Ion Calvocoressi

12 Apr 1919
7 Jul 2007
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Major Ion Melville Calvocoressi MBE MC (12 April 1919 – 7 July 2007) was an officer in the British Army in the Second World War and later a stockbroker in the City of London. He was High Sheriff of Kent in 1978-79.

Calvocoressi was born in Calcutta, the only child of Matthew John Calvocoressi (1873–1939). His father was descended from a Greek family from Chios; two uncles married into the Ralli family. He was a director of the Indian branch of Greek merchant business, Ralli Brothers. His mother, Agnes Hermione Melville, was of Anglo-Scottish ancestry and was the granddaughter of Michael Linning Melville. His parents moved to London in 1922. He was educated at Eton College and read Modern Languages at Magdalen College, Oxford.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, he was commissioned into the Scots Guards in 1940, and was posted to Egypt with the 2nd Battalion in 1941. He won an immediate Military Cross in 1942, while serving as a lieutenant in command of a platoon of six-pounder anti-tank guns. The battalion was defending a ridge at Bir El Rigel in Libya. After days of intense fighting, the battalion was attacked by two armoured columns from the 21st Panzer Division on 13 June 1942. His platoon destroyed five German tanks before it was overrun. Calvocoressi was captured, but escaped the following night. He rejoined his unit the next day after walking 17 miles (27 km) across the desert.

He was wounded in July 1942, rescuing members of the battalion’s forward observation post, and became aide-de-camp to the commander of XXX Corps, Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese in 1943. He accompanied Leese in North Africa, and, after Leese took command of the Eighth Army, into Italy, and finally to the Far East, where Leese became commander of Allied Land Forces South East Asia. He received the MBE for his service.

He became a stockbroker after the war, concentrating on private client work. He moved to Westerham in Kent in 1950, near the country home of Winston Churchill at Chartwell. He was instrumental in the erection of a statue of Churchill by Oscar Nemon in the town in 1965. He was High Sheriff of Kent in 1978-79.

After he retired, he was chairman of the appeal for the Guards Museum at Wellington Barracks. He was also a life member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, a Fellow of the Ancient Monuments Society, and a financial adviser to the Royal Society of Musicians.

He was survived by his wife, Katherine Kennedy (the sister of Sir Ludovic Kennedy), whom he married on 29 April 1947, their three sons (James, Richard, and Andrew) and daughter (Iona). His son, art historian Richard Calvocoressi, was a curator at the Tate Gallery (1979–87) and director of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (1987–2007), and became director of the Henry Moore Foundation in 2007.

His cousin, Peter Calvocoressi, worked in RAF Intelligence at Bletchley Park in the Second World War and was an author.

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