Fraser was born in Camberley on 30 December 1920. He was the son of Brigadier the Hon. William Fraser, the younger son of the 19th Lord Saltoun, and Pamela Maude. He was educated at Eton College. He left school to join the British Army but was refused. Instead, he went to Oxford University. In October 1940, he was training at the Guards' Depot in Caterham, Surrey, then went on an intensive four-month course at Sandhurst. While he was there, a German raider dropped a bomb on the building. Several cadets were killed; Fraser was wounded though not seriously. He was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards; his first posting was as a troop commander in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Guards Armoured Brigade, part of the Guards Armoured Division. In the last two years of World War II, he was involved in the North West Europe Campaign. On one occasion in Holland his vehicle was passing a hedge and he noticed the barrel of a machine gun sticking out. He was about to fire at it but a sixth sense stopped him and it turned out that they were Dutch children playing with a gun they had found.
He finished the war as a lieutenant and on 30 December 1947, he was promoted to captain. He served as a company commander in the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards in the Malayan Emergency. Having attended Staff College, he was promoted to major on 30 December 1954. He was involved in the Suez Crisis in 1956 and the Cyprus Emergency in 1958. Fraser was Vice-Chief of the General Staff from 1973 to 1975; at a time of great financial stringency he was, with General Sir Michael (later Field Marshal Lord) responsible for masterminding the restructuring of the British Army. In 1947 he married Anne Balfour-Fraser but they divorced in 1952; they had one daughter (Antonia). In 1957 he married Julia Frances Oldridge de la Hey; they had two sons (Alexander James Fraser and Simon William Fraser) and two daughters (Lucy Caroline Fraser and Arabella Katherine Fraser).
1940 matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford
Fraser wrote a series of books. He completed Alanbrooke (1982), begun by Sir Arthur Bryant, and followed this with And We Shall Shock Them: The British Army in the Second World (1983) and a social history, The Christian Watt Papers. A series of historically based novels included The Dragon's Teeth (1987), A Kiss For the Enemy (1988), A Candle for Judas (1989) and The Pain of Winning (1993). His biography Knight's Cross: A Life of Field Marshal Erwin was published in 1993. Fraser was an admirer of Rommel. There followed Will: a portrait of William Douglas-Home(1995) and Frederick the Great (2000). Fraser's memoirs, Wars and Shadows, were published in 2002.
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