Both Bradfield and the Military have long associations with Andrew Larpent (H 64-69), going right back to his two grandfathers who attended the College separately in the late 1890s. One of them was distinguished OB and recipient of the Victoria Cross, Major General Dudley Graham Johnson VC, CB, DSO, MC, incredibly one of six siblings to receive a Bradfield education.

During the First World War Maj Gen Johnson’s battalion was ordered to secure crossings on the Sambre Oise Canal. He organised and personally led two assaults which succeeded in effecting the crossing for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

It was at an act of remembrance for this action three years ago in France when the College CCF contingent made a trip for the event, that Andrew first had the opportunity to discuss the Military with Bradfield pupils. “It was an honour and a huge highlight for me the fact that Bradfield were there at that ceremony.”

In November last year, Andrew returned to the College to speak with a number of pupils studying History on the 30th anniversary of combat in the Gulf War. He also presented the College with a specially commissioned painting depicting his grandfather’s heroic action which is now on display in Bloods Corridor near the Memorial Cross.

Along with his grandfather and Andrew himself, his father, brother and cousin all served in the Army or Navy, a strong family Military tradition. His father was still serving in Germany throughout most of his childhood which meant journeys home for the holidays were lengthier than most. Fortunately, the Army would pay for the flights to Germany for two holidays a year but for the third Andrew’s father found a novel way to encourage him to be enterprising.

“He wanted me to be a little adventurous and push the boundaries so he would give me the money for a boat and train ticket to get back to Germany but would say if I could get home any other way, on my own devices, then I could keep any money I saved in doing so.”

Bearing in mind that at the time neither the M4 or M25 existed, it is quite remarkable that one Christmas the young Bradfieldian managed to hitchhike first to Theale, then onto Dover before getting another lift on the other side of the channel all the way back to Germany. “It took me less than 24 hours and it hadn’t cost me a penny. It made me a nice Christmas bonus that year.”

It was during his time at the College that he first put on a uniform, while a part of the CCF. “It’s always something that I remember and I loved it. Nigel Suffield-Jones was the inspiration for me.” Under Nigel’s guidance Andrew was able to set up what they called the Arduous Training Programme. “It was basically Brecon Beacons camping and yomping over the hills. We purchased all the equipment for the CCF Stores and it was a significant part of my time at Bradfield.”

There were many other influential figures and experiences. Andrew reflects on enjoying his time as Captain of Fencing as well as his involvement with the historic Bradfield Club in Peckham and the grounding those trips provided him and his peers. Charles Lepper is remembered fondly by many and Andrew loved being part of the cast of The Merchant of Venice performed in the Greek Theatre which Lepper directed.

“There is no doubt that the opportunity to be educated at a place like this was, and still is, an incredible privilege. I was fortunate as is any pupil whose fees are subsidised by the Military, the diplomatic service or by corporate organisations.”

National Service ended during Andrew’s time at Bradfield but with Military ties that run as deep as his, he contemplated nothing other than a career in the Army. “Sometimes I think I was very unimaginative, but I didn’t think twice. I went into the family business and joined the same regiment as my father and grandfather. They were both in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and I joined the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.”

Andrew served as a Regular Officer and was commissioned in 1971, serving through until 1994. It is 30 years since the Gulf War and in particular Operation Desert Storm, a time in combat which Andrew considers the highlight of his career; as Lieutenant Colonel commanding his battalion.

“To be in command of your battalion and then to be ordered to take them to War is something which doesn’t happen very often. It was a major campaign with armoured warfare the likes of which were seen during the Second World War.”

To mark the 30th anniversary Andrew was invited to attend the Cenotaph Parade in London. “It’s quite a privilege to be able to do it and I wanted to be there in recognition of the part that my regiment and the battalion that I was commanding played in that campaign. To remember the lives that were lost in that campaign in my regiment.”

Shortly after the end of the Gulf War, following a short period of leave, Andrew was asked to do something he had never considered during his service. In 1992, Colonel Larpent became the last Commanding Officer of the Third Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers when he was asked to disband his battalion.

“In such a short space of time I had the privilege of leading a unit followed by the supreme indignity for a Regimental Officer to have to disband a battalion of a regiment that had been in existence for over 300 years of continuous service. We marched the Colours Off parade in July 1992 and I went back to Warminster.”

It wasn’t long before he took voluntary redundancy and went on to build a second career in the care industry. Andrew spent the next decade running the Somerset Care Group, based in Taunton, before an opportunity arose abroad and he was appointed to run a large care organization in South Australia. In 2011 he moved to Adelaide and spent five wonderful years there before retiring.

He has now spent more time out of the Army than he did in it and is still active in the care sector. He set up an organization called the Commonwealth Association for the Ageing which aims to improve quality of life and standards for older people in 54 countries of the Commonwealth, an organisation he now Chairs.

“For as long as one is fit and able you should continue to use the experience that you’ve gained over a lifetime. It keeps me engaged and active and the idea now that I support is the concept of healthy and active ageing, where people don’t decay and decline and just fade away. If you’ve got something to offer and something to contribute, not only does it give you a sense of who you are and a sense of self-respect, but it also means that your experience over that time is still available to society.”