Richard Lewis Clutterbuck, 1917-1998

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and again in the aftermath of the terrorist bombings of the London Underground transportation network, we've often thought how much the world of counter terrorism has changed since the death Major General Richard Lewis Clutterbuck, whose career was devoted to defeating terrorism.
From War Zone to Classroom

Richard Clutterbuck, who has died aged 80, distinguished himself in two separate, if overlapping, careers. For 35 years he was a professional soldier, rising to the rank of major-general, and for the remaining 25 years he was an academic specialising in indeed almost inventing - the study of violence in politics.

Like his father and grandfather before him, Clutterbuck was a sapper, commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1937 after graduating in mechanical sciences from Cambridge. After Dunkirk, he went through both the Western Desert and Italian campaigns with no wound other than a front tooth knocked out when the driver of his scout car had to break suddenly and reverse.

I met him first in Germany towards the end of the second world war, when he arrived to take over 245 (Welsh) Field Company, Royal Engineers, the scruffy, piratical, matey territorial outfit in which I was a raw sapper. The Welsh mafia who really ran the company were at first suspicious of this English professional soldier, but were grudgingly impressed when, in the early days of peace, he hired a comely young German woman, Frau Schumacher, as his secretary.

Because he was a regular officer, Clutterbuck soon left us to go to a regular unit, 55 Field Company. This happened to be going to Trieste, and in retrospect this was the move which planted in him his future interest. Trieste was the site of the very first of the little civil wars and near-wars which have flared up since the big war. It had all the ingredients: political jockeying between Tito's communists and their enemies, ethnic tensions between Slavs; and Italians, and violence that included the assassination of a British brigadier.

The army helpfully sent Clutterbuck to a further 13 hotspots over the years, from Palestine (1947) during the Irgun Zvei Leumi's terrorist campaign, to a comic opera crisis in Anguilla.

In 1956, up against Chinese communists, Lt-Col Clutterbuck shed his rank badges to go on patrol as an ordinary soldier. As chief engineer Far East, 1966-68, Brigadier Clutterbuck put into practice in northeast Thailand the counter-terrorist philosophy he was gradually evolving.

Isolated villages were pre guerrillas. He got his sappers to build a road linking the villages to each other and the rest of the country. "Suddenly they had a bus service," he told me, "and there's a Latin American guerrilla saying that when the bus comes along it's time for the guerrilla to move out." His next job after Thailand was the top one, as Engineer-in-Chief (1968-70) at the Ministry of Defence. While in the Far East, however, he had started to read for a PhD in politics. In 1968, he enrolled at London University. It was pleasing to think of the E-in-C popping round to see his tutor in the Official staff car embellished with a major general's two stars on a crimson plate, I suggested. Sadly, not true, he said; he went by tube.

His last army post was back in the specialisation he had created for himself, as chief army instructor of the Royal College of Defence Studies, devoted to peacekeeping or "low-intensity Operations" as they were now termed. His Who's Who entry gave his recreations as "sailing, canoeing and the study of revolution". On retirement in 1972 he became Dr Clutterbuck, and marched straight into the Post of lecturer in political conflict at Exeter University.

Though the revolutionary fervour of the late 1960s had played itself out, students remained suspicious of military men. One piece of student journalism written ahead of Clutterbuck's arrival was so libellous that it had to be retracted. Once he was in. stalled, not surprisingly, his students found him refreshing, and judged his lectures unmissable. They found him enthusiastic and eccentric, with spectacles colour-coded according to their strength and a wallet so Often repaired with tape that the original leather had disappeared. He retired from teaching in 1982 but remained an honorary research fellow of Exeter. By now he was a world authority in his field, constantly in demand at conferences and the author of a score of books, beginning with Protest and the Urban Guerrilla in 1972, followed by Riot and Revolution in Malaya and Singapore, and gradually extending the borders of his subject to take in crime and other recourses to violence. His last work, completed shortly before his death, is Families, Drugs and Crime. Under the pen name Richard Jocelyn he also wrote a novel Across the River (1957), based on his experiences as a sapper officer in the Italian campaign.

In his last years he suffered heart trouble and feared that his mental powers might be endangered. But his family believe he had completed all that he wished to achieve. He is survived by his wife, Angela, their sons Peter, Robin and Julian, and three grandchildren.

Philip Purser

Paul Wilkinson Writes: Richard Clutterbuck's gift for teaching flowered at Exeter University, but his strengths as an educator reached far beyond the walls of the campus. There can be few senior military and police officers who have not at some stage benefited from Richard's mastery of his subject and his patience and good humour in tackling the most difficult questions.

As if these achievements were not enough for one lifetime, he also helped to pioneer the development of he Control Risks Information Service, briefing business and industry on political violence around the world. The success of this work can be gauged by the number of security companies and businesses which depend on the methods of security analysis and briefing which he developed.

Richard was that rare combination; an intellectual former soldier who made a major contribution to a fresh field of academic study and succeeded in the wider work of Public education through his books and contributions to the media.

Richard Lewis Clutterbuck, soldier and student of revolution, born November 22, 1917, died January 6,1998.

Extract from The Guardian, Friday 9th January 1998. page 16
Richard Clutterbuck wrote several books, and his work is often cited whenever the subject of terrorism and counter insurgency is studied. Dr Richard Clutterbuck, a pioneering scholar in the field and a former member of their advisory council, generously willed to the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews his invaluable collection of research materials, books and periodicals covering the whole field of terrorism and political violence.

In Terrorism in an Unstable World, "Richard Clutterbuck examines the changes in terrorist tactics since the end of the Cold War. He analyzes the possible threat posed by new terrorist groups which are the products of ethnic tensions. He explores how Islamic fundamentalism has become the primary motivating factor for terrorism and how the West has used improved technology to counter terrorist activity. He also explores the connection between terrorism and drug trafficking. of civil liberties. Clutterbuck argues for better international cooperation by the police, intelligence, and armed forces."

It's perhaps a tragic irony of history that Richard Clutterbuck, who devoted so much to the study of the Troubles, did not live to see the current peace in Northern Ireland. In "Northern Ireland: The Time And Place For Urban Terror CSC 1985" a paper by the US Marine Corps reprinted online at, the writer takes notes of Clutterbuck's thoughts:
As Richard Clutterbuck, a well-known author of several works on terrorism to include Northern Ireland, observes in Guerrillas and Terrorists, "All those who write (on Northern Ireland) are, with varying degrees of passion, partisans of one side or the other."1 In the midst of Clutterbuck's substantial contributions to the literature and his numerous revealing insights, this concise observation is perhaps his most profound. In one brief sentence he describes the emotions, the biases, the polarity and distorted objectivity which confront the uninitiated researcher and leave him dazed and wandering like the legendary Irish traveller wading through a pasture of Ireland's mythical "sleepy grass."