RIP: Francis Ingall
San Rafael - Brigadier General Francis H. B. Ingall, a British war hero and one of the Bay Area’s most colorful personalities, died here of pneumonia last month at the age of 89. Brigadier Ingall was the last of the Bengal Lancers, the last British officer on the Indian subcontinent to lead a charge into battle astride his horse with his sword drawn. Born in Surrey, England, on October 24, 1908, he was educated at the Hurstpierpoint public school, and graduated from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in 1928. After Snadhurst, he won a coveted commission to the Sixth Duke of Connaught’s Own Lancers - the so-called Sixth Lancers - one of the famed Regiments of Bengal Lancers. “He was the epitome of the British Raj,” said his longtime friend and fellow officer Ian Roger, the current president of the Queen’s officers club. “His passing marks the end of an epoch,” said Roger. “History will never see the like of him again. In his first action in India, in 1931, he led his Lancers in a charge on horseback at the battle of Karawal near the Khyber Pass against the fierce Afridi tribesmen on India’s northwest frontier. It was the final such attack by a regiment of the British Army.” Brigadier Ingall continued to serve in India until the onset of World War II. He also led his Lancers Regiment during World War II. But by then the unit had been mechanized - its horses and swords replaced by armored cars and machine guns. He spent most of the war in the Middle East and Italy, where he led successful campaigns in the battles of Senio and Santerno and the Po and Adige rivers. He was cited by the commanding general for his “vigorous offensive actions” in clearing pockets of Nazi resistance, thereby “greatly aiding the Allied advance toward the Argenta Gap.” Subsequently at the Po and Adige Rivers he discovered bridges that had not been blown up, and through quick action prevented their destruction by the enemy, thereby enabling his own mechanized unit as well as other armored units of the Allied armies to cross safely. For his “bold and imaginative” leadership of the Lancers, as well as his gallantry, “regardless of personal risk,” he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order of the British Empire. Pakistan’s late President, General Zia-ul-Haq, called Brigadier Ingall “one of the founding fathers of our army.” During his many years in India and Pakistan, the brigadier knew and worked with the area’s most important dignitaries, including Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru, Lord Mountbatten and Lord Ismay. He revisited Pakistan many times as an honored guest of state. Brigadier Ingall retired in 1951 and emigrated to the Bay Area, where he served for many years as the honorary consul general for Pakistan. He was the founder and president of the Queen’s Club, a British-American officers club created to cultivate cooperation and forge friendships among officers of the Allied forces. He was also president of the Royal British Legion and was a knight commander of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. A tall, handsome and distinguished-looking man with a military mustache and an imposing bearing, Brigadier Ingall was a stage and screen actor, as well, and a member of the Screen Actors Guild. He appeared in several Clint Eastwood films and in television shows, including “Mission Impossible.” He was also the author of several successful books - the best known of which is “The Last of the Bengal Lancers.” Brigadier Ingall is survived by his wife of 42 years, Margaret Ingall of Sonoma; his daughter, Carola Ingall of Alton, England; his son, Lieutenant Colonel Ivor Ingall of the Royal Iniskilling Dragoons, Ret., of Hampshire, England; three grandchildren; and five great-grand-children.
- J. L. Pimsleur