Larry Orpen-Smellie OBE


Roll of Honour: 
Larry Orpen-Smellie OBE



Crack rifle shot Lieutenant Colonel 'Larry' Orpen-Smellie, who saw service with the Essex and Parachute Regiments, Died of cancer on May 17, 2002, aged 72 after a courageous battle against cancer.

His widow Jean, son Giles and his daughter Jane survive him.

Larry, as he was known since childhood, looked every inch a soldier: ramrod straight back, bristling moustache, twinkling eye and a purposeful stride, often breaking into a double. He was one of this country's leading rifle shots, both as a soldier and as a member of the
National Rifle Association. indeed, he put shooting so high on his list of priorities that it may have cost him the chance of more senior rank. His final few years in the service were spent commanding a wing at the Military Corrective Training Centre at Colchester, which suddenly had a run of successes in the Army's minor units shooting competitions. He accepted a retired officer's appointment as regimental secretary of the 3rd Battalion of The Royal Anglian Regiment at the Essex regiment's former depot at Warley and then retired officer for lands and training in headquarters eastern district, Colchester, He was latterly president of the South-East Essex branch of the Parachute Regimental Association, and president of the Colchester branches of the Royal British Legion, the Korean Veterans Association and the Malayan and Borneo Veterans Association.

Larry, awarded the OBE in 1980, for his services to military shooting, celebrated his 70th birthday in New Zealand with a bungee jump. It was later reported that a voice had been heard from somewhere behind him in the queue saying:
‘the old boy won't go.'' He did, with the characteristic dive that he had always used when jumping from the balloon during his military parachuting days. After his father, Major Archie Smellie of the Dorset regiment, was killed at Dunkirk in 1940, his mother, Beth, a lifelong volunteer of the St John Ambulance brigade, they both went to live with her parents in their house at Colchester, which has remained the family home.

Educated at Wellington College, Berkshire, where he shot in the first schools’ Ashburton Challenge Shield match held after the war and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Essex regiment in 1949 and posted to the 1st Battalion in Colchester as a rifle platoon commander. He attracted a degree of notoriety for his pranks, which included the lowering of a thunder flash down the chimney of the Officers' Club during a ladies bridge evening, which Larry judged needed livening up!

The 1st Battalion was sent to Korea soon after he joined them, arriving shortly after the ceasefire was announced. Larry demonstrated the beginnings of a lifelong interest in marksmanship as a boy by taking the heads off all the tulips in the garden with an air rifle. He took up the sport more seriously while at school and achieved international standard, first selected for army teams while still an officer cadet. By his early 20s he was shooting service weapons and target rifle regularly for the army, England and Great Britain. He returned to the 1st Battalion the Essex regiment in Hong Kong in 1954 before applying successfully for a secondment to the Parachute regiment and posted as Adjutant to the 1st Battalion.

During this tour the Essex regiment was amalgamated into the Royal Anglian regiment and he accepted an offer to transfer into the Parachute Regiment's newly formed Permanent Cadre of Officers in 1958, remaining for the remainder of his service.

He went to the Pakistan Army staff college in the North-West Frontier Province for 1960-61 and then onto Malaya as chief instructor at the Malay infantry instructor's school. Larry returned home to regimental duty in 1965 to command a company in the 3rd Battalion the Parachute regiment and deployed with them to British Guyana. He later became second-in-command of the battalion during a busy tour that included operations in Ghana, Cyprus and Northern Ireland. 

In 1957 Orpen-Smellie was selected for the Army in all five disciplines of the Inter-Services matches in a single year - an honour achieved by only two other people. He captained the Army VIII, from 1968 until 1982, and shot target rifle with increasing success; he represented England in the annual National Match 17 times and in the MacKinnon 15 times. He also shot for Great Britain in the Kolapore on 10 occasions and in the Palma four times. He travelled with 20 Great Britain overseas teams between 1952 and 1996 and captained two of them: the first to Canada in 1975, the second to New Zealand and Australia in 1984. 
At the same time he continued, throughout his service, to shoot small arms competitively. He also shot target rifle with increasing success and, among many other achievements, and travelled on 20 Great Britain overseas teams between 1952 and 1996. 
He represented Great Britain on 11 overseas tours. He said that his happiest tour was his first, to Africa in 1953. There the team “trekked from north to south taking in shooting in Khartoum, Rhodesia (North and South) and South Africa. Although we went to Kenya we avoided shooting there: it was the start of the Mau Mau problems. We flew out but came back by boat, first class on the Union Castle line”.

Orpen-Smellie was a caring man who managed to combine his love of his job with family life, despite the obvious upsets and separations of army life. He also served on the Council of the National Rifle Association from 1975 to 1998 where he put considerable energy into the running of the association. John Jackman, its current chairman, said of him recently: “Do not be fooled by the traditional British reserve and the understatement of the man. This is the most modest and hard-working of men to whom many people owe a great deal.” 

He was born on January 18, 1930 at Walton-on-Thames, Surrey and passed away on May 17, 2002, aged 72 
The funeral service took place at the Garrison Church, Colchester, on Tuesday, May 28 2002.

This picture was taken in 1908