Major Alastair Dunlop

see Battle_of_Meiktila  also see outstanding article with photos at IAF/History

Major Alastair Dunlop, who has died aged 85, was awarded the MC and Bar while serving with the Bombay Grenadiers in the Burma campaign.

On February 1 1945, A Company 3rd Battalion 4th Bombay Grenadiers, commanded by Dunlop, then a major, dug in across the Irrawaddy from Kyaukmyaung and held the bridgehead. During the subsequent advance to relieve Yeshin, the company was protecting a squadron of the 150th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps when the Japanese managed to get within range of the tanks and inflicted heavy casualties.

At one point, Dunlop seized a Bren gun from a wounded man and, without any regard for his own safety, engaged the enemy while the casualties were evacuated; not a single Japanese was able to close with the tanks and destroy them. For his gallantry and skilful handling of his company, he was awarded an immediate MC.

Alastair Henry Johnstone Dunlop was born at Greenock, Clydebank, on October 30 1917 and educated at Sedbergh and Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Indian Army and spent his first year on attachment to the 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment. In 1939, he was posted to the 1st Battalion (101st) 4th Bombay Grenadiers, but transferred to the 3rd Battalion the following year and accompanied them to Burma in September 1943.

In January 1944, Dunlop's company was attached to the 25th Dragoons as tank protection infantry and took over the defence of the Naf Peninsula in the north Arakan. The Japanese launched an offensive in February, but the company held firm, despite coming under sustained mortaring and attacks from enemy dive bombers.

In March 1945, after heavy fighting in the attack on Kule, A Company, in support of the 150th Regiment RAC, as part of 19th Indian Infantry Division, took part in the capture of Mandalay and Fort Dufferin. Dunlop was awarded a Bar to his MC. The citation stated that: "Major Dunlop had shown the most magnificent example of coolness and courage."

It added: "The task of tank protection took his company into situations where other infantry had been unable to go; but he was always in the right place to encourage the most hard pressed, and the confidence that was established between the 150th Regiment RAC and his Indian troops was the result of his outstanding leadership and military skill far above the standard of his rank."

After the end of the campaign in Burma, Dunlop returned to India. On one occasion, at breakfast in the Officers' Mess, he found himself sitting next to a fresh-faced, newly-joined subaltern. Unable to resist the temptation to play the battle-hardened veteran, he asked the orderly to fetch him a glass of whisky and poured it over his cornflakes.

In January 1947 Dunlop was appointed second-in-command of the 1st Battalion Indian Grenadiers. He returned to England in 1948, and was attached to the 82nd Heavy Regiment Royal Artillery. After transferring to the RA, he attended Staff College at Quetta, Pakistan, and subsequently served with 48th Field Regiment RA in England and BAOR.

Having dinner one evening in a Gunner Mess, Dunlop decided to perform his party piece. This was to take a mouthful of paraffin from a glass brought by an orderly, light a match and blow a sheet of flame down the dining room table.

Unfortunately, he had no sooner filled his mouth with the paraffin than he started to laugh. The paraffin dribbled down his shirt front and, when he lit the match, he was engulfed in the blaze and had to be taken to hospital. On his return, he spent several weeks with wrinkled cheeks and no facial hair.

Following a posting to HQ Rhine District and then to the 20th Field Regiment RA, he retired from the Army in 1958 in the rank of major. In 1968 he joined 219 Squadron Royal Corps of Transport TA, based at Doncaster, as a Permanent Staff Officer.

Dunlop was involved in charitable work of many kinds. With characteristic generosity, he opened his house during the school holidays to the children of officers serving overseas. After moving to a village in Norfolk, he remained active in the life of the local community.

Alastair Dunlop died on June 12.

He married, in 1949, Beryl Holden. She died in 2000 and he is survived by their four sons and three daughters.