Contrary to gratuitous citations of service in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Army Intelligence, Lieutenant-Colonel Nigel Wylde, who has the dual distinction of being awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal and later being arrested and charged under Section two of the new Official Secrets Act, was not a Sapper nor in the Army Intelligence Corps. Commissioned from the RMA, Sandhurst, in 1968, he served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and, in 1970, was trained as an ammunition technical officer after which the career of this ex-Dukie took many interesting twists and turns.
Nigel entered the School in 1956 at age nine. His father, Norman Wylde, a Post Office Engineer, volunteered for the Territorial Army in 1934. The Territorial Army was a volunteer reserve force that required volunteers to serve 27 training days annually including two weeks of continuous training in either a TA unit or on courses attached to a regular unit. In 1934, Wylde Senior served in the ranks as a signalman, did his annual two-weeks training, and continued serving in the reserve. In his civilian capacity of Post Office Engineer, he was, by 1939, responsible for design and installation of the telephone network in Stockport and South Cheshire.
He married Nigel's mother in July 1938 and the following year was called to full-time military duty and sent to France with the BEF at the beginning of September. Though still in the rank of Signalman he was made responsible in France for rear communications of the BEF. This was similar to the work he had been doing in Cheshire. The rear communications to the Home Command went via Swingate - a local name Dukies will recognize - with even the landline being switched that way.
Returning to the UK a week before the disastrous evacuation of Dunkirk, Signalman Wylde was commissioned and posted to India in late 1940 and there spent the next five years having during that period attended Staff College at Quetta. Lieutenant, Captain and later Major Wylde served on the staff of Lord Mountbatten, which assured him, by most standards of World War II warfare, a fairly pleasant war.
He returned to the UK at the end of 1945 to collect his wife Mary and promptly returned to India to again work for Mountbatten in the lead up to the independence of India and creation of Pakistan. Nigel, their son, was born in March 1947 in Rawalpindi to where his father had been posted preparatory to independence and the partition of Imperial India. The Wylde family was on the last train out of Pindi for Bombay. Nigel records that his father was in command of the train and that it was attacked several times in the Punjab. His mother, too, had an interesting work experience, which began before she met and married Nigel's father.
She started work in 1935 in reception at the Midland Hotel in Manchester and was selected by the chairman of the LMS (the London, Midland and Scottish railway) for management training. (Her selection was by capability she said, but by looks according to everyone else as the Chairman had an eye for handsome women). Nigel's mother first went to Gleneagles - LMS owned - then to the George V hotel in Paris, but ending up in early 1937 at the Adlon in Berlin where she once helped serve Goebbels.
Nigel's parents parted and went their separate ways in the early 1950s, which was the main reason that he was admitted to the Duke of York's in 1956 at the age of nine. He spent the next ten years in Haig House then Clive and then back to Haig in 1960 on the formation of the Junior School before returning to Clive a year later and went from there to the RMA, Sandhurst, from which, in 1968, he was commissioned in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. In 1970, he received training as an ammunition technical office, specialising in guided weapons. The work of ammunition technical officers included the disposal of terrorist bombs and explosive ordnance of conventional munitions. In 1974, he spent from June through October commanding No. 1 Section of 321 EOD Unit (explosive ordnance disposal) in Belfast. The work involved disposing of terrorist bombs (archly referred to these days as 'improvised explosive devices'). Bomb disposal is a dangerous occupation, which naturally included gathering intelligence having to do with those who made it their business to assemble and place these destructive devices. As a result, Wylde frequently gave evidence in court cases ranging from the lower end of the terrorist scale - for example, those charged with conspiring to create explosions - to outright murder. He also gave expert evidence over the year in a number of cases in London that involved bombing attacks on the Israeli Embassy and various other Jewish premises. He has been for many years an adviser to the Justice for the Forgotten group in Dublin who support the families and victims of the May 1974 bombings in Dublin and Monaghan when 34 people were killed and over 250 injured. He gave evidence to the Judge Henry Baron who was charged with holding an enquiry into the circumstances of the attacks and later to the Joint Committee of the Irish Parliament considering the Baron Reort.
For his bomb disposal work in Northern Ireland, Captain Wylde, as he was at the time, was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal, a no mean award that recognized his bravery.
In 1982, following completion of a two year technical staff course, he was sent to work for the British Military Mission to the Soviet Forces in East Germany (BRIXMIS). In this role he was responsible for the collection and analysis of technical intelligence on the Soviet Forces. According to STASI records he like his predecessors in the same post was regarded as the most dangerous member of the Mission to Soviet Interests. Twenty years later his daughter was barred from visiting Odessa in the Ukraine because her father was 'still a major intelligence officer and threat to the Ukraine'.
By the time he left the Army in 1991, Wylde had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. University and a law degree followed his parting company with the Army. Then, in a civilian capacity, he worked under contract for the Ministry of Defence. Given his training, his experience and expertise with a variety of explosive materials and devices, it may be assumed with confidence that his work for the MoD was in some capacity of national security intelligence. Nor is it necessary here to recite any record of his work in the intelligence field, which is amply discussed and related in a variety of documents already in the public domain. Those interested in regurgitated accounts of Colonel Wylde's intelligence career are referred to The Guardian for 1 March 2000,
;and numerous other references to be found on Google.
Of more compelling interest to fellow alumni is Nigel Wylde's debunking of the so-called 2006 air transport plot, said to be a terrorist conspiracy to blow up ten airliners bound for the United States and Canada from the United Kingdom. The alleged plan was to smuggle liquids on board an aircraft that could be mixed in a washroom and used to blow up the plane. Any sapper worth his salt knows that more than an explosive mixture is needed to cause an explosion. The problem was that the security services had briefed widely that the explosive was to be TATP. Well this could not have been made on a single flight across the Atlantic nor would in be ready during the return flight but a day or so later. So the story was false. The individuals did conspire to blow up the planes and were rightly sent to prison for long periods but the legacy we all face when traveling of limited liquids in hand baggage is an unnecessary precaution that inconveniences many.
Nigel Wylde therefore stated the obvious in saying what the security services had briefed the press was false. Some members of the press without speaking to him then claimed the whole the conspiracy to be a hoax, but it was not; it just would not have worked and for that we should all be happy. We should be thankful for having a Nigel Wylde in our midst to point out the obvious as he did in the Baron Enquiry and on, no doubt, numerous other occasions when offering his expert advice on matters of national security. May the institution we have known as our alma mater for many a long year produce other Dukies to follow in the path that Nigel Wylde has trod.