AN elderly woman looked from her window and saw a light flickering against some trees. As NIGEL HEINS recalls, it was a sinister glow that was to signal tragedy for a grand old Grenadier.

BRAVERY befitting the battlefield was demonstrated as flames engulfed the Herefordshire mansion of Britain's oldest Grenadier in the autumn of 1959.

Tragically, the heroic rescue of Lieut-Gen Sir Sidney Clive was in vain for the distinguished 85-year-old died in an ambulance on his way to Ross-on-Wye Cottage Hospital.

Sir Sidney had, over the years, looked across from his country house towards the distant Church of St Mary at Ross. On an October day 46 years ago it was the setting for his memorial service.

For three centuries the Grenadiers' March had been beaten to mark the return home after a campaign. At St Mary's that day two drummers of the Grenadier Guards, standing in full dress uniform in the north porch, beat out that march to the accompaniment of the organ. Music at the service included an anthem of Sir Sidney's composition, Whither Thou Goest.

All was carried out with pomp and ceremony and military precision - a far cry from the chaotic and grim scenes that had unfolded at Perrystone Court a few days earlier.

Jean Rundell, a nurse living in a flat at Perrystone, was awakened at 5.30 am by her mother who had heard a crackling sound. Looking through a window she could see a rosy glow of fire reflected on trees. Flames and sparks were coming from the morning room window.

Perrystone housekeeper Gertrude Enseleit awoke other members of staff in the servants' wing and then ran to the neighbouring Bothy Cottage of air traffic controller Ronald Wilson, shouting 'fire!' and 'the General is still in there!' He and his wife tried to enter the mansion but were driven back by dense smoke.

But he was not to be defeated and later recalled: "The gardener got a ladder and I went up to the General's room. Down below the morning room was like a torch and the hall was beginning to blaze.

"I had to make two or three attempts to get across the room before I located General Clive. He was lying on the bed. I dragged him to the window and the people below had got a bigger ladder.

"Chauffeur Michael Cullum came up with a rope and between us we got it round the General's waist and got him out and down to the ground."

Jean Rundell carried out artificial respiration until the ambulance arrived. En route to hospital the grand old military man died.

It was thought that the General's faithful old sheepdog Tony had perished but he was later found asleep on a rug in the housekeeper's room.

Many valuable paintings, including Gainsboroughs, and silver were taken to safety from the house by members of staff.

Damage to Perrystone Court - bought by the Clive family in 1865 - was severe. A number of rooms were completely gutted and the roof of the main part of the house had collapsed as had a massive chimney stack which crashed into the middle of the building.

At the inquest later that month South Herefordshire coroner Cyril Shawcross heaped praise on Ronald Wilson for his courage in entering the blazing mansion. He also complimented chauffeur Cullum for his quick-thinking.

And tributes poured in for Sir Sidney including that from the former Ross railwayman who became the last Governor of Bengal, Sir Frederick Burrows. The General had, he said, rendered great service to the State and to the Empire.