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Arthur Bookey Riall

(1911-1984), Air Commodore

Sitter in 4 portraits

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Arthur Bookey Riall, by Elliott & Fry - NPG x82993

Arthur Bookey Riall

by Elliott & Fry
quarter-plate negative, 1962
NPG x82993

Arthur Bookey Riall, by Elliott & Fry - NPG x82994

Arthur Bookey Riall

by Elliott & Fry
quarter-plate negative, 1962
NPG x82994

Arthur Bookey Riall, by Elliott & Fry - NPG x82995

Arthur Bookey Riall

by Elliott & Fry
quarter-plate negative, 1962
NPG x82995

Arthur Bookey Riall, by Elliott & Fry - NPG x82996

Arthur Bookey Riall

by Elliott & Fry
quarter-plate negative, 1962
NPG x82996

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Trevor Moore

05 February 2020, 11:52

As a member of Dublin University Rifle Club (Trinity College, Dublin) in the late 1970's, I remember Air Commodore Riall as a nice old man of Anglo Irish roots who took an interest in our Club and we were the only Irish Team from the Republic of Ireland taking part in the Bisley Imperial Meeting which was held every year in July. If we had a problem, he had it sorted.

Dr Nicholas Riall

12 December 2019, 13:46

Arthur Bookey Riall

My Dad, I am his eldest son from his second marriage, was born in Leeds, west Yorkshire on 7 December 1911, to Malcolm Riall – then a Captain in the West Yorkshire Regt, serving as Adjutant of the Leeds Rifles, 7/West Yorks – and Sydney Maud Riall (née Lefroy, her great uncle was Thomas Lefroy, the storied early suitor of Jane Austen). Malcolm Riall’s period of service expired in early 1914, and it wss time for him to begin civilian life. The Rialls were an Anglo-Irish family and in spring 1914 the family arrived back in Ireland to take up residence in a grand but dilapidated house in County Kilkenny. Their tranquil life was soon shattered of course, Malcolm was recalled to the Colours to serve his country once more, soon finding himself commanding a company of reservists on the Northumberland coast, before joining his regiment on the Somme.
Arthur’s early life was largely spent in Kilkenny, where he learnt to ride, shoot and hunt to hounds. All too soon he was packed off to school, the seat of learning chosen for him was Arnold House, Llandudno, in north Wales. He loathed the sea crossing and was usually seasick. Not that he much liked Arnold House, where he was taught for a short spell by none other than Evelyn Waugh. Dad did not much care for him either. Then came Charterhouse school, Godalming, in leafy Surrey where he discovered a talent for target rifle shooting and explored a growing love of bird-watching. He was not a scholar but was able enough to pass the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.
Dad was commissioned into the East Yorkshire Regiment in 1932, his earliest days as an infantry officer were at the regimental depot, then in Beverley, east Yorkshire. Here he was quartered in a bell tent of the type his father had used during the war with the Boers in South Africa. Not much fun in depths of winter, said Dad. He was soon enough warm, indeed very hot, as he was posted to India to join the 1st battalion of the regiment. Here he learnt his trade as an infantry officer, enjoyed the social life, and like his father before him, took part in big game hunting – as well as adding to a large collection of birds’ eggs and butterflies. All frowned upon now of course. When war broke out in 1939 he was still in India and here he remained, frustrated by inaction, until 1944 when he was finally posted home. He was temporarily the commanding officer of a battalion of the Rifles when D-Day came, but soon after was posted to 2/East Yorks who were then in northern France. His battalion took part in the Arnhem campaign, during which he was badly wounded and evacuated back to England. He recovered quickly and was back in Germany in time to see the end of the war, now serving on the staff of General Horrocks. In the interim, he fell in love with and married Penny Wallace, with whom he had a son, Noel. In later years he would tell his children from his second marriage, ‘Marry in haste and repent at your leisure’, I am not entirely certain his quip was meant as a joke. The marriage was a mistake and they separated in 1946.
With the cessation of hostilities, he was posted back to England, Dad was now at the Army Small Arms School but was not a happy man and he was advised that his future career in the Army was not promising. By great good fortune a position came up that suited him down to the ground. The RAF Levies in Iraq required a Brigade Major who was capable of hunting a pack of hounds. Dad could, he applied and got the job. The hunt was the Royal Exodus Hunt, based at RAF Habbaniyah. They hunted jackal, there being no foxes. Dad thoroughly enjoyed being a Master of Foxhounds, moreover of a hunt that had royalty that regularly rode out with him, these being members of the Iraqi royal family.
It was at ‘Hab’ that Dad met my Mum, who was a RAF nursing sister. They were married in 1950, by which time they were back in England, based at RAF Catterick. In 1953 they returned to Iraq where Dad was now the Commanding Officer of the RAF Levies; here they remained until 1955 when the Levies were disbanded following the UK’s withdrawal from Iraq, which was now a republic. Back in England, Dad was posted to command the RAF Regiment Depot at Catterick, where I was soon in trouble for bicycling across the parade ground. Dad had been promoted to Group Captain in 1954, in which rank he remained until early 1963, in no small part because he refused to allow his boss to replace all the officers in a squadron about to be posted to Aden. A direct consequence of his sensible action was to be posted to Cyprus, in effect side-lined, which resulted in his not rising to become Commandant of the RAF Regiment, but instead leaving the service as an Air Commodore. An amusing tale was told of his posting from RAF Catterick, where he had had a staff car and driver assigned to him, thence to RAF Brampton, where he was but one of several Group Captains, with a good number of more senior officers too. An old friend arranged for him to be issued a bicycle, reckoning that Dad would not have a clue how to use it. Of course, in the 1930s officer cadets at Sandhurst were taught to ride a bicycle properly, which included going full tilt at a wall and avoiding a collison at the last moment by turning the wheel away.
He retired in December 1966 and moved to his one and only civilian job: Secretary of the National Rifle Association at Bisley, in effect – the CEO. His many years of target rifle shooting, during which he was in teams representing his regiment, the Army and then the RAF stood him in good stead. The shooting continued in these years, he was proud to represent, as an A N Other, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in their annual match. These were good years for him, often to be seen walking the Bisley ranges with a faithful Labrador at his heels. But it was his years in Iraq he loved the best, a last hurrah for the British Raj.
He died in 1984, leaving a further six children of whom I am the eldest.


Malcolm Brown Bookey Riall, Major West Yorks Regt, served South Africa 1899-1902 (despatches) and World War 1 (wounded), OBE 1919, b.22.7.1879, educated Charterhouse & RMC Sandhurst, married 21.9.1910 Sydney Maud Lefroy (she died 23.8.1963) only surviving daughter of Capt Robert Lefroy JP (see Burke Landed Gentry)) and d.23.5.1968 leaving issue:
Arthur Bookey Riall
Ruth Maude Riall
Barbara Daphne Riall

Arthur and Penelope (neé Wallace), had issue:
Noel Patrick Riall, b.24.12.1945 – d.12.1.1915

Arthur and Pamela Patricia (neé Hewitt), had issue
Nicholas John Erskine Riall, b.16.9.51
Richard Timothy Lee Riall, b.23.3.1953
James Malcolm Lefroy Riall, b.6.7.1954
Robin Arthur Hewitt Riall, b.6.3.1956
Caroline Jane Riall, b.30.5.1960
Philip David Phineas Riall, b.29.4.1963

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