Derek Allhusen CVO – the Major

Major Derek Swithin Allhusen, CVO (9 January 1914 – 24 April 2000) was an English equestrian who was a 54-year-old grandfather when he rode Lochinvar to team gold and individual silver medals at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico.

Derek Allhusen was born in London and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1937 he married The Hon Claudia Betterton. He served throughout the Second World War with the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers, being awarded the American Silver Star in 1944.

On returning from Germany he brought back two horses with him and settled in Claxton, Norfolk.  He rode one of the horses, Laura, when representing Britain in the pentathlon at the 1948 Winter Olympic Games.  He eventually took up eventing in 1955, riding Laura’s daughter Laurien on two European Championship teams, winning a team gold medal in 1957, then team silver and individual bronze in 1959.  In 1961 he bought Irish-bred Lochinvar and rode her in two winning European Championship teams (in 1967 and 1969) as well as the gold and silver at the 1968 Summer Olympics.  He was awarded an MBE for his achievements but declined it, feeling his team-mates Richard Meade, Jane Bullen and Reuben Jones also deserved recognition.

On his retirement from the sport he continued as a breeder and Laurien’s son Laurieston was ridden to team and individual Olympic gold medals in 1972 Games in Munich, with Richard Meade in the saddle.  Allhusen was president of the British Horse Society from 1986 to 1988.

Allhusen was appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1983.

In November 1955, 1956 and 1957 he was nominated as a High Sheriff of Norfolk.

“The Major” lived with his wife at Claxton Manor from 1947 until his death in 2000, though the Manor remained in the family until its eventual sale to the current owners in 2010.  The Major was a universally popular figure who allowed villagers fairly free rein to roam his land, whether on foot or horseback, and is still regarded with great affection by villagers who knew him.  He is buried in Claxton churchyard.

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