WITH the death of Colonel Clive Fairweather on October 13, at the comparatively young age of 68, Scotland has lost one of its most able men.
Clive was someone who really had a sense of compassion and a real understanding of the needs of other human beings.
I can recall him joining the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in Folkstone in 1964 as a brand-new second lieutenant. He immediately made an impression on his brother officers and on the soldiers he commanded. From the very start he won the respect and admiration of all those under him.
He would never ask people to do anything he was not prepared to do himself and was a classic leader “from the front”. This trait was apparent when he was with the KOSB in the jungles of Borneo on operations during the confrontation with Indonesia. The conditions in Borneo required a special quality of leadership which Clive displayed in abundance.
He was an ideal candidate for the SAS and his exploits during the Iranian embassy siege have been reported fully elsewhere as it was the most publicised operation that he was involved with.
However, he served three tours with the SAS and Clive never spoke about the many other operations which he carried out during this time. All that we know is that he served in Sharjah, Iran, Oman, Dhofar, Jordan and Northern Ireland. After attending the Army Staff College he was appointed as the GSO 2 Intelligence at Headquarters Northern Ireland where he carried out a number of special duties which included the investigation into the capture and murder of Captain Robert Nairac, GC.
Clive Fairweather was one of the few men to have had two commands as a lieutenant colonel – he commanded the Scottish Infantry Depot at Glencorse where he was faced with a serious incident when one of the escorts for the weekly pay decided to hijack the money. The incident was sorted out in typical Fairweather style with the civilian and military police, and the unit returned to normal.
But perhaps the most significant achievement during this command tour was that he reduced the wastage rate for recruits from an appallingly-high level of 45 per cent to 20 per cent. His man-management and innate sense of the right way to train recruits was responsible for this significant improvement.
His successful tour of duty at Glencorse was followed by a short spell as an instructor at the Royal Air Force Staff College.
However, he was summonsed to take command of the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in Berlin where the battalion was in the midst of a disciplinary crisis. There could have been no one better to deal with this problem than Clive Fairweather who lifted the morale and restored the professionalism of the battalion, which had been badly damaged by the events that had taken place.
There is little doubt that his time in Berlin was extremely difficult and he felt keenly that there was a lack of support or understanding for the KOSB in this situation.
Clive Fairweather felt passionately about his battalion and for the men under his command whom he defended in his inimitable blunt and forthright style.
To answer the critics, Clive challenged the battalion to prove their worth – which is exactly what they did in some style. The KOSB totally outclassed the other battalions in the Berlin Brigade Inter-Platoon Tactical Competition, with 12 of the first 14 places being taken by KOSB platoons – including the first four.
It was a clear indication of the success of his leadership and he received a well-deserved OBE in the New Year Honours List for 1990, recognising his period of command.
He was promoted to colonel in 1991 and ended his army service as Colonel of the Scottish Division. On his first day in office he took great delight in telephoning one of the previous appointees, who had told him he would never be promoted, to inform him that he was sitting at his desk in the castle.
In this post he played an important role in the Ministry of Defence reductions programme, Options for Change. At this time he saw that promotions of senior ranks and officers, as well as the reinforcement of individual battalions, could be effectively handled on a Scottish divisional basis, so retaining the integrity of the individual historic regiments.
Although he was offered promotion to brigadier and a number of appointments, he decided to leave the army and in 1994 was appointed as Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland. In this post he clashed regularly with ministers as he was never afraid to express his views – and often did pretty forcibly.
However, his use of statistics and hard evidence led to many improvements in prisons for those on remand and offenders who were suffering overcrowding and slopping-out. He managed to secure several improvements in conditions and he was consistently determined to reduce the suicide rates, particularly among remand prisoners. His logic was that if prisoners could be rehabilitated, then they would be less likely to reoffend and remain a burden on the public.
He was extended in post several times, but his unshakable views led to him not being extended in 2002 – he thereupon sued and won a case for constructive dismissal. In spite of this he was made a CBE in the same year which rightly recognised his lifelong commitment to public service.
When the reorganisation of the infantry was proposed by the then government in 2004, Clive worked closely with a group of former members of the regiment to fight the proposals. Petitions were presented to 10 Downing Street and Clive marched in Edinburgh, London and Stirling together with all the veterans to protest against the proposals. He even helped to take the Ministry of Defence to the sheriff court in Edinburgh to argue that it was illegal to change the status of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and, had a backer not withdrawn, there might have been a chance of success in the Court of Session.
The last seven years saw Clive devote himself to being chief fundraiser for the military charity Combat Stress which, with another military charity, Gardening Leave, gives support to former servicemen and women who need help long after their time in the forces has ended.
As with everything he did, Clive threw himself fully into this task and much of the good work that these charities have been able to do has been due to his efforts as fundraiser.
It is typical of the man that he should end his life seeking to serve those who need support and help. This is why he was held in such high regard and with deep affection by all those he came in contact with in all the fields he worked.
We shall all miss him greatly.
Clive Fairweather married Ann Dexter in 1980, but this was later dissolved. He is survived by his former wife, Ann, and by his son Nicholas and daughters Charlotte and Amelia.