Only son of Major the Hon. Richard Coke, third son of the second Earl of Leicester, he was a deputy lieutenant of Norfolk from 1977 and was High Sheriff in 1981, succeeding Major David Jamieson, who died recently aged 80.
Weasenham Wood, on land owned by the family since the 1780s, was taken in hand by Major Coke's grandfather and American conifers were planted to fill gaps between clumps of old Scots pine over an extensive area between Fakenham and Swaffham. Initially intent on devoting himself to management of the wood, Major Coke joined the Second Battalion Scots Guards in Italy just after the Salerno landings in September 1943.
Two months later, F Company of the Scots Guards, of which Major Coke was second-in-command, was sent to reinforce troops attacing strongly held enemy positions at the Xamino massif on the approach to Rome. After an initial battle, the company was isolated and its commander killed.
Major Coke rallied the troops and held the massif for three days despite coinstant sniper and shell fire. He was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and leadership.
In late 1944, Major Coke led S Company of the Scots Guards in an assault on Mt Penzola. After taking the hill, his men drove off a ferocious counterattack supported by massive machine-gun fire.
By the end of the attack, S Company had defeated a German battalion and Major Coke's gallantry in inspiring his men earned him the Distinguished Service Order.
Major Coke was educated at Stowe and the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, where he took the gold medal for forestry in 1938. He assumed responsibility for the family estate at Weasenham Hall after the war.
His wife, Molly, and a daughter predeceased him. He is survived by two sons, one of whom followed him into the Scots Guards and now manages the woodlands.
Page prepared by Paddy Apling 10th May,1001.
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