Lives of the fellows

Ronald (Sir) Gardner-Thorpe

b.13 May 1917 d.11 December 1991
GBE(1980) Kt St John(1980) TD(1948) Hon DCL Lond(1980) Hon DH Lewis Chicago(1981) Hon FRCP(1986)

Ronald Gardner-Thorpe was born in Portsmouth and followed his family tradition in the property and building industry. He became a Friend of the College, assisted in raising funds - in particular for the St Andrews Precinct - and was proud of the honorary fellowship bestowed upon him by the College in 1986.

He spent his early years in Southsea and attended St John’s College, a Catholic school run by the de la Salle brothers. He enjoyed his school days and made many lasting friendships. He was a keen sportsman and particularly enjoyed cricket; at one time he played for Hampshire County. While encouraged to spend his first few working years m the family building business, mainly in Portsmouth, his work also took him as far afield as Barrow in Furness. He joined the Territorial Army in 1937 and was soon commissioned in the Hampshire Heavy Regiment. In 1938 he married Hazel, née Dee; they celebrated the 53rd anniversary of their wedding in 1991.

During the early war years he was responsible for capturing probably the first foreign spy detained on British soil. The war years found him undertaking liaison duties in Ottawa and Washington to assist communication between American and British Forces and his ability to entertain involved him in stage appearances with Shirley Temple, Rita Hayworth and Deanna Durbin. His activities helped to raise money for the war effort in Britain. Later, he was appointed Barker of the Variety Club of Great Britian and helped provide Sunshine Coaches for children. He was vice-president of the Miss World organization in 1982.

Military duties occupied him in the regular Army until 1947 and then he moved to London to continue property work. He remained in the Territorial Army, ultimately commanding the 5th Battalion of the Buffs, 1956-60, when he was promoted colonel. During a parade he commanded in Canterbury in 1960 he was installed as knight commander of the Royal Order of Dannebrog by King Frederik. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration in 1948 and subsequently three Bars.

In later years he became a member of the court of the Honorable Artillery Company. Civic duties gradually encroached upon his family property business. He was appointed JP in the inner London area in 1964 and for the City of London in 1969. The freedom of the City of London was conferred upon him in 1971, he was elected Alderman in 1973, Sheriff in 1978 and Lord Mayor in 1980 when he was created GBE. His work as Lord Mayor took him to Saudi Arabia, Rome and America, as well as to many other places. During his mayoral year he had happy memories of bearing the pearl sword of the City of London when he preceded HM The Queen up the nave of St Paul’s Cathedral at the time of the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.

He was particularly delighted by his work for the College. His connections with the City of London enabled him to draw the attention of a wide range of organizations in the City to the activities of the College. Ronald Gardner-Thorpe’s interest in medicine is continued in his family; his son Christopher is a neurologist, his eldest grand-daughter is a doctor in hospital medicine and his two grandsons are continuing their clinical duties at Cardiff and Bristol.

C Gardner-Thorpe

[The Times, 19 Dec 1991,Daily Telegraph, 17 Dec 1991; The Lord Mayor's Show, 8 Nov 1980]

(Volume IX, page 191)

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