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News > Announcements > In Memoriam: Terry O'Neil (51-56)

In Memoriam: Terry O'Neil (51-56)

You are warmly welcomed to leave a message below, share your memories, and celebrate the life of Terry O'Neil (51-56), who we sadly lost in 2022.
24 Nov 2022
Written by Robin Knight

Terrence N. O’Neil (51-56) died peacefully at home on 31st October 2022 aged 84 after a long illness. He left a wife Ingrid, a daughter, two sons and grandchildren. He was “a cherished friend to many.” His private funeral took place in late-November. A memorial event is planned for the near future.

At the Nautical College Terry was a Cadet Captain in Hesperus Division and one of the NCP’s leading sportsmen of his day, captaining the Boxing team in 1956 (when no school would put up a fighter to oppose him), playing lock in the 1955 1st XV, representing the school for three years in the cricket 1st X1 and captaining the side in 1956. This team was one of the poorest of the era winning only one of eleven school matches. Terry had to open both the batting and bowling. Nevertheless, noted The Log, O’Neil had “striven to remain cheerful in the face of adversity” – a characteristic that remained evident throughout his life.

From the NCP, he entered RMA Sandhurst. In 2010 his friend, Lt. Colonel Mike Nicholson (57-61), wrote an appreciation of Terry O’Neil in the OP Magazine. It is reproduced below.

“Terry, a tall, energetic instantly likeable chain-smoking Captain wafted into my life in the 1960s when he joined the Regiment in which I was serving as a mere subaltern. His unbounded enthusiasm impacted on all, but his cult status among us warts only became enshrined when, overnight, he gave up smoking and returned to the boxing ring.

Even civilian readers will appreciate that boxing as an officer is a high-risk activity in the Services. So it should be recorded that Terry was only the second officer have boxed for The Army since 1945. The night that Terry won the Divisional Heavyweight Final proved memorable for several reasons. First, his opponent sprung out of his corner,

landed on his ankle and was carted off, 1eaving Terry the winner. Second, as the tournament progressed, the regiment was subjected to a practice operational call out. With the CO (Commanding Officer) miles away watching the boxing, his deputy back at base decided that moving out of barracks would be rather tiresome. So, we sat in our vehicles making bog reports of mobility. Our contribution to deterrence at that time has been grossly underestimated.

Assessing Terry’s boxing prowess is easier than making judgements on Cold War deterrence. He was a member of the     Army Boxing team 1958-1965. He scored the quickest KO in Sandhurst vs Cranwell in history which ultimately brought an end to such competitions. He was BAOR Heavyweight Champion 1961, 1962 and 1967. And, perhaps bravest of all, he taught John Ridgway (51-55) to box although, allegedly, it is the latter who wears the scars.

While sport played a significant part in Terry’s life, there was always another dimension — a career in the Army.  Progression at the time required an officer to pass the Staff College examination as well as gaining the appropriate recommendations. The cognoscenti let it be known that Terry was most unlikely to pass the exam. Not for the first time, I suspect, he had been undervalued. In due course he attended the Staff College 1970-1971.

In 1978 Terry, by then a Major, decided to leave the Army to begin what turned out to be a highly successful commercial career. Initially,  he worked for Hapag-Lloyd (UK) Ltd as Group Company Secretary on the main Board. In 1983 he moved into the security business and set up Argus Shield in partnership with two others the following year. In 1991 they sold Argus Shield to Pinkertons. Terry was then appointed CEO Pinkertons (Europe).

In 1998, aged 60, he handed over his CEO role. At this point many would have retired, but Terry’s energy levels demanded a more active outlet. In partnership with his daughter Susie and younger son Steve, he co-founded The Security Watchdog which, in time, became a leading voice in the security business and helped to raise standards in the industry. Later he formed another successful security-related company.

The only son of a Fleet Air Arm pilot killed in action in 1944, Terry grabbed hold of life and lived it to the full. Aside from boxing, he has excelled at cricket, rugby, squash and golf. He is a man whose personality readily fills a room but without ever being obtrusive or ostentatious – a difficult balance. He is also a generous man both with his time and money. Two illustrations come to mind. Unsolicited, he offered to help with second career guidance to Service leavers. On another occasion, to celebrate his birthday, some of his many friends were treated to a wonderful day of golf in which he made sure everyone won a prize. Attention to detail is another of his qualities.

Reflecting on such a stellar career, I am convinced that the NCP played a key role in shaping Terry’s approach to life. In an era dominated by the so-called cult of celebrity, it does no harm to remind ourselves that the reputation of an institution does not rest on individuals but on its collective qualities. Terry O’Neil has exemplified all that was, and no doubt still is, good about Pangbourne.”

On receiving news of Terry’s death, Mike Nicholson added: “To me, Terry was a giant of a man who was genuine, generous and inspirational. In his later years he was a fan of Fulham football club and proved to be a magnanimous host to any guest who joined him in the Members' restaurant. That said, he always enjoyed being involved with winners and when Fulham dropped out of the Premier League his interest waned. It is fitting therefore that the Club clawed its way back to the top division while Terry was still alive. Golf remained a passion for Terry and, happily, he tolerated hackers like me. Whether the event involved golf or football or business, Terry 'filled the room' with a presence, underwritten by unrelenting humour.”

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