Obituary: Air Marshal The Lord Garden KCB FRUSI

The Lord Garden KCB FRUSI

On behalf of everyone associated with RUSI, I mourn deeply the death of Air Marshal The Lord Garden. Our association with him had been particularly strong since his retirement from the military.

Tim Garden was a very clear strategic thinker. He combined his professional military experience and his own considerable intellectual powers to offer incisive and penetrative analysis of all the major strategic questions affecting the UK.  He was never embarrassed to ask the simplest question, nor deterred from taking on the most complex.  His judgement was illuminating, interesting and always humane.  He was a compassionate man of warmth and humour, whose wise counsel was much sought after by his research colleagues at RUSI and at King’s College, London.

He will be greatly missed by the staff and Council at RUSI who valued so highly all the wisdom he brought to his professional association and to his personal friendships throughout the Institute.

Professor Michael Clarke
15 August 2007

Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold adds:

There have been many obituaries recalling his distinguished career and his subsequent progress to the peerage and the post of defence spokesman for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. In developing the policy for the Party, Tim did not so much have to align with Party thinking; rather, the Party seemed to adopt his thinking. His advocacy of Liberal Democrat policy was confident and clear, expert and persuasively provocative.
Tim was an intellectual airman, and I suppose the demands of his experiences as a Vulcan bomber pilot gave him the opportunity to contemplate great issues as he reflected on the possible outcome of flying one-way missions over the Soviet Union, with a nuclear weapon strapped to his aircraft.
He became Director of Defence Studies (RAF), building on his MPhil qualifications, and soon became Assistant Chief of the Air Staff during the military turbulence of the First Gulf War and the political troubles of the fall of the Soviet Union. From this he went on to the challenging post of Assistant Chief of Defence Staff Programmes, before being Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies, where he not only drove through some much-needed reforms, but gave a strong academic lead in imparting to representatives of many nations the context of defence.
In 1996, he retired from the RAF and became Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, before it was rebranded as Chatham House. Tim did not shirk from cutting out excess fat, and although it may not have been the happiest of tasks, the robust health of Chatham House today owes much to Tim’s apposite wielding of the knife in the 1990s.
Later on, Tim became a Visiting Professor at King’s College and a member of RUSI’s Council, where he has served with distinction for many years. He remained a Fellow of the RUSI for the rest of his life.
I always found that his judgment was acute, either to ventilate the major issues of politics, defence and procurement, or to despatch the minutiae of Institute policies and finance. He had the great ability to make the complex sound simple; often after he had spoken, what he said seemed almost obvious, except that somehow one had not said it or thought of it. He enjoyed argument as he enjoyed so much of life: he was an achiever and a good companion.
At RUSI we shall miss him very much, and value his many contributions
Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold CB
Former RUSI Director

Explore our related content