My father Ian Madelin’s career in the RAF took him all over the world: from commanding a squadron in Cyprus to teaching at the Air War College at Maxwell air force base in Montgomery, Alabama; from working on the Harrier jump jet programme to a role at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, in Belgium. He rose to the rank of group captain.
Ian, who has died aged 82, ended his tour of duty in 1986 as air attache at the British embassy in Rome – a post he relished, given that its location allowed further scope for his lifelong appreciation of art.
He was born in Slough, Berkshire. His childhood was marked by the death of his father, Edward, when he was six, leaving his mother, Ethel, in poverty with three young children to support. Ian and his older brother, Ben, went to Lord Wandsworth college, a boarding school in Hook, Hampshire, through its foundation to educate children who have lost one or both parents. There they fielded the hardworking character inherited from their mother and their father’s fierce intelligence.
Ian was conscripted on leaving school, just after the second world war, and when his compulsory service was over he re-enlisted and went to the US to train as an RAF pilot.
In 1959, he met and married Elvira, a young Swiss au pair no doubt swept off her feet by the dashing pilot, and they had three children – me, John and James. The marriage ended in divorce.
Too full of energy to retire, from 1989 he worked as head of the air historical branch of the civil service before finding his final billet in 1998 as director of studies at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, while also studying for an MA in classics at Royal Holloway, University of London, and learning to play the piano.
Retirement in 2001 brought a new lease of life. He fell in love again, and found much happiness with his partner, Geraldine. They travelled the world together and shared many happy days in Tuscany. He touched the lives of many in recent years – from schoolchildren with reading difficulties, whom he tutored, to the Friends of St Clement Danes Council.
His many friends around the world will recall his dry sense of humour and his charm. Ian was a real gent.
Geraldine survives him, along with his sister, Yvonne, his children, and four grandchildren.