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News > Deaths & Obituaries > GUNNELL, Jo Charles Colonel OBE

GUNNELL, Jo Charles Colonel OBE

You are warmly invited to leave a message below, share your memories, and celebrate the life of Colonel Jo Gunnell OBE, who we sadly lost in 2023.

The following obituary was written by Jo Gunnel's friend, OT Hugh Carson (MH 60-64):

Jo lived a full life. He had had a distinguished career as an infantry officer in the British Army (retiring as a Full Colonel), was a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, and in retirement he held an important post in SSAFA (Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association). He was a loving husband to Di, a devoted father and grandfather, and a loyal friend. He enjoyed his golf and played off a very respectable handicap at his nearby club, the Royal  St George’s Sandwich. He had an old-fashioned courtesy about him which matched his many talents and achievements.  

If you didn’t know the true Jo you might well conclude from the above that such a pillar of society might have been a bit serious-minded, worthy; perhaps even pleased with himself. You would be seriously wrong. Below the surface lurked a hilarious sense of humour which yearned to break cover. As you would expect of a good military man, Jo knew perfectly well how to control it but when it did take off it could be alarming to anyone who had been taking themselves, or indeed Jo, too seriously. Rarely was the humour hurtful, mostly it was hilarious - sometimes, especially in the early days, bordering on the bizarre - but always enlivening.  Having known him for over 60 years I can also vouch for his constant thoughtfulness, kindliness, and selflessness.

Jo would have hated being cited like this as some sort of paragon. Indeed, he relished stories against himself. His son James told one to the packed congregation in Sandwich at the Thanksgiving Service  for Jo’s life. In 1967 a Cornish Mayor in a civic speech made a point of singling out a fine young subaltern who had valiantly led his platoon’s efforts to help clear up some of the 30 million gallons of crude oil that had been spilt during the Torrey Canyon disaster. The platoon had been immaculate: courteous, industrious and obviously happy to be led by such an admirable young man. It so happened that the Mayor was also the chair of the local bench. Whether by accident or design I do not know, but he chose not to mention in his speech that Jo just 18 months earlier, then an officer cadet at Sandhurst, had been up before him and the beaks with a couple of other high-spirited associates, and convicted of switching the signposts around in those narrow pre-satnav west country lanes.  

It is a tragedy that someone of such fun and so loved, should have been snatched from us so young. We all miss him very much.

Hugh Carson 

(MH 60 - 64)

Photos below taken on Hugh's treasured Kodak Box Camera

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