 1943 to join the Indian Army. Sadly during the course of that year, and within the space of three months, his two elder brothers, Lieutenant John Phillips RN and Flying Officer Christopher Phillips were both killed in action.
Having completed his officer cadet training, in India, Phil was commissioned shortly before his 20th birthday into the 10th Gurkha Rifles and joined the last days Imphal. He accompanied the battalion to Malaya after the major war ended, and shortly afterwards to Java where the Japanese were to lie disarmed and as far as possible the large number of Dutch taken care of and protected from the often vengeful Indonesian nationals.

Returning to Alhilal in India, the 3rd Battalion was disbanded and together with other officers and many men, Phil transferred to the 1st Battalion, shortly to become heavily involved in the actions against the Malayan Communist insurgents. He spent much time as a Company Commander in jungle operations and subsequently became Adjutant under Colonel “George ” Bolton. Phil had a particular flair for training, especially Gurkha junior ranks, and throughout his career often found himself called upon to organize and conduct training courses.

During his career he became Chief Instructor at the Gurkha Wing of the Army Jungle Warfare School and also Chief Instructor at Training Depot Brigade of Gurkhas at Sungei Patani in Malaysia.

After a few years of non-operational service the 1st Battalion again became involved in warlike activities, firstly in what is now called Sabah and later in Sarawak; the Borneo Confrontation. Phil took part in both as a Company Commander and as Commanding Officer of the Gurkha Independent Parachute Company.

Returning to the battalion from the latter appointment, he became Second-in-Command to Colonel Ronnie McAlister. Phil was a regimental soldier to his fingertips and never showed any inclination to follow the path of a staff career. His knowledge of Gurkhas, their language and customs was second to none.

On retirement from the army in 1974, Phil became a Queen’s Messenger, a job he described as ideal for someone old and unmarried. As a Messenger, he was contracted for a specific number of days duty a year, the rest of the time being available to potter in his garden, go ski-ing, go to classic car rallies, both in his vintage MG and with a friend in his Bugatti, and play his own brand of golf. After retiring as a Messenger, his life did not change much, except that there were no longer specified days of duty. Phil died suddenly and peacefully at his home in Sussex on 14 November 2002.”

Editorial Note:
We do not think that his two brothers were at Hurst. Until he gave up golf fairly recently, he was a regular at meetings of the OJGS where he continued with his “own brand” of the game! He gave valuable support at the Mellin (over 55) tournament and at one time was successfully paired with Laurie Henwood (Chevron 42) in the Senior Mellin (over 65). Presumably because of his work as a Queen’s Messenger, he was always regarded by OJ golfers as a reliable source of duty free tobacco. And that vintage MG was often seen at golf meetings. Lionel never married. Happily a number of OJs were able to attend his funeral.


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