Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-11 > 1195385889

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] CHESTERTON: Oliver Sidney Chesterton
Date: Sun, 18 Nov 2007 11:38:09 -0000

Sir Oliver Chesterton
Last Updated: 2:53am GMT 07/11/2007

Sir Oliver Chesterton, who died on October 14 aged 94, was the
fifth-generation head of his family's estate agency business, one of the
oldest in London, and chairman of the Woolwich building society.

Oliver Chesterton: had a knack for
putting everyone at ease

Oliver Sidney Chesterton was born on January 28 1913, the son of the
architect Frank Chesterton, who designed a number of notable buildings in
Kensington (including Horton Court, where Chesterton & Co has a branch
today) but was killed at the Battle of the Somme.

Oliver entered the family firm in 1931 after leaving Rugby, qualifying as a
surveyor and entering the partnership three years later. The firm was
founded in Kensington in 1805 by his great-great-grandfather Charles, who
was the agent of the Phillimore estate.

One of Charles's great-grandsons was the writer GK Chesterton, who worked
for the firm very briefly before deciding it was not for him.

Oliver Chesterton went to Sandhurst in 1939 and was commissioned into the
Irish Guards the following year.

After a spell as an instructor at GHQ Battle Drill School, he embarked for
French North Africa with 1st Battalion and landed at Algiers in March 1943.

On April 27, on a blazing hot afternoon, 1st Battalion took part in a
brigade attack on Hill 212 which buttressed the Djebel Bou Aoukaz, an
important strategic feature near Tunis.

As the companies left the cover of a short spur and debouched into the open
plain, the Germans opened fire. "They threw everything but their cap-badges
at us," a guardsman said afterwards.

The platoons plunged into waist-high corn but as the fire intensified the
whole field was ripped and torn.

The guardsmen moved on into an olive grove which was a registered German
target and the enemy guns pounded it systematically, working up and down the
lines of trees.

Chesterton, in command of 1 Company, absorbed the remnants of 4 Company and
advanced behind a thin film of smoke from his 2-inch mortars.

A burst of machine-gun fire from a farmyard caught his men in the flank but
the position was rushed and the post knocked out.

Chesterton was wounded three times in quick succession but got to his
wireless set and told his CO, Lt-Col Montagu-Douglas-Scott, that if they
could sit tight for 30 minutes until it was dark, they could take the hill.
His CO agreed and the two men selected targets on which to bring down
artillery fire.

As soon as it was dark, 1 Company fixed bayonets and plodded silently up the
hill, while the shells were still falling on the top. The Germans, however,
had had enough and fled along a ridge and down the other side. One hundred
and seventy-three men out of four rifle companies and Battalion HQ reached
Hill 212 that night.

Chesterton was awarded an immediate MC. The citation stated that the
battalion's casualties had been so severe that if he had not ignored his
wounds and led his company on to the objective, the hill would not have been

He was in a series of military hospitals before being evacuated to England
in June 1943 for further treatment. He joined the Training Battalion in
January 1944 and was released by the Army in September 1945.

After demobilisation Oliver returned to Chesterton & Co and became senior
partner - a post he held for 35 years, during which the firm consolidated
its position in the upper strata of the London property scene, expanding
beyond its traditional residential portfolio into the commercial sector and
the City.

Oliver Chesterton was a tall, affable pipe-smoker with a knack for putting
everyone at ease and a gift for public speaking. His market knowledge was
much in demand, not least as a long-serving commissioner of the Crown

>From 1962 he was a director of the Woolwich Equitable building society,
which was in the process of expanding from its south London origins, by a
series of acquisitions of smaller societies, to become one of Britain's
leading mortgage lenders.

Chesterton was chairman of the society from 1976 to 1983, often acting as
spokesman for the building society sector as a whole at a time of high
interest rates, restricted mortgage availability and, towards the end of his
tenure, rapidly rising house prices.

He was also a director of Trust Houses, the hotel chain whose extensive
portfolio included the Grosvenor House in Park Lane.

After Trust Houses agreed to merge in 1970 with the Forte hotels and
catering empire, Chesterton became a member of a new group board which had
to be carefully balanced between supporters of the former Trust Houses chief
Lord Crowther, now chairman of the combined group, and supporters of Charles
Forte, its chief executive and driving force - the two top men being at
daggers drawn from the start. Chesterton was very firmly on Crowther's side;
he was no fan of Forte, whose belligerence at one stage extended to
threatening to "bang Crowther's head".

Matters came to a head in late 1971, when Crowther encouraged a bid for the
group from Allied Breweries - which Forte angrily rejected and in due course
saw off. When Crowther was then ousted from the chair, Chesterton and three
other non-executive directors resigned, declaring the dismissal

Chesterton was president of the RICS in its bicentenary year, 1968-69, the
first master of the newly-created Chartered Surveyors' Company in 1977, and
a past secretary and president of the Commonwealth Association of Surveying
and Land Economy. He was also a past master of the Curriers' Company.

He was vice-chairman of the council of the Royal Free medical school, and a
governor of Rugby. He was knighted in 1969.

He enjoyed golf, fishing and National Hunt racing.

Oliver Chesterton married, in 1944, Violet Ethel Jameson, who died in 2004.
He is survived by two sons and a daughter.

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