WWII hero leaves over £1 million in will


By Alexander Lawrie

THE WAR hero husband of a world-famous, best-selling author has left more than £1 million in his will.

Major Graham Pilcher MC was a leading light in the jute textile industry and was awarded a Military Cross for immense bravery by Field Marshall Montgomery during World War II.

He was an officer in the Black Watch when he courageously put his life on the line as he sprinted into open ground to wipe out two German machine gun posts.

A successful businessman in his own right, Mr Pilcher was married to the best-selling romantic author Rosamunde Pilcher OBE, for over 60 years.

Originally, from Longforgan, Perthshire, he passed away on March 27, 2009, aged 92.

His final bequest of £1,090,335.54 is largely made up of cash and shares.

The wealthy businessman has left all of his estate to be split among his wife Rosamunde and their four children.

Keen sportsman

Graham Hope Pilcher was born in Dundee on June 15, 1916.

He was educated at Craigflower Prep School in Dunfermline, Fife, before moving to Clifton College in Bristol.

A keen sportsman, he left school to join his father at Jute Industries – where he eventually reached the position of Chairman – and became an enthusiastic member of the Territorial Army, completing their subaltern’s course in 1935.

He joined the TA section of the Black Watch, rising to the rank of battalion signals officer, before being called up to fight in France as part of the 51st Highland Division.

Mr Pilcher was badly wounded in June 1940 and was forced to return to Britain on a hospital ship.

But, after a speedy recovery, he was dispatched to Gibraltar for two years before returning to train troops for the D-Day invasion.

He was again wounded in action but remained active as British troops advanced through France and the Netherlands.

During one particularly fierce battle Mr Pilcher’s company was pinned back by the Germans constant fire in an exposed and vulnerable position.

After witnessing comrades being picked off by sniper fire, the officer displayed heroic courage as he sprinted across open ground and proceeded to organise a successful assault against the German’s position.

His actions, which were ultimately rewarded with the Military Cross, saw two German machine gun posts destroyed and several enemy captured or killed.

His MC citation stated: “Had it not been for Major Pilcher’s speedy and gallant action and his complete disregard of danger, the position might easily have deteriorated…his conduct and courage were an outstanding example to all ranks under his command.”

Rosamunde Pilcher

In 1945, while recuperating at his grandmother’s home in St Ives, he met and fell in love with Rosamunde Scott, who had been serving with the Wrens in Ceylon.

The couple married the following year, went on to have four children and stayed together for 62 years.

Ms Pilcher has sold over 60 million books worldwide and achieved her international breakthrough at the age of 63 when she wrote the autobiographical ‘The Shell Seekers’ which went on to sell over 5 million copies.

It topped the New York Times best-seller list in 1990 and became the most sold paperback of the decade in the UK and the US.

She was subsequently awarded the Golden Feather in 1992.

After the war, Pilcher returned to Jute and became the fourth generation of his family to work in the industry.

Initially, Mr Pilcher managed several factories in Dundee and then in 1954 spearheaded Jute Industry’s export and merchandising divisions, eventually becoming the company chairman.

Mr Pilcher was also chair of the British Jute Trade Federal Council before retiring in 1979.

Included in Mr Pilcher’s total will of £1,090, 354.55 is an antique collection worth over £13,000, while his shares portfolio included investments in various companies including Armour Group, internet service Group NBT and investment company Brewin Dolphin.

He bequeathed his much-used debenture for the Scottish Rugby Union to his son Robin.

Black Watch veterans

His war record was celebrated, along with many other Black Watch veterans, at a special exhibition in 2006 at the regimental museum in Perth. Since 1994, Pilcher led many veterans back to Normandy, Holland and Germany and had attended numerous reunions.

A keen sports fan, particularly rugby, cricket and golf, he was a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, Royal Dornoch and Forfarshire Cricket Club.

Remaining very active in his latter years, Mr Pilcher played tennis with his grandchildren to mark his 80th birthday and celebrated his 90th with a round of golf.

Graham Hope Pilcher passed away on March 27, 2008, and is survived by novelist wife Rosamunde, 84, their four children, Robin, Fiona, Philippa and Mark and 14 grandchildren.