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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 June 2006, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Obituary: Bruce Shand
Major Bruce Shand
Major Bruce Shand: War hero who was Camilla's 'rock'
Major Bruce Shand, father of the Duchess of Cornwall, had a long and eventful life, winning two Military Crosses in World War II before becoming a respected wine merchant and huntsman.

Major Shand's response when news of his daughter's affair with the Prince of Wales became public in 1992, says much about the man: "The best policy," he quipped, "is to keep our traps shut".

And that policy remained unchanged right up to his death. No public comment was ever forthcoming from him about Camilla Parker Bowles' romance with, and eventual marriage to, Prince Charles, save for congratulations at the news of their impending wedding.

Attack

Bruce Middleton Hope Shand's childhood was less than auspicious. Born in January 1917, he was abandoned by his parents aged just three and raised by his grandmother.

Educated at Rugby, he joined the Army, initially serving as a second lieutenant in the 12th Royal Lancers and winning a Military Cross in 1940 followed by a second two years later.

The same year, Shand met Winston Churchill, who toured North Africa in the run-up to the battle of El Alamein.

Upon meeting such a youthful officer wearing the ribbon and bar of the Military Cross, Churchill quipped, "You're a very young man. How splendid."

Major Shand and the Duchess of Cornwall
Father and daughter: Major Shand and the Duchess of Cornwall
But during the rout of German forces which ended the battle, Shand, leading his men forward, came under sustained attack from Afrika Korps troops.

What happened next was recalled in his memoirs, Previous Engagements:

"Something like a whiplash stung my cheek and Sergeant Francis beside me slumped to the bottom of the car with a large hole in his chest, killed instantly."

Shortly after, his vehicle destroyed and his driver dead, Shand was hit a second time: "I do not remember hitting the ground," he wrote. "A buzz of German voices greeted my return to consciousness."

Hunting man

In 2006, the Duchess visited the site of the engagement and the graves of her father's comrades.

After laying a wreath on his behalf, she could barely control her emotions, commenting: "I've got a huge lump in my throat. It's quite hard to speak. I'm so pleased that I've done it for my father."

Captured, Major Shand spent the remainder of the war in the picturesque prisoner of war camp at Spangenberg Castle, situated near Kassel in the west of Germany.

At the war's end, he returned to Britain and married Rosalind Cubitt, daughter of the wealthy Lord Ashcombe. Their first child, a daughter named Camilla, was born in 1947.

The Duchess of Cornwall weeps during a visit to El Alamein in 2006
The Duchess of Cornwall weeps during a visit to El Alamein in 2006
Shand became a partner at the noted wine merchants Block, Grey and Block. With houses in Kensington and East Sussex, he was able to indulge his real passion, hunting, introducing his daughter to it when she was aged just nine.

Father and daughter remained close and it was to him she turned throughout her turbulent marriage to Andrew Parker Bowles and her romance with the heir to the throne.

Major Shand, whose wife died in 1994 after having had osteoporosis for many years, moved into an apartment in Clarence House in 2003.

And, at his daughter's wedding reception two years later, Prince Charles praised the man who had stood steadfastly by his new wife through some of the monarchy's most turbulent years as "the gallant major".





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