Brigadier Gordon Viner, brigade commander of the federal regular army, Aden 1960's.
Tuesday, 06 December 2005

Brigadier Gordon Viner, CBE, MC and Bar (Wal. 1931-34), who has died aged 87, was awarded an MC in France in 1944 and a Bar in Germany the following year.

The 7th Battalion, the Hampshire Regiment was one of the first British units to enter Germany, and early in 1945 took a leading part in the fighting to eliminate the enemy salient west of the river Roer.

On January 22 Viner, then a major, was in command of "A" Company during an attack on the villages of Putt and Waldenrath, north of Aachen.

After the capture of Putt, the company was the first to cross 600 yards of the snow-covered open ground to Waldenrath. Mines delayed the start by 45 minutes, with the result that the artillery smoke programme had finished by the time the attack got under way. Both flanks of the advance were exposed and came under heavy mortar, artillery and small arms fire.

Faced with this stiff resistance, Viner led his men across the open stretch with great dash and no regard for his own safety. His company dealt with enemy concealed in haystacks between the two villages and operating from strong points in trenches.

The Germans were relying on their enfilade fire to break up the attack, but they were caught out by the speed with which Viner's company overran the north of Waldenrath and they became disorganised. Two other companies came up in support, and the village was rapidly cleared. A large number of prisoners was taken, many of whom had to be routed out of cellars.

Viner was awarded a Bar to the MC he had received the previous year.

Charles Gordon Talbot Viner, the son of an officer in the South Lancashire Regiment, was born in Liverpool on May 6 1918 and educated at Brighton College and Allhallows School, Devon. In 1938 he enlisted in the 5/7th Battalion, the Hampshire Regiment and was commissioned the following year.

Viner commanded a rifle company of 7th Hampshires in north-west Europe from August 1944 to the end of the campaign. On August 2 1944, during an attack on Point 321, a dominating feature near Jurques, south-west of Caen, his company was held up twice by enemy machine-gun fire; but he led it to success at the third attempt.

Early in October an observation post came under intense shell and mortar fire. It was vital to the defence because it covered the crossing place used by the Germans to reinforce their bridgehead on the south bank of the Neder Rijn.

Viner manned the post himself and directed mortar and machine-gun fire on the enemy as they tried to cross the river. On the next two days, while under heavy fire, he led his company in a number of counter-attacks on the bridgehead. The citation for his first MC declared that the Germans had defended fanatically and that he had set a very fine example to his men.

After the end of the war Viner had several staff appointments before attending Staff College. In 1951 he commanded a company of 1st Battalion, the Royal Hampshire Regiment in BAOR and then moved to the School of Artillery as an infantry instructor. He instructed at the Staff College, Camberley, and the Canadian Army Staff College before taking command of the 1st Battalion, Aden Protectorate Levies, in 1960.

After a spell at the War Office as assistant adjutant-general, he returned to Aden in 1964 as Commander Federal Regular Army and was appointed CBE at the end of his tour.

Viner served at HQ Southern Command for a year, then retired from the Army in 1968. He became a dealer in fine art in Bond Street, specialising in portrait miniatures, and was an active member of the Bond Street Association.

A convert to Roman Catholicism during the Second World War, he did much work for the local community and the Church. In 1975 he became the first chairman of the Residents' Association of Mayfair, and endeavoured to improve the standards of the poorest accommodation in the area.

He also ran a vigorous campaign to restrict temporary office permissions and the proliferation of gaming club licences. In an effort to ensure that these issues received the attention they deserved, Viner and a fellow member of RAM stood for election to the Westminster City Council and were both elected as independent councillors.

In addition he served as chairman of Farm Street's church council, was a Knight of St Gregory and secretary of the Association of Papal Knights in Britain.

Gordon Viner died on October 14. He married, in 1942, Bette Fellows. She predeceased him, and he is survived by their two sons.

Published with kind permission of the Daily Telegraph.

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