Tributes have been paid to Colonel Gerald Jarratt - the last commanding officer of the Leeds Rifles and a stalwart of the Morley community - who has died at the age of 89. His son David writes this moving obituary:
Lieutenant Colonel Jarratt’s first military experience was with the Home Guard in Wakefield on the outbreak of WWII at the age of 14. He was part of the Stanley Ferry Platoon, and on an evening and during the night used to guard the area of the Canal Bridge and Outwood, ever on the alert for enemy parachutists.
When Lieutenant Colonel Jarratt came of age, he enlisted into the West Yorkshire Regiment and was sent to an Officer Training Unit, after which he was subsequently commissioned and deployed to Palestine. After a short time in Palestine he transferred to the Royal Tank Regiment, where he also saw active service in Egypt.
On leaving the Regular Army, Lieutenant Colonel Jarratt was commissioned into the Leeds Rifles Territorial Army Battalion. It was not long before he was given command of the Morley (Tigers) Company. When he took over command there were just 12 TA soldiers on the role - by the time he handed over command some years later the Morley Company was over strength at 127. As a TA officer, one of his proudest moments in 1965 was to escort Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, when Her Majesty inspected the Leeds Rifles during her visit to Leeds.
Lieutenant Colonel Jarratt was a very popular officer who cared passionately about his soldiers, and he supported them and their families in whatever way he could. Tragically, in 1969, the then Labour MP for Leeds and Defence Secretary Dennis Healey, disbanded the Battalion in a round of defence cuts despite strong opposition from the people of Leeds. Indeed, soldiers from the battalion swamped the Healey’s surgery for months to complain, and Lieutenant Colonel Jarratt was dragged over the coals by higher authority because of it. Sadly, he was destined to be the last commanding officer of the Leeds Rifles.
Throughout his life, Lieutenant Colonel Jarratt was also involved in many community projects in and around Morley, and became known as a man who did not mince his words and who would often take the lead to resolve local issues. He was a proud family man, and the head of a family who have given more to the military than most.
Just five years ago, his eldest son was a serving officer in the Rifles, his youngest son and two of his grandsons were also serving regular soldiers. His eldest daughter also saw service in the WRAC. He was very proud of the fact he had nine grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Jarratt TD. born 29 August 1929, died 28 January 2015.