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Sir Richard (Lionel John Baines) Neville Bart, Master 1972-1974

Sir Richard Neville was born on the 15th July 1921, son of Sir Reginald Neville (died 1950) and Violet Sophia Mary (d 1972) widow of Capt Richard Jocelyn Hunter, Rifle Brigade and daughter of Lt Col Cuthbert Johnson Baines, Gloucester Regiment.

As a journalist working for French radio Richard Neville found himself in some of the world's most disagreeable places in the 1950s. He was in Indo-China when the besieged French troops were overrun by the Viet Minh at the historic siege of Dien Bien Phu. Three years later he was in Algeria when the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) was mounting its successful rebellion against the country's colonial French masters.

Then, at the age of 39 Neville retired, returning on his father's death to Sloley Hall, the Georgian mansion in Norfolk where he grew up - to lead henceforth the enviable life of an English country gentleman. His forebears had moved into the house on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo.

Richard was the son of Sir Reginald Neville, Master Bowyer 1928-1930. The baronetcy was conferred in 1927 in respect of political services, for he had been MP for East Norfolk for many years.

After Eton, young Richard went up to Trinity College, Cambridge to read modern languages, graduating in 1941 just before his career was overtaken by the Second World War. After a short spell at Sandhurst, Neville was commissioned into the family regiment, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, but was almost immediately seconded to the West African Frontier Force (or West African Rifles.) Posted to the 1st Gold Coast Regiment, he was sent as adjutant of his battalion to Burma in 1944 and fought there throughout the rest of the war, becoming ADC to General Sir Hugh Stockwell, then commanding 29th Independent Brigade.

On being demobilised as an acting captain, Neville's fluent French helped to win him a job in Paris with Barclays Bank. He soon grew bored with banking and sought a more adventurous life in journalism.

After joining the French public broadcasting organisation Radio Télévision Francaise, he was posted by them to Indo-China in 1953 as director of English Broadcasts, with Australia and New Zealand as his main target areas. Two years later he moved to French Equatorial Africa, as director of foreign broadcasts - chiefly in English, Spanish and Portugese - then in 1957 he was transferred further north to Algiers.

On Sir Reginald's death in 1960, the baronetcy was inherited by Richard's elder half-brother, Edmund (Jim) Neville MC, who was Master Bowyer 1936-1938, and who was Sir Reginald's son by his first wife. Richard succeeded Jim Neville as third baronet in 1982. He had absolutely no "edge," but was delighted with the baronetcy and frequently used to exclaim that he didn't know how he'd managed for so long without it.

But it was Richard Neville, rather than Jim, who took over Sloley Hall in 1960 on the death of their father. There, amid its 500 acres, after years spent travelling the world, he threw himself into local life. He was patron of the church at nearby Stalham, churchwarden of his own church at Sloley and an active supporter of the local Conservative Party.

Neville was a knowledgeable amateur expert on genealogy and heraldry and was an accomplished lecturer on both. Between 1972 an 1974 he was Master of the Bowyers' Company. He continued to travel widely, visiting his many friends on the Continent, particularly in France and Belgium, but he also had a wide circle of friends in this country, who found him an engaging wit, conversationalist and cook. He was a lifelong friend, from school, university, the Army (although of different regiments) and the Bowyers' Company, of Past Master Sir Ralph Anstruther.

He was agreeably disorganised and notoriously untidy. But Neville was immensely popular in Norfolk, noted for his kindness and generosity to those less fortunate than himself. His listed interests in "Who's Who" were: history, genealogy, heraldry and supporting lost causes.

This article is a slightly amended version of his "Times" obituary which was written by fellow Bowyer John Perkins.

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