Colonel Sir Thomas Butler OBE DSO

Colonel Sir Thomas Butler Bt. died on the 9th April 1994 and was the 12th Baronet Butler of Clogrennan, County Carlow. He was born in Carlow in September 1910 at a time when the family doctor was out riding with the Carlow Hunt , upon been told of the impending delivery the doctor replied" tell them to delay the event until we've killed the fox". The Butler family settled in Carlow circa 1500. At one time they owned over 30,000 acres of land and several houses in Carlow. The late Sir Thomas maintained a home at Ballintemple and up to a short time before his death at the age of 83 he was fishing on the Slaney river with his friend Robin Eustace Harvey.

During the Second World War Thomas served with the Grenadier Guards and was engaged in action in France and Belgium. Following the surrender of Belgium his mixed force of several surviving Guards battalions, with no transport or weapons, withdrew to France from where they set sail to England. He was then posted to Damascus and the Western Desert as an officer with the 6th Battalion Grenadier Guards. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his gallantry during the battle of Mareth in 1943. Butler was the commander of the company leading the attack on the elite German Infantry 90th Light Afrika Korps, which shortly before had been under the command of General Erwin Rommel, holding the Mareth Line.

His battalion passed through minefields and mined wire whilst encountering the enemy whom they fought with small-arms fire and bayonets. Half of Butler's company was wiped out and during the battle he was wounded twice. He was taken prisoner along with two fellow officers by the Germans . The two officers were later shot dead as they attempted to escape. During his captivity Butler was nursed back to health and later made several attempts to escape. Finally following the surrender of Italy, Butler along with another officer managed to escape from the Modena prisoner of war camp. He had to walk for over 400 miles, still in pain from his injuries , criss-crossing the Apennines in freezing conditions before meeting up with the advancing British army.

In 1946 his Battalion provided firing squads to carry out the death penalty on German war criminals. Having learned of the extent of their criminality he had no sympathy for those sentenced to death by the War Crimes Commission. When he returned to London after the war he found that his London home had been demolished during a German air raid on the city.

In 1952 Butler was appointed Assistant Quartermaster General, London. In 1953 under the command of The Earl Marshall for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, he had responsibility for administration and quartering of the 16,000 Commonwealth officers and troops who were in London to take part in the Coronation ceremony. In 1954 he was invested with the Order of the British Empire (OBE). Following the death of his father, Pierce Butler, in March 1955 Thomas succeeded to the title 12th Baronet Butler of Clogrennan. In 1957 he became Lieutenant Colonel in command of the Grenadier Guards. He visited Thailand as military advisor to the Thai army, reviewing troops and inspecting military installations. In 1959 he was appointed to head the defence staff of the High Commissioner in New Zealand. His next post was as Resident Governor of the Tower of London where he lived with his family in the Queen's House, which had been built for Anne Boleyn and was said to be haunted by her.

Following the State Funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965 Thomas was in charge of receiving the coffin into the Tower for loading on a barge to carry the remains up the river Thames to Waterloo Station. In 1967 he oversaw the transference of the Crown Jewels to the newly built Jewel House. In 1968 he held the office of Keeper of the Jewel House and kept the keys in a secret place in the house. During his time as Resident Governor of the Tower many people from Carlow experienced his hospitality and were often taken on "inside" tours of the Tower. Some local lads from the Carlow branch of the FCA recall such a welcome on one of their visits to London.

In 1966 Corona Lecky-Watson from Altamont House and her new husband Garry North on their honeymoon slept in Anne Boleyn's bed as guests of Thomas and his wife.

In 1970 Thomas was invested as a Commander, Royal Victorian Order (CVO). Following his retirement as Governor in 1971 Thomas and his family returned to Ballintemple where, despite the fact that his family home had been accidently burnt down in 1917, he spent many healthy and happy years fishing, wildfowling and enjoying the company of his family and friends. He was an advisor to the Imperial War Museum in London and was also active in charitable work on behalf of the Cheshire Homes. He was the author of three publications "Tower of London", "The Crown Jewels and Coronation Ceremony" and "Crown Jewels and Coronation Ritual", they are now collectors items and are much sought after.

He was survived by his wife, Rosemary Liege, daughters, Caroline and Virginia and his son, Richard Pierce Butler who now succeeds to the title of 13th Baronet Butler, of Clogrennan County Carlow. M.P.

The photo, by Ken Mason, was published in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday 7 Oct 1965. The officer holding the cushion is Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer. The Queen's Keys are on the cushion, waiting to be blessed by the Chaplain. The occasion was the installing of Sir Gerald as Constable of the Tower of London on 6 Oct 1965. Sir Thomas Butler is standing next to, and a little behind, the Field Marshal.

From an obituary written by Michael Purcell

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