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Lord Middleton


The 12th Lord Middleton, who has died aged 90, loved country life and was dedicated to public service.

Commissioned in 1940, he served with distinction as an officer of the Coldstream Guards throughout the Second World War.

Captain Michael Willoughby, as he then was, took part in the Normandy landings in June 1944 as second-in-command of a company whose commander was soon wounded. Willoughby took over, and in July, when the company came under intense fire while being relieved by a unit from another regiment in pitch darkness, he had to evacuate casualties and reorganise the operation under very difficult conditions.

He was awarded a Croix de Guerre, the citation paying tribute to his coolness and efficiency in a critical situation and to the courage and endurance that he had shown throughout the advance.

As he and his men marched across France toward Germany, Willoughby met every danger courageously. He lost "many of his closest friends and considering himself extremely fortunate to come through unscathed."

When he returned home in 1946, he married, started a family and read Land Management at Cambridge. He knew he had to be informed to run Birdsall's 12,000 acres. Knowledgeable about wildlife and forestry, he ran his family estate in the interest of conservation and the people who lived and worked there.

Lord Middleton was "quiet, courteous and reserved". He served in the House of Lords and on the East Riding and North Yorkshire county councils, contributing his time and his experience over years of service.

The Telegraph notes that Lord Middleton thought Europe could work well as a trading bloc, but not as a political unit.

He kept his hand to the plough, and died as he was, a gallant gentleman.

Ave atque Vale.

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