Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2005-09 > 1126479397

From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: SMITH; Ian Weston Smith-sep/2005>UK--obits,the
Date: Sun, 11 Sep 2005 23:56:37 +0100

Ian Weston Smith
(Filed: 10/09/2005)
The Daily Telegraph & the

Ian Weston Smith, who has died aged 87, served with the Scots Guards in the
Second World War before a distinguished career in industry.

In December 1941, XIII Corps attacked the Germans around Gazala, Libya, and,
after three days fighting, the enemy was falling back. The 2nd Battalion
Scots Guards, part of the 22nd Guards (Motor) Brigade, dashed across the
desert to cut off their retreat.

On Christmas Day, the battalion arrived opposite the German defences at
Agedabia. Crossing a long, open wadi, the two forward companies were caught
in enfilade during a night attack. "The red and white tracer coming down the
wadi," the CO wrote afterwards, "was a most unpleasant affair - rather like
a very fast bowler on a bumpy wicket, and the batsman without pads or
gloves." Weston Smith was wounded but was subsequently able to take part in
the invasion of Sicily as a member of Lieutenant-General Oliver Leese's
staff. In September 1943, after the landings at Salerno, the battalion made
an assault on the "Tobacco Factory", an agricultural storage depot near

The Battalion HQ was hit by a shell from a hidden 88-mm gun and took heavy
casualties. Intense Spandau fire forced "F" Company to withdraw and Weston
Smith, then a captain, was taken prisoner.

Weston Smith was taken to Eichstätt camp in Bavaria. While there he worked
on what was reputed to have been the longest tunnel built in a German PoW
camp during the war. It owed its structure to an engineer who had been
employed by London Underground in civilian life.

In 1945, while the camp was being moved, Weston Smith escaped with a comrade
from the Rifle Brigade. They were sheltered by a local family, then found
themselves in command of 60 members of a German guard company, who believed
that they might avoid SS reprisals by surrendering to British officers.

After they made contact with the advancing Americans, Weston Smith was shown
into the senior officer's room and invited to "Take a chair, Captain Smith."

"The name is Weston Smith," he replied tersely. "In that case, take two
chairs," said the officer. He was known afterwards in his regiment as
"Two-chairs Weston Smith."

Ian Weston Smith was born in Glasgow on February 21 1918 and educated at
Fettes. After attending the wartime course at Sandhurst, he was commissioned
into the Scots Guards and posted to the Middle East.

On returning to England after the war, Weston Smith joined the Scots Guards'
Training Battalion. After retiring from the Army in 1947, he took up an
appointment at the Military Mission in Prague. He was awarded
Czechslovakia's Meritorious Service Medal.

Weston Smith joined Morgan Crucible in 1956 as a manager at the carbon works
at Battersea, London, which extended to almost 11 acres. The company
manufactured materials of critical importance to industries worldwide and
operated as a tightly knit extended family, run on authoritarian lines.

At all levels, sons followed fathers into the business. Shares in the
company were mostly held by the employees. Innovation was regarded with
suspicion; outside interference was discouraged.

On the face of it, this was a strange choice of employment for a man of
Weston Smith's exuberant personality and zest for action. His military and
diplomatic training, however, had given him a talent for leadership, based
on forging strong relationships with the work force, and a grasp of
long-term strategic planning.

Weston Smith was appointed director in 1959. Two years later the company at
Battersea was split into subsidiary firms that became responsible for all
manufacturing and selling.

It was a culture shock for the managers, not unlike that undergone by
officers with no combat experience being sent into battle, but Weston Smith
understood their anxieties and gave them the encouragement and support they
needed. He was appointed group managing director in 1970 and group chairman
in 1975.

In 1968 the company had its first major strike at Battersea. It was
eventually called off but it set in train the transfer of production and
sales out of London and the eventual sale of the Battersea site for housing.

Weston Smith was a strict disciplinarian but a fair one; his quips were
legion. At one meeting, when he had proposed a course of action which left
everyone speechless, he commented: "On a Monday morning, gentlemen, silence
means consent." He then immediately proceeded to the next business.

After retiring in 1983, Weston Smith worked for the Prince's Trust and
became chairman of British United Industrialists. In retirement, his
interests included racing, shooting and politics. He was a High Sheriff of
Oxfordshire. In 1994 he published An Inch of Time, a political thriller.

Ian Weston Smith married, in 1956, Anne (née Lloyd Thomas) who survives him
with their two sons, a stepson and a stepdaughter.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

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