Former British Army Chief of the General Staff, Lord Dannatt, 69, reveals the items of personals significance in his Norfolk home, including a a special silver poppy and a barograph he once gifted to his father
1. HOME DECORATIONS
When I retired as Chief of the General Staff in 2009, the Regimental Sergeant Majors of the British Army presented me with this case containing a second set of my medals, orders and decorations.
How they managed to obtain them remains a mystery! The fact that it came from the soldiers of the Army makes it very special.
During my time in office from 2006 to 2009, I managed to upset both PMs Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
When I retired, the only place for me to go was the Tower of London [see right].
This silver poppy is one of the items found in Lord Dannatt’s Norfolk home
2. FALLEN HEROES
I was Constable of the Tower of London when 888,246 ceramic poppies were ‘planted’ in the Tower’s dry moat in 2014 to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
It raised £10m for service charities – this silver poppy was a special gift from them.
Each poppy represented the life of a British or colonial soldier lost in the conflict, and the installation was a very moving sight.
3. THE BOSNIAN JOB
In 2000 the Bosnian Federation hard-liners lost the parliamentary elections but refused to give up power because they still controlled the Government’s money.
As deputy commander of NATO’s stabilisation force, I decided to ‘do’ the bank that was their HQ – Italian Job style.
We broke in at 2am, blew up the safes and took the cash. As a result, the hard-liners lost power.
This painting captures the scene – it was commissioned by the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment who did the ‘job’ with me.
4. RHYTHM OF LIFE
My wife Pippa and I met as students at Durham University, where I read economic history while on a sabbatical from the Army in the 70s.
I spotted her during a university debate and decided I wanted to meet that girl. We now have four children and ten grandchildren.
This regimental drum was presented to me when I handed over command of 1st Battalion Green Howards in 1991.
Pippa ‘followed the drum’ for 32 years during my Army service, moving house 23 times.
She’s now the Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, making her the Queen’s representative in the county.
5. UNDER PRESSURE
Lord Dannatt once gifted this barograph to his late father
Like many Brits, I take an inordinate interest in the weather. I gave my father Anthony this barograph, which records changes in atmospheric pressure, for his 80th birthday.
He died in 1997. I grew up on the edge of Chelmsford in Essex, and people older and wiser than me thought I should read law at Cambridge University, but I was relieved when I didn’t get in because I really wanted to join the Army.
I went straight from Sandhurst to Belfast in 1971, and having signed up for three years, I stayed for 40.
6. FISHERMAN’S FRIEND
This was my father-in-law Jim Gurney’s desk. He was a wonderful man who taught me to fish and shoot.
Since his death in 2004 I’ve run his arable farm in Norfolk – from the same desk. On the chair are the two sections of my salmon rod.
I fish on the River Spey in north-east Scotland every summer. Salmon fishing in a big river is a terrific challenge.
With every cast there’s a chance of hooking a 20lb salmon. It’s a great way to put the cares of the world behind you and focus on something potentially very exciting.
General the Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL is chairman of the National Emergencies Trust. Its Coronavirus Appeal has raised almost £100 million; nationalemergenciestrust.org.uk