Nescot’s first Principal
The first Principal at Nescot was Colonel Thomas Buchanan, a decorated army veteran of ‘legendary coolness and bravery’ who was made Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey in 1964 and awarded an OBE in 1970. He was a popular Principal, and the students were said to feel that he understood their outlook and problems.
Col Buchanan, who had degrees in both Science and Psychology, joined the Army Supplementary Reserves in 1931. In 1939, while working for Surrey County Council, he was posted to the 1st Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, commanding B Company in the Battle of France. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery shown in Tunisia in 1942, where he lead attacks against strong German forces in Kebourba and was wounded.
Once Col Buchanan had recovered he was appointed to command the 5th Northamptonshire Regiment in Sicily, where he was severely wounded. After a long stay in hospital he was given charge of the 1st Battalion the Royal Fusiliers, who he led through a series of battles in central Italy.
Col Buchanan was wounded twice more in Italy, and received a Distinguished Service Order medal for his leadership during fighting in Cassino, central Italy.
A fellow officer said of Col Buchanan: “His coolness and bravery were legendary, and his leadership inspired all ranks. When he walked round after a battle, tired men’s faces would light up after a word from him.”
Col Buchanan returned to England in 1945 and was given charge of the reformed 2nd East Surrey Regiment, which he trained and took to Palestine on counter-terrorism duties. The following year Col Buchanan returned to England, and to Surrey County Council as a Senior Education Officer. He was heavily involved in planning what became Ewell County Technical College in the early 1950s, and was appointed principal when the college opened.
Col Buchanan was admired for his compassion, foresight, leadership and encouragement, and it was said students felt that despite the difference in age and experience, Col Buchanan understood their outlooks and problems. In 1964 he became Deputy Lieutenant for Surrey, and was appointed an OBE for services to education in 1970.
He retired three years later, after 20 years at the college, and was presented with two silver cups in engraved cases, a tape recorder, a record player and a rocking chair, which had been made by students. He announced his engagement to his neighbour Kay Kendall at his retirement party, and the pair married days before his 65th birthday. Col Buchanan died in 1997.