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General Sir William Gerald Hugh Beach, GBE, KCB, MC (20 May 1923 – 4 September 2019)[1] was a British Army officer who, in retirement, researched and advised on defence policy, arms control and disarmament, with an interest in promoting concerns about ethical issues of peace and war.

Sir Hugh Beach
Born(1923-05-20)20 May 1923
Died4 September 2019(2019-09-04) (aged 96)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1941–1981
Commands heldStaff College, Camberley
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Military Cross

Early lifeEdit

Beach was educated at Winchester College, Peterhouse, Cambridge (MA 1961) and the University of Edinburgh (MSc 1971).[2]

Military careerEdit

Beach joined the Corps of Royal Engineers in August 1941. He saw active service in France in 1944 and in Java in 1946. During the 1960s he commanded an engineer regiment and an infantry brigade, both at Osnabrück in Germany. He was director of army staff duties at the Ministry of Defence from 1971 to 1973, commandant of the Staff College, Camberley from 1974 to 1975 and Deputy Commander-in-Chief UK Land Forces from 1976 to 1977 before becoming Master-General of the Ordnance (Army Board member for Procurement) from 1977 to 1981.[2]

Beach also served as Colonel of the Royal Pioneer Corps from 1976 to 1981.[3]

Later lifeEdit

Retiring from the army in 1981, he served as warden of St. George's House, Windsor Castle from 1981 to 1986, vice-Lord Lieutenant of Greater London from 1981 to 1987, Chief Royal Engineer from 1982 to 1987 and member of the Security Commission from 1982 to 1991. He chaired Ministry of Defence Study Groups on Censorship in War in 1983 and Education in the Army in 1984. He was director of the Council for Arms Control from 1986 to 1989. In the 1990s he was chairman of the governors of Gordon's and Bedales schools, and also chaired the boards of the Church Army and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Beach was a member of the board or executive committee of: the Council for Christian Approaches to Defence,[4] the Centre for Defence Studies (King's College London), the Verification Technology Information Centre (VERTIC),[5] the International Security Information Service (ISIS),[6] and of the British Pugwash Group.[7] He lectured and contributed chapters to over two dozen books as well as publishing a number of monographs, articles and book reviews. In 1999 he co-authored, with Nadine Gurr, a book on British nuclear weapons policy[8] and, in 2001, a briefing paper on cluster bombs,[9]

In January 2009, The Times newspaper published a joint letter from Field Marshal Lord Bramall, General Lord Ramsbotham and General Beach arguing that the UK government should fund more realistic military needs rather than perpetuate its Trident programme,[10] arguing that:

Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently, or are likely to, face — particularly international terrorism; and the more you analyse them the more unusable they appear.

Beach died 4 September 2019 at age 96.[1]


Beach held honorary Doctorate of Civil Laws from the University of Kent in Canterbury (1990). He was an honorary fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge and of the Chartered Institute of Building Service Engineers, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute.[11]


  1. ^ a b "General Sir Hugh Beach, brilliant soldier decorated after D-Day who went on to carry out a radical re-organisation of the nation's reserve forces – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b Beach, Hugh (May 1986). "British Defence Policy and the South Atlantic". South Atlantic Council Occasional Papers. City University. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Royal Pioneer Corps". Archived from the original on 5 January 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ Council for Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament
  5. ^ VERTIC
  6. ^ ISIS
  7. ^ Pugwash Conferences on science and world affairs
  8. ^ Beach H and Gurr N Flattering the Passions, Or, The Bomb and Britain's Bid for a World Role
  9. ^ Beach H Cluster Bombs: the Case for New Controls, ISIS Europe, May 2001
  10. ^ UK does not need a nuclear deterrent The Times, 16 January 2009
  11. ^ Hugh Beach – A Memoir (ed) David Evans, (W. G. H. Beach, London, 2003)
Military offices
Preceded by
Patrick Howard-Dobson
Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley
Succeeded by
John Stanier
Preceded by
Sir Allan Taylor
Deputy C-in-C UK Land Forces
Succeeded by
Sir Peter Hudson
Preceded by
Sir John Gibbon
Master-General of the Ordnance
Succeeded by
Sir Peter Leng
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir David Willison
Chief Royal Engineer
Succeeded by
Sir George Cooper