Lieutenant Colonel Cecil Edmund Kirby Speller known as John Speller by his family and friends, was born in Calcutta on 21 January 1924 to John Henry Speller of the Indian Civil Service.
He grew up in Exeter and was educated at Norwood School and Exeter School. Having an ambition to become an Army Officer, he entered the Home Guard and for some time was the youngest serving officer in the country.
When old enough, he volunteered for the Army (Dorset Regiment), was commissioned into the Dorsets and was immediately posted to the Parachute Regiment in 1943, where he was Officer Commanding 2 Platoon, 21st Independent Parachute Company, one of the Pathfinders dropped at Arnhem.
He attended a War Commission Board in 1944 and was granted a Regular Commission in the Dorset Regiment.
He served with both the Devonshire and Dorset Regiments and then with the amalgamated Devonshire and Dorset Regiment in the UK, in Malaya with the 5th Battalion Royal Malay Regiment where he became a Malay linguist for the Army and interpreter for the Civil Service, in Korea, Hong Kong and Germany, in Malta with the First Battalion King’s Own Malta Regiment, in Borneo where he was on the staff of Borneo Operations (Psycholigical Warfare) to the State Government of Sarawak during the war with Indonesia, and in North Wales as Commander of ‘D’ Company at the All Arms Junior Leaders’ Regiment.
His final posting in 1970 was with the Royal Military College of Science in Shrivenham from where he retired.
From 1971 to 1994 he pursued a second career in the Hospital Service, in London (King’s College Hospital) and then Salisbury where he was concerned with co-ordination of patient services, joint planning of healthcare delivery, and health and safety sevices. He was a member by examination of the Institute of Health Service Administration.
Speller was a keen yachtsman and was a member of the Royal Dart Yatch Club. He loved Devon and he had a keen interest in the history of the county and in particular the City of Exeter.
For many years he sat on the committees of the Devon and Exeter Institute, Friends of Exeter Cathedral and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. He was also a member of the Exeter Civic Society.
John also had many London interests and his term as parish clerk at St Mary at Hill Church in the City of London was very important to him in later years. He was made a Freeman of the City of London in 1985. A lifelong member of the Order of St John, being on the ceremonial staff and taking great interest in the Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem, John was made Commander (Brother) in the Order of St John of Jerusalem in 1994.
He was also a great supporter of the British Legion. His country pursuits were many. He was a good shot and continued to shoot as a hobby for many years after captaining the Dorsets’ Team at Bisley. An enthusiastic beagler, he could often be seen following hounds on foot.
John was a dedicated Freemason and as well as a Past Master of Victoria Rifles Lodge, he was a member of his old school Lodge the Old Exonian Lodge No 9000.
He married Joan and they had four children.
He died on 8 May 2008.