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News > Alumni News > OI Awarded British Empire Medal

OI Awarded British Empire Medal

Congratulations to Robert Erith (OI 1947-55) who has been awarded the British Empire Medal, (BEM) in the King’s New Year Honours 2024.
30 Jan 2024
Written by Leanne Castle
Alumni News

The Citation reads 'For Services to the Environment in Dedham Vale in Essex and Suffolk.' Robert has been President of The Dedham Vale Society for the past 20 years and was Chairman of The Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley Partnership, the official body which cares for the whole Stour valley, for eleven years. The Dedham Vale Society works with its partners to preserve and protect the stunning landscapes, built heritage and biodiversity of the area, made famous by the artist John Constable. The society aims to preserve the rural beauty of The Dedham Vale. 

Robert grew up on a small farm in Ardleigh near Colchester, Essex. The farm was powered by Suffolk Punch cart horses and Robert remembers working with them as a boy during the war at highlights of the farming year such as harvest and threshing the stacks of corn.

He joined Ipswich School in 1947 as a boarder in Mr Gleave's Junior House followed by School House where he remained until 1955.
On leaving the School he worked for a year on his father's farm and on his eighteenth birthday was called up for National Service, being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 10th Hussars, a famous cavalry regiment and commanded a troop of tanks in Aqaba, Jordan. Later he served as a reserve officer in the regiment for three weeks a year for 20 years in Germany, South Arabia, Hong Kong and elsewhere ending up as a Major and being awarded a Territorial Decoration.

After his National Service Robert spent two years at Writtle Agricultural College, but decided not to farm. He spent another two years working in London and then emigrated to the USA, living first in Washington DC and later in San Francisco. He travelled extensively, working for some months in Western Australia and then with three friends, spent six months driving a Landrover home through Africa and the Middle East.

On his arrival back in England Robert joined the stockbroking firm, Savory Milln, eventually becoming Senior Partner and enjoyed a 40-year career in the City and business.He was appointed High Sheriff of Essex in 1997 and a Deputy Lieutenant for the county two years later.

In 1966 Robert married Sara Muller and bought a farm on the Essex/Suffolk border in the Stour Valley. In the 1980's they bought the surrounding land and once again Robert began to farm. The land had suffered from 'modern' farming methods, the hedges had been ripped out, ponds filled in and the wild corners removed. The couple worked on a ten-year plan to restore the landscape, planting several miles of hedge and about 5000 native hardwood trees. Ponds and other features were restored and thirty years later animals, birds and plants considered scarce or endangered have returned.

Congratulations again to Robert on being awarded the British Empire Medal, (BEM) in the King’s New Year Honours 2024.





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