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Harman, Sir Jack Wentworth (1920–2009), army officer, was born on 20 July 1920 at Anglesey House, Farnborough Road, Aldershot, Hampshire, the only son of Lieutenant-General Sir (Anthony Ernest) Wentworth Harman (1872–1961), a cavalry officer of Anglo-Irish descent, and his wife, Dorothy, née Ricardo (1880–1957). He was educated at Rottingdean School and at Wellington College (1933–8), where he was a school prefect, a ‘dashing athlete’, and captain of the fives team (Regimental Journal, 2009, 81). He hunted with the Blackmore Vale and followed racing. He attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst (from January 1939 to March 1940), while it changed to the wartime Officer Cadet Training Unit, and passed out from 101 Royal Armoured Corps wing. In March 1940 he was commissioned a second lieutenant in his father's regiment, the Queen's Bays, by then a tank regiment.

Known as Jackie, Harman went with the Bays to France in May 1940. They were in heavy fighting and lost all their tanks, but were safely evacuated. In May 1942 Harman rejoined the Bays in Egypt as second in command of A squadron, before the battle of Gazala. After nineteen days' fighting his tank was one of only seven surviving. At El Alamein, Harman (by now an acting captain) took command of A squadron after its commander was killed. In the advance into Tunisia in 1943 he was involved in the fighting around Mareth and El Hamma and was twice wounded. On 24 April, at Medjeh-el-Bab, Harman (promoted acting major) was leading his squadron of Crusaders when the Bays and 9th lancers came under heavy fire, taking casualties and losing eight tanks. Harman rescued a wounded driver, deployed the survivors, and restored control in the critical situation; he was awarded an MC in August 1943.

Early in 1944 Harman returned to England and was transferred to the 24th lancers, taking part in the Normandy landing at Gold Beach; he described it as ‘unpleasant’. In the autumn of 1944 he returned to the Bays in Italy as commander of A squadron and participated in difficult river crossings and the final decisive battles south of the Po, supporting the 78th division in spring 1945. Throughout the war most British and American tanks were vulnerable and suffered heavy losses: Harman was lucky to survive.

After the war Harman resolved to continue with his army career, and it was as a substantive major that on 29 November 1947 he married Gwladys May Murphy (1912–1996), daughter of Sir Idwal Lloyd and widow of Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald J. Murphy. He thereby acquired two stepdaughters, and he and his wife had one further daughter. Meanwhile, Harman had started playing polo in Italy after the war: a good horseman, he had natural aptitude, and subsequently played for his regiment and for the army. He attended the Staff College, Camberley, in 1949, then held staff appointments as GSO2 and deputy assistant quartermaster-general. Promoted brevet lieutenant-colonel in 1958, in 1959 he was second in command of the Bays when they amalgamated with the King's dragoon guards to form the 1st Queen's dragoon guards, and suppressed ‘the uncooperative factions’ (The Times, 31 Dec 2009). He commanded the regiment (1960–62), continuing the amalgamation process. He was appointed chief instructor of the all arms tactics wing at Warminster as a ‘new broom’, introducing new, more stimulating courses, and known as ‘Smiling Death’ from his ‘somewhat skeletal smile’ (ibid.). He commanded 11th infantry brigade, British army of the Rhine (1965–6), attended the Imperial Defence College, London (1967), was brigadier general staff to the army strategic command (1968–9), and commanded the 1st armoured division, British army of the Rhine (1970–72). In 1972 he was appointed commandant of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, to implement the army board's controversial decision to halve the two-year course. Harman agreed in principle and implemented a viable, if arguably inferior, course.

From 1974 Harman commanded 1st British corps in Germany. He opposed the cost-cutting elimination of brigade headquarters but was overruled. In 1976 he was promoted general and joined the army board as adjutant-general. He intensely disliked the post but was reportedly very successful. Under the Callaghan government inflation continued, services pay had fallen 30 per cent behind comparable civilians' pay, and recruiting, re-engagement, and morale declined. In the dispute over pay between the service chiefs and the government Harman had a leading role in negotiating an agreement by which services pay was increased.

In 1978 Harman became deputy supreme allied commander Europe under the American general Alexander Haig. He liked Haig but found his political ambition made military relations difficult. Harman was colonel of the Queen's dragoon guards (1975–80), colonel commandant of the Royal Armoured Corps (1977–80), and ADC general to the queen (1977–80). He was appointed OBE (1962), KCB (1974), and GCB (1978). According to a regimental colleague he had common sense, decisiveness, professionalism, cool judgement, and ‘an almost instinctive feel for what did and did not work in the army’ (Regimental Journal, 2009, 81).

Harman retired from the army in 1981. He was a director of Wilsons Hogg Robinson, insurance brokers (1982–8), and vice-chairman of the National Army Museum (1980–87) and of the Automobile Association (1984–90). He resided, as previously, at the village of Dinton, Wiltshire, attended regimental functions, and enjoyed tennis, gardening, and country pursuits. Following the death of his first wife he married, on 26 May 2001, Sheila Florence Perkins (b. 1926/7), daughter of Temple Gurdon and widow of Major Christopher Perkins. He died of prostate cancer on 28 December 2009 at his home in Dinton, near Salisbury, and was survived by his wife Sheila, his daughter, and his stepdaughters.

Roger T. Stearn

Sources  

W. R. Beddington, A history of the Queen's Bays: the 2nd Dragoon Guards, 1929–1945 (1954) · I. S. O. Playfair and others, The Mediterranean and Middle East, 6 vols. in 8 (1954–88), vols. 3 and 4 · K. Macksey, Tank warfare: a history of tanks in battle (1976) · E. Belfield, The Queen's Dragoon Guards (1978) · B. Pitt, The crucible of war: Western Desert, 1941 (1980) · B. Pitt, The crucible of war: year of Alamein, 1942 (1982) · D. Fraser, And we shall shock them (1983) · M. Dockrill, British defence since 1945 (1988) · H. Strachan, The politics of the British army (1997) · D. French, Raising Churchill's army: the British army and the war against Germany, 1919–1945 (2000) · J. A. Crang, ‘The defence of the Dunkirk perimeter’, The battle for France and Flanders, 1940: sixty years on, ed. B. Bond and M. D. Taylor (2001) · P. Chamberlain and C. Ellis, British and American tanks of World War Two (2004) · The Times (31 Dec 2009) · Daily Telegraph (31 Dec 2009) · Regimental Journal of the 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards (2009); (2010) · Kelly's (1948) · Wellington College Register (1997) · Burke, Peerage · WW (2009) · private information (2013) [C. Potter, Wellington College; A. Morton, Sandhurst Collection, RMAS] · b. cert. · m. certs. · d. cert.

Likenesses  

photograph, 1940, repro. in Regimental Journal (2009), 81 · D. James, group portrait, photograph, 1989 (with Princess Diana), Rex Features, London · photograph, repro. in Daily Telegraph (31 Dec 2009), · portrait, repro. in Regimental Journal (2010), 66

Wealth at death  

£1,599,406: probate, 14 May 2010, CGPLA Eng. & Wales