Thursday, September 18, 2008

DICK CRAIG [1821-2000] of Vermont, Clarina, county Limerick.

Richard Craig, OBE, MC, CPM, was born and brought up in Ireland. His father, a Church of Ireland clergyman, who hailed from northern Ireland, had taught at Trinity College. He then took a curacy in county Cork, and it was to his house that Roger Casement was brought when he was found on the seashore. He subsequently took the living of the small parish of Kilkeedy in Clarina county Limerick, where Dick, his sisters and his twin brother H. A. L. (Harry) Craig were brought up.
They were identical twins and, after schooling at Kilkenny College, went together to Trinity, after which their paths diverged. Harry's led to distinction as a drama critic and writer. Dick shone at athletics and rugby: he had every chance of an Irish cap when in 1941 he abandoned his medical studies and went to England to join up.
Craig soon gained a reputation as a skilful patrol commander. Cautious with the lives of his men, he was as thorough in his preparation as he was determined to secure the information about the enemy that his mission required. Daring patrol leaders seldom last long, but Craig survived to take part in the 4th Indian Division's assault on Monte Cassino in February 1944. After a massive air bombardment on February 15, they attacked that night and the following one, without reaching the summit. Craig led forward on each occasion and personally stalked his way to an enemy pillbox and killed the occupants. He was awarded a Military Cross for his gallantry and leadership. In early 1945 he was diverted to Greece as part of the 60,000-strong British force sent to support the Greek Government in the war against communist guerrillas which broke out when the German army abruptly withdrew from the country in the autumn of 1944.
Demobilised in 1946, he volunteered for a post as a gazetted officer with the Palestine Police. Like the majority of others serving there in the final years of the British Mandate, he found trying to keep a semblance of peace between the Arabs and Jews a thankless and increasingly dangerous task.
After the British withdrawal in 1948 he joined the Federation Police in Malaya, where the communist insurrection was just beginning. This was a very different situation from that in Palestine. The great majority of the people, Chinese as well as Malay, wished to live quietly and prosperously at peace. Craig soon became involved in the intelligence work of the Police Special Branch, which ran agents and informers within the jungle fringe communities on which the terrorists depended for food and supplies.
This was work on which Craig thrived and which was largely responsible, in parallel with political moves towards Malaya's independence, for bringing the emergency to a successful conclusion in 1960. Craig served on until 1964, retiring as Head of Special Branch with the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police. He was appointed OBE and awarded the Colonial Police Medal.
He made a natural transition into the Secret Intelligence Service, joining in 1964 with the hope of more foreign service. He was by then 43, rather old for a direct entrant, but well qualified by his previous experience. He served with distinction in the Gulf States, 1966-69, and in Delhi, 1973-75.
He also saw service in London, and he was latterly concerned with personnel and security. He became a well-known, widely liked and respected member of the service.
His public face was that of a large, talkative and boisterous Irishman; an impression of which he was well aware and which he was not above exploiting. Underneath was a conscientious, hardworking professional with a sensitive feeling for situations and people. There was also a sensitivity to the beauty of words: he never travelled without his copy of Yeats's poems, and a former colleague has an abiding memory of him standing, deeply moved, by Yeats's tomb in Co Sligo.
He was devoted to his family: his two daughters, and nephews, nieces and cousins in Ireland. He had married a Catholic and one of the guiding principles of his life was a horror of religious bigotry. His wife Pamela had been a charming companion throughout his long service overseas. Her long drawn out death from Alzheimer's disease put him under immense strain for the many years during which he looked after her devotedly. In more recent years his own health suffered from blows which only his tremendous physique could have withstood.
He was much loved: the servants of his London club called him "Mr Dick", an unusual compliment. His daughters survive him.
Abridged version of “The Times” obituary August 10, 2000

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