Sir Jeffrey Darell, MC: Former Norfolk High Sheriff and bodyguard to the Royal Family

Sir Jeffrey Darell

Sir Jeffrey Darell - Credit: Archant

Guards officer and former High Sheriff of Norfolk, Sir Jeffrey Darell, who has died aged 93, was a member of the personal bodyguard protecting the Royal Family in the event of Nazi invasion.

After being evacuated from Dunkirk, he was recruited by the Coats Mission, which was set up to protect the King and Queen and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. He served at Sandringham, Windsor and at Wellington Barracks, London, and the task was 'to guard the King and Queen and, in an emergency, to escort the Royal Family to a place of safety'.

In late 1940 and 1941, when the risk of invasion was real, it was a very special duty. At that time, Sandringham House was closed and the Royal Family were living, 'very simply', said Lt Darell, in Appleton House, an estate property that boasted a large concrete bunker, specially constructed for their safety, but evidently never used.

'The main danger was from airborne attack or a raid to capture the Sovereign. During the day a standing patrol kept watch from a nearby water tower. At night a platoon was dug in round the house and patrolled the area [while] another platoon slept clothed, ready to move at a moment's notice,' he later wrote.

Officers from the bodyguard took it in turns to dine with the Royal Family at Appleton House and were regular members of the King's shooting parties. Darell recalled that the King, 'who was a magnificent shot', had 'a remarkable knowledge of the country round Sandringham and placed each gun himself at every drive, because, as he said, he knew which way the birds would fly'.

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In 1973, in his final role in a long Army career, he was appointed ADC to the Queen, 33 years after he had been part of her personal protection squad.

Jeffrey Lionel Darell, who was born in London on October 2, 1919, went to Eton and Sandhurst and was commissioned in the Coldstream Guards in July 1939. Sent to France after the outbreak of war, he rejoined the Guards Armoured Division in 1941. He was ADC to the general officer in command, southern, in 1942.

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He landed at Normandy and then took part in the campaigns to Germany where Major Darell was involved in the bitter fighting for the Rhineland. In March 1945, he was awarded the Military Cross during an action in which 'the Germans fought for every garden, every shed, every room in each house,' according to the regimental history. In 1953, he married Bridget, the eldest daughter of his commanding officer, Maj Gen Sir Allan Adair. In 1959, he succeeded his cousin as the eighth baronet – the family title dates from 1795 – and he held a series of increasing senior posts including command of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards in Germany. Then seven years later, in 1964, he became regimental commander of the Coldstream Guards.

He commanded the Mons officer cadet school between 1970 and 1973 and retired the following year with the rank of brigadier. For 10 years, he worked for the Army security services in Germany, Northern Ireland and also on the mainland.

A good shot, he was a member of many local syndicates and particularly enjoyed salmon fishing in Scotland.

Since moving to Denton Lodge, Harleston, in 1976, he took a keen interest in local affairs. He was a long-serving church warden. In March 1985, he succeeded Jonathan Peel, of Barton Turf, as High Sheriff of Norfolk – signing the oath of office on the tall desk that had belonged to Sir Robert Peel, the Victorian prime minister.

He leaves a widow, Bridget, and two daughters Katherine and Camilla and a son, Guy Jeffrey Adair, who succeeds as the ninth baronet.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Mary's Church, Denton, on Saturday, April 27 at 2.30pm.

Michael Pollitt

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