I am sorry to pass on the sad news that one of our lifetime members, Lize Strachan, has passed away. Many of you will remember her playing at the club until well into her 80s and recently watching her sons Rob or Jamie playing. She always cut a stylish figure, often wearing her trademark beret.
She led a full and remarkable life, and met her husband Ben playing tennis in Eygpt. I attach the obiutary which was published in the Times to share some of that with you.
Our thoughts and condolences go to the family.
Lize Strachan obituary
As a schoolgirl Lize Lund once succeeded in halting the occupying German army’s goose-stepping march through Copenhagen. But for the teenage resistance movement helper it was not quite the glorious triumph she would have wished for and went down in her war stories as the most embarrassing moment of her life.
En route to a piano lesson, and hearing approaching troops belting out the German war song Wir fahren gegen Engeland (“We are sailing towards England”), she attempted to dash across the main boulevard ahead of the column. But halfway over, one of her new high-heeled fishskin boots caught in a tram line and refused to budge. Much wriggling ensued, resulting in an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction in the underwear department. As the German captain ordered “Halt!” and the jackboots fell silent, she finally extricated her heel, gathered her knickers, fashioned from a pair of her father’s old long johns, and fled without a backward glance, the offending garment dangling from her pocket.
Back home she tearfully recounted the incident to her father who declared: “Darling girl, the German army march through all of Europe. Nothing or nobody can stop them, but today my daughter did!” Little did they know the red-faced youngster was already working against them as part of the resistance effort, involved in thwarting their press censorship by covertly delivering underground newsletters produced on illegal printing presses.
Later she recalled how young Danes formulated ways to harass the Germans, from torching petrol tanks to stealing revolvers from inebriated soldiers, and had to earn a British weapons drop. A friend was shot for illuminating a drop zone. She would go on to marry one of the first British paratroopers to liberate Copenhagen and become an acting staff captain in the British army before marrying for a second time, travelling the world as a diplomat’s wife and settling in rural Aberdeenshire.
Born in Sumatra where her father Tage worked as a plantation manager, she was inordinately proud of her name Lize with a Z — it should have been Lise but for her parents’ mistake on the birth certificate. Returning to Denmark aged six she was educated at Copenhagen’s Ordrup Gymnasium and university and was in her late teens when the Second World War ended.
Going with her parents to the city’s Hotel Angleterre to welcome liberating British troops, a handsome paratrooper, reputedly the first to arrive in the city centre, was signing autographs from his Jeep and caught her eye. She married sergeant, later captain, Bernard Heldman, then worked in Austria repatriating refugees and had two children, Tricia, who runs an equestrian centre, and Christian, who works for Legacy Leaders, which provides fundraising support for charities.
When the marriage failed she applied for a job with the British army and was posted to the Canal Zone in Egypt as an acting staff captain at British army HQ in Moascar. She was introduced to captain, later major, Ben Strachan on the tennis court and they fell madly in love. Their respective divorces finalised, they married in 1958 and had two sons, Rob, a farmer and Commander of Clan Strachan, and Jamie, a civil engineer.
After Ben, who also had a son Christian from his first marriage, left the army and joined the diplomatic service she supported him through many challenging postings including as aide to the British governor of Aden and chargé d’affaires to the British Embassy in Amman, Jordan. They were also posted to Canada before returning to the Middle East where he was British ambassador to the Yemen Arab Republic, Beirut and Algiers. At the latter her dress caught fire during a party whereupon she put the flames out herself declaring, to much amusement: “I am not afraid of fire, I am a Viking!”
A stylish beauty and the consummate ambassadress, she was an excellent hostess and frequent party-giver, oiling the wheels and making beneficial introductions.
In Jordan the posting coincided with a civil war and she once interrupted an airport journey to collect their son in order to rescue a casualty. Amid tracer bullet fire she ran across the road, frying pan above her head, to retrieve the blood-drenched man and take him to Palestinian forces who promptly radioed a ceasefire message so she could continue in safety. Amongst all this she also entertained disabled children, inviting them weekly for tea and cakes.
In Beirut they had two permanent SAS bodyguards. There they privately met the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat. Although not sanctioned by the British government, the meeting opened dialogue which continued until the Oslo peace accord between Israel and the PLO was eventually signed.
They retired to Mill of Strachan farm in Strachan in Aberdeenshire and embarked on various enterprises: she opened a gift shop in the hen house, Ben sold Algerian Wine, created a trout fishery and pitch and putt course and they established a language school. She could speak five languages, including Arabic, and did a Teaching English As A Foreign Language (Tefal) course.
She became fully immersed in Scottish life, began curling, playing bridge and pétanque, helped to found Banchory Lawn Tennis Club and studied French at the University of the Third Age. She also delivered Meals on Wheels for many years, was a regular at Banchory’s Royal British Legion and attended Finzean Church almost every Sunday.
Widowed in 2016, she defied her age, retaining striking looks and a twinkle in her eye, walking two miles daily to the local marriage tree, often collecting roadside rubbish. She also maintained strong Danish links and four years ago featured on Danish television, her star quality resulting in her being recognised many times on a subsequent visit.
Lize and her second husband, Major Ben Strachan.