A Remarkable Tale of Resilience  

A Remarkable Tale of Resilience  

From Dublin to Hong Kong to Western Australia – One Old Carthusian's remarkable tale of resilience.  

Brian Denis Wilson (D Cricket Quarter 1938 - Oration Quarter 1942)

12 June 1924 – 22 May 2024

Brian’s parents left Dublin in the 1920s and his father joined a law firm in Penang. Brian was born in Penang on 12 June 1924 and lived there until he was sent back to Dublin at the age of five. There he lived a rather lonely, regimented life with his grandparents until he was old enough to go to boarding school in the UK. He seldom saw his parents throughout his school years, spending his holidays with his uncle (retired from the Indian army), aunt and cousins in Somerset.

After the fall of Singapore, Brian’s father joined the army and his mother, with the other women and children from Penang, was evacuated, undertaking a difficult journey by land and sea to the UK. There his mother worked as a secretary until her retirement. His father died of lung cancer early on in the war, on a hospital ship in Colombo.

Brian joined Daviesites in Cricket Quarter (Summer Term) 1938 and thrived at Charterhouse. He became Head Monitor of Daviesites and Captain of Hockey; he also played 2nd XI Football, 3rd XI Cricket and won his Fives Colours. After leaving Charterhouse, Brian kept in touch by letter with his Housemaster, Walter Sellar, until his death in 1951. He was a loyal member of the Western Australia Old Carthusian Club and regularly attended Old Carthusian (OC) events in London and Godalming when he was visiting the UK.

Brian attended only two months of a law degree at Oxford before joining the Irish Guards during the Battle of Normandy. Later, as part of the Guards Armoured Division, he fought in the advance through France and Belgium, and took part in the liberation of Brussels and Operation Market Garden.

He was wounded at Nijmegen and, at the of barely 20, had his right leg amputated below the knee. Brian, with his indomitable courage, learned to walk again, returned to Oxford to complete his degree and joined the Colonial Service. He had hoped to be sent to Penang, but was assigned to Hong Kong. In London, he met his wife, Margaret, who had come over from Western Australia with the Red Cross, and they were married in Hong Kong in 1948.

Hong Kong was quite an adventure for those two and they were very happy. Brian became a fluent speaker in both Mandarin and Cantonese, with a smattering of Hakka and was ever a conscientious officer. Over the years, he moved up the ranks, being rotated through the various departments such as Home Affairs, Transport and, his favourite, Urban Services. As Director of Urban Services, he was proud of his many achievements as Chair of the Antiquities Advisory Committee and planting, sometimes personally, many parks and roadside areas. He was awarded a CBE for his services to Hong Kong in 1979.

Brian and Margaret finally retired to Perth, Western Australia, and built themselves a house which, although only 400m above sea level, allowed them a 180° view 50 kilometres to the sea. Since their last home on The Peak in Hong Kong had a similar view, encompassing the whole of Hong Kong harbour, this provided them with some continuity and much everyday happiness.

Margaret died of cancer in 1992 and their eldest son, Simon, in 2006 of MND, leaving Brian with his two daughters, Kerry Jane and Sarah. After Margaret died, he was lonely, of course, but found much comfort and adventure in taking as many challenging bird watching tours as he could cram into each year.

Brian died peacefully on the flight over from Perth to Heathrow on 22 May, on his way to celebrate his 100th birthday with his beloved regiment, The Irish Guards.