Beryl Cozens-Hardy, OBE: World Guiding leader and Norfolk gardener

A former leader of the world's Girl Guides and fundraiser for garden charities, the Hon Beryl Cozens-Hardy, has died aged 99 at her home in North Norfolk.

She was appointed OBE by the Queen at Buckingham Place in February 1971 for her long and distinguished service to the Girl Guides' Association. When she was appointed chairman of the World Committee of the Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in 1972, it then had a global membership of more than seven million.

She was the first British chairman since the world association had been formed almost half a century earlier in 1928 by the 28 founder nations.

Born in Liverpool, she went to Malvern Girls' School. Her long experience with Guiding began in her native city in 1934 where her father, Edward, was an engineer.

For three years, she was District Commissioner and also a Ranger Captain. She had joined the BBC and then became a civil servant during the second world war.

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Posted to Bermuda, she was engaged in intercepting enemy contraband and espionage and in the final stages of the war, working with the Foreign Office specialising in international postal and telegraphic communications.

She toured the West Indies for nine months to promote Guiding in 1954.

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Returning to the family's Letheringsett Hall, she became District Commissioner at Holt and then Norfolk County Commissioner for two years before her promotion as Chief Commissioner of England in 1961. She was also presented with Guiding's elite award made to an adult, the Silver Fish, two years later.

A magistrate, she represented Letheringsett on the former Erpingham Rural District Council and became a member of Norfolk County Council's education committee in 1962. She also was a generous supporter of good causes through her own charitable trust.

A keen gardener, she was presented with one of the highest awards by the National Gardens Open Scheme in June 1999.

Then, aged 87, she was given a silver trowel and fork in recognition of opening for more than 40 years.

She had opened various gardens since 1932 including Letheringsett Hall until 1965 and then at Glebe House raising thousands of pounds for good causes. Tessa McCosh, then NGS joint county organiser, said: 'Beryl is an amazing woman with such energy. The garden is superb.'

She leaves a niece, Laura and nephew, John.

A funeral service will be held on Friday, October 14 at St Andrew's Church, Letheringsett at 2.30pm.

Michael Pollitt

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