Thrown to the wolves: Aged 21, Lord Bramall led a platoon onto the Normandy beaches and rose to head our Armed Forces – only for the claims of a fantasist to shatter his reputation. Here, his furious son hits back
- Lord Bramall led a platoon onto the Normandy beaches in France aged just 21
- He rose to head our Armed Forces only for abuse claims to shatter his reputation
- His son accuses the ex-Met chief of rank incompetence over his father’s ordeal
Lord Bramall was having breakfast with his frail wife Avril, who was suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, at his home in Hampshire when police knocked on his door on March 4, 2015
A few weeks ago, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, a man of impeccable character who has served this country with distinction in war and in peace, asked his son Nicolas: ‘I’m not a bad chap, am I?
‘Dad puts on a very brave face but what he’s going through internally — I’m not sure,’ says Nicolas. ‘There’s been a lot of suffering and I don’t think that should be underestimated.
‘Look, I don’t want to make out Dad’s a shrinking violet. He’s not. He’s as tough as they come, but the longer this monstrous business has gone on . . .’ He shakes his head part in anger, part sadness.
‘I find it mind-boggling the police could have got it so wrong. They took the word of a complete fantasist and threw Dad — a man who’s been a wonderful servant to this country — to the wolves without a single piece of evidence.
‘I think this has affected him more the longer it’s gone on. The very fact you’ve been so publicly accused of paedophilia, rape and torture when it’s absolute rubbish is enough to finish anybody, isn’t it? The trial has been particularly hard for him.’
Lord Bramall did not attend the ten-week trial, where Carl Beech, persisted in making outrageous slurs against the war hero, and which ended yesterday, with Beech being convicted of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice, and another of fraud.
For Lord Bramall was not well enough to endure appearing at the trial.
Supportive: Nicolas with his parents Edwin and Avril Bramall — whose lives were broken apart by the false claims. Lord Brammall’s son Nicolas adds: ‘I’ve often said to Dad, ‘Aren’t you p****d off with Nick?’ He always replies: ‘No, it’s the Met. They’ve made a complete arse of the whole thing’
When I met this delightful old soldier 18 months ago, he needed sticks to walk owing to a degenerative neurological condition. Now he is wheelchair bound.
‘Our concern was that this might not be sorted before he dies. It has dragged on and on,’ says Nicolas.
‘We hoped Nick/Carl Beech, whatever his name is, would plead guilty. Instead he’s had such a platform for his poison. It doesn’t help a 95-year-old chap, does it? When we last saw Dad he was quite emotional.
‘He started going through the story all again: ‘The police came to the door. I greeted them. I thought it was a security issue, maybe a threat or something.’
Lord Bramall was having breakfast with his frail wife Avril, who was suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, at his home in Hampshire when police knocked on his door on March 4, 2015.
More than 20 officers in white overalls spent ten hours examining every inch of the house, leaving with an old visitors’ book and copies of two speeches Lord Bramall had made, one to Sandhurst cadets and another about a fellow Army commander.
‘They went behind every picture in the house — every picture. They ripped the place apart,’ says Nicolas. ‘There was a busload of police in white suits. My parents live right in the middle of the village. They weren’t being subtle.
Lord Bramall was not well enough to endure appearing at the trial. When I met this delightful old soldier 18 months ago, he needed sticks to walk owing to a degenerative neurological condition. Now he is wheelchair bound
‘Most of the officers went down the pub for lunch and it wasn’t long before the local paper got onto Dad.
Hogan-Howe [Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe who was Met Commissioner at the time] actually came down to see Dad twice. He said from very early on he’d never really believed Dad had been involved, but the police were under such pressure, after the Jimmy Savile scandal, to show no-one was above the law.
‘That was the key to this: it doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve achieved, we’ll get them. They were absolutely seduced by the idea that they had a top-level paedophile ring.’
Nicolas’s disgust is writ large upon his face. The very suggestion his father was involved in a VIP paedophile ring with, among other prominent men, former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, ex Tory MP Harvey Proctor, former head of MI5 Michael Hanley, former head of MI6 Maurice Oldfield and former Home Secretary Leon Brittan would be laughable, if it wasn’t so downright devastating.
‘The trouble with all allegations, particularly paedophilia, is it sticks, doesn’t it? It’s just such an overwhelmingly awful thing.
‘Once it’s out there you can’t bring it back and people believe there can’t be any smoke without fire. I’ve even had a few letters — nasty letters — from people saying he’s as a guilty as . . . ‘ The sentence tails into a furious silence.
‘The question I’ve always asked myself is this: here’s this chap who has accused a prime minister, a home secretary, the head of the British armed forces, the head of MI5 and the head of MI6.
‘Surely to God when this came up old Hogan-Howe or someone would have said, ‘Hang on a minute. Let’s look at this bloke.’
‘If only for self-preservation you’d think they’d think, ‘Before we start raiding these houses, we really need to be certain that this chap is who he says he is.’
Incredulous: Lord Bramall during his police interview. More than 20 officers in white overalls spent ten hours examining every inch of the house, leaving with an old visitors’ book and copies of two speeches Lord Bramall had made, one to Sandhurst cadets and another about a fellow Army commander
‘But they didn’t make sure. They took his story and ran with it. Nobody thought to look on his computer, look into his life or interview his wife. They just couldn’t wait to get stuck into Dad.’
A thoroughly likeable man who shares his father’s sense of humour and passion for cricket, Nicolas, 66, loves his father ‘hugely’.
It is why he is speaking now. ‘I’ve agonised how best to support him. I feel angry about it. I’m his son. I feel I should stand up and be counted. We need to draw a line under this business.
Dad was always there for us [Nicolas has a sister, Sara] whenever he could possibly be. He was a hard act to follow, but the great thing he said to me was, ‘I don’t mind what you do Nick, but try to do it well.’ ‘
Nicolas is a successful landscape gardener and lives in Dorset with his second wife, Pip. The past four years have, he says, ‘been hell’ for his father and hugely upsetting for his family, which includes Nicolas’s son Alexander, 40 — a talented fashion photographer who photographed Princess Eugenie’s wedding last year — and his 38-year-old daughter Charlotte, who between them have five children.
When the police were rummaging through Dad’s house, they actually said to my sister, who was there, ‘Are you happy for him to see your grandchildren?’ ‘ Nicolas looks truly outraged, as well he should.
‘This is a man who has achieved just about everything you could possibly achieve in one life. He was captain of the Eton [cricket] XI, he was a boxer, a very good artist — he had two pictures in the Royal Academy at the age of 16.
Long career: In the Home Guard at 17. A few weeks ago, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, a man of impeccable character who has served this country with distinction in war and in peace, asked his son Nicolas: ‘I’m not a bad chap, am I?
‘He landed in Normandy at the age of 21 in charge of a platoon, was wounded twice. He fought his way through Holland towards Berlin, won the Military Cross. He got to the top of the forces, was made a Knight of the Garter.
He had a lovely wife, never let his kids down. There was never a whiff of scandal — not men, women, boys or corruption. He’s just been a wonderful public servant.
‘But he’s been dragged through four years of hell because the police are basically incompetent.
‘That’s the bottom line. They were totally incompetent.
‘They overreacted and got it spectacularly wrong and Dad and other people — Dad’s family, Lady Brittan [Lord Brittan’s widow] — had to pay the price.’
Alexander, who’s particularly close to his grandfather, would like to see Nick ‘take a long walk off a short pier’.
Nicolas adds: ‘I’ve often said to Dad, ‘Aren’t you p****d off with Nick?’ He always replies: ‘No, it’s the Met. They’ve made a complete arse of the whole thing.’
He’s tried to keep his sense of humour but . . .’
Nicolas leans forward in his armchair. ‘Do you know the thing that hugely bothers Dad? When he’s dead his great-grandchildren will Google him — or ‘goggle’ him as he puts it — and all of this will come up. This is what really upsets him.
In future years, when people do military research, there’ll be all this stuff about these heinous crimes. You can’t get rid of it, can you? It’s there for ever.’ Nicolas was at work when his wife Pip was called by a distressed Lord Bramall that March morning.
‘He was upset,’ she says today. ‘He said the police had raided his house, and were there now. They were going through everything and he wasn’t allowed to move. He said he’d been accused of something involving a minor 40 years ago but they wouldn’t say what it was. Mum was very confused. It was so unpleasant for her.
‘As police went through the house, she was sort of shunted from one room to another.
‘She knew something was wrong, but wasn’t quite sure what it was. It affected her quite badly. Do you remember she used to say, ‘What have I done, what have I done?’
Pip turns to her husband who nods. ‘It was so upsetting,’ he says.Nicolas was ‘shocked, absolutely shocked’, when, after being unable to reach him on his mobile, Pip went to tell him at work.
‘Dad is the least sort of paedophile man you could meet. I felt complete shock. We needed to support him.
‘The Bramalls closed ranks. From day one we were all in this together: I never doubted him for a second.’ Lord Bramall’s lawyer badgered the Metropolitan Police for details of the accusations against him.
Shamefully, he was kept waiting until April 30, almost two months after that first traumatic raid, and was then interviewed under caution by a detective constable.
The allegations were so preposterous — paedophilia, torture, rape — he ended up banging the table.
Beech alleged his stepfather Major Ray Beech sexually abused him and took him to Lord Bramall’s office in Erskine Barracks, Wiltshire, in 1976 when he was in charge of the UK land forces.
‘Some of the abuse was supposed to have taken place at a pool party, so Dad was asked if he could swim. He said he jolly nearly had to at Normandy.
Lord Bramall did not attend the ten-week trial, where Carl Beech, above, persisted in making outrageous slurs against the war hero, and which ended yesterday, with Beech being convicted of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice, and another of fraud
‘The interview was conducted by a detective constable. You’d think interviewing a Field Marshal you’d get one of your heavyweights in, wouldn’t you?
‘The questions were so banal. Dad ran rings round him. At one point, Dad said something like, ‘Did he tell you I was circumcised?’ ‘The detective constable looked at his notes, saw nothing there, so asked, ‘Are you?’
Dad said, ‘I’m not telling you.’ Nicolas chuckles, but in truth there has been little to laugh about in the past four years.
‘You’ve met Dad. He’s not someone who would run away from the sound of a gun, but when you’re accused of heinous crimes like that, it’s a very lonely place,’ he says.
‘It takes a lot of courage when all these allegations are out there to stand up and show your face. He didn’t want to cause embarrassment to anybody.’
So much so Lord Bramall offered not to attend that June’s high-profile Order of the Garter service where recipients of this, the oldest British order of chivalry, gather at Windsor for lunch with the Queen, followed by a service at St George’s chapel.
‘He was encouraged to go and I think the Queen was very glad he went. Dad’s never shied away. He’s always looked people in the eye.
‘All his peers have been very supportive. His aides-de-camp went en masse to the police and said, ‘This is ridiculous.’ A lot of them appeared in court. They had gatekeepers at his office at the barracks signing people in and out.
‘The thought of a major bringing his son to the commander of the British Armed Forces and saying, ‘Help yourself. I’ll pick him up in a couple of hours,’ was ridiculous.’
A second police interview took place in July 2015 at Lord Bramall’s home. By now, his wife of 66 years was terribly ill. He worried about missing a moment of the precious time they had left together. As it was, she sadly died before that interview.
‘I believe this whole thing very much affected her,’ says Pip. ‘She sensed all this chaos and all these changes around her when what she needed was a quiet predictable life.
‘They were devoted to each other. To have died with all this going on . . . ‘ Pip is truly distressed by her mother-in-law’s suffering. It was ten months before officers leading the now utterly discredited Operation Midland finally told Lord Bramall there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to charge him.
‘There was never evidence of any form,’ says Nicolas. ‘Nothing. Just this man’s word and the police fell for it hook, line and sinker, but they wouldn’t put their hands in the air, say ‘We’ve got it wrong’ and clear Dad’s name.
‘An apology did eventually come [in October, 18 months after the raid], but it was fairly mealy-mouthed. ‘I was always saying to Dad, ‘This is awful’. I was perhaps more indignant than him in the beginning. He’d say, ‘If you’ve landed on the beaches of Normandy, you’ve been through worse than this.’ But I don’t think he’d say that now.
‘Since the trial began he’s endured a bombardment of unpleasant accusations — rape, torture, paedophilia. Nick’s persisted in the accusations against Dad in a lot of detail.
‘It makes me so angry.
‘Dad’s achieved just about everything any man could possibly achieve in life. It should be his sort of pipe and slipper time to relax and be proud of all he’s done.
‘Instead, he now gets quite watery-eyed and keeps saying, ‘I’m not a bad chap, am I?’
‘Dad? A bad chap?’ Nicolas repeats disbelievingly. ‘He’s a good guy.’ He is.
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