By Peter Tyrrell
The outcome of a WWII desert encounter had a profound affect leading to a constitutional crisis, involving Diana Princess of Wales, in 1996.
Major Bruce Shand , the father of Camilla Parker Bowles, owned and lived at Westdean Manor in the Cuckmere valley near Seaford.
He had been commissioned in the 12th Royal Lacers in 1937 and excelled in his rank. He was awarded the Military Cross during the British Expeditionary Force withdrawal through Belgium in 1940.
Towards the end of the Battle of El Alamein, in North Africa, in October 1942, Major Shand’s motorised squadron was ordered to the coast to ensure it was clear of the enemy.
The territory was accessible only by a steep track off the desert escarpment.
Major Shand and his patrol suddenly came across an enemy assembly. Their light armoured vehicle was attacked and was set alight. The crew of two soldiers were killed. Major Shand suffered a bullet passing through his cheeks, plus a knee wound. He was made a prisoner of war for the duration.
He married Hon Rosalind Cubitt on 2 January, 1946, and they had three children.
Their daughter Camilla was born in London on 17 July 1947, and she was christened at St Peter’s Church at Firle.
Camilla Shand went to Dumbrells School in Ditchling while the family lived at The Laines in Plumpton. (Princess Diana’s mother, Frances Shand Kydd, was linked to the Major’s family.)
Bruce Shand was variously joint and acting Master of the South Downs Fox Hounds 1956-1975 and Deputy Lieutenant for Sussex.
He passed away on 11 June 2006 aged 89 years. The persistent media pressure arising from his daughter’s role in society tried his patience and fuelled sympathy for anybody in that position. Had that wartime German bullet passing through the Major’s cheeks deviated slightly and taken his life the position with our Royal Family, Prince Charles’ 1996 divorce from Diana Princess of Wales and his re-marriage would never have evolved.