Tim May passed away on 10th December 2015. His family has provided MCS with the following obituary.
Tim was born on 22nd October 1930 and was educated at the Dragon School and Magdalen College School. In his Memoirs, completed shortly before his death, he acknowledges that at MCS he revelled in the eccentric cast of teachers that inhabited the post-war school, and describes especially his sixth-form years as ‘idyllic’. He learnt to ‘love the sound of his own voice’. He gained an ‘abiding respect and love for the English language from which I have benefitted every day of my life since’. He excelled especially in sport – in rugby reaching the 1st XV, and also rowing, and the discus – at which he achieved a school record. As to the school JTC (Junior Training Corps) – he wrote: ‘There has been a military side to my life ever since. It is not hard to see what attracted me. Success depends on flair for acting, posturing and getting results from others. Add to this the need to dress up and play soldiers and I was hooked.’
He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery, and started National Service in 1950. He served in Rodriguez Guard Company in Egypt based at Tel el Kebir. He also served in the Oxfordshire Yeomanry Battery of 299 Regiment RA from 1951 to 1967. He raised and commanded 2nd Battallion the Wessex Regiment (TA), serving as Lieutenant Colonel (1971–73) and as TA Colonel (1973–79). He was appointed Aide de Camp to HM The Queen (1975–77) and served in the Eastern Wessex Territorial Auxiliary and Volunteer Reserve Association (TAVRA) from 1957 to 1995, and then became Chairman (1983–90). He became Deputy Chairman of the Council of TAVRAs (1988–90). He passionately believed in the social good of volunteer soldiering as a benefit for young men within their communities. He was made President of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry Association (1997–2014) and Chairman of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry Trust (1997–2009).
In January 1965, as a young officer in the Oxfordshire Yeomanry, he was in a position to receive the formal request for Winston Churchill’s own detailed instructions for his funeral which were kept in a safe place at the TA Centre in Oxford. Churchill had remained Honorary Colonel of the Regiment and had left instructions for the Regiment as the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars to have the special honour of preceding the coffin at his state funeral in the City of London. Tim recalled particularly the spine-tingling intensity and grief of the dress rehearsal in the early hours of the morning of 30th January 1965, and the fog and the darkness when he and 1,000 men marched the processional route in silence save for the beat of a single drum and the sound of their united footsteps.
In his business career Tim was an insurance inspector in 1955 in the East End of London when his contact Frank Damm introduced him to the proprietors of the now-infamous 777 Club where the aristocracy of the hard men of Bow would socialize. ‘I discovered that the main room of the bar was lavishly decorated with mirror glass. The proposer/proprietor, I can’t remember if his name was Kray or Richardson, explained that as often as once a week his customers got bored and amused themselves by smashing every pane of glass in the room! This was putting the club to a great deal of expense, which could, he was sure, be mitigated at a reasonable cost by insurance with a reliable company like mine!’ After some dispute and raised voices, Tim managed to leave the club by promising his best endeavours to persuade his underwriters to accept the risk. No policy was issued in the event. After the Royal Insurance Company, Tim moved on to Alexander and Alexander/AON (1965–95). He became Chairman of Bannerman Slayden Cater (1997–98) and was an Independent Risk Management Consultant from 1995 to 2007. In 1997 he became a Member of the Institute of Risk Management.
Tim’s heart lay in his work in the community as a reserve soldier, but his other charitable activities stand out. He was Chairman of the Small Charities Foundation (1999–2004) and its Vice-President in 2004. He was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in 1984, and received his CBE in 1988. In retirement Tim was the driving force behind the concept, funding, design and construction of the ‘Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum’ in the grounds of the County Museum in Woodstock – acting as Chairman until 2014, when he accompanied the Princess Royal at the Opening Ceremony. The main gallery of the new Museum stands as a memorial to his greatest achievement.
He leaves a wife, Ella, as well as children Matthew (OW 1978) and Sophie, and a grandson Harry.