Thursday, 24 May 2012

Off-Topic: Tribute to Brian Farmer

On May 19th at 6:10pm a man called Brian Farmer was found dead in his flat. His body had evidently been lying there for at least a week, and there was evidence of murder. The details are still unknown, so I'll update this post as soon as I know more. Or maybe I'll repost it to keep it at the top of my page.

Brian Farmer had been my friend and neighbour since 2003. We spent many hours sitting and drinking together. I want to post some of my memories of this wonderful but eccentric person.


Brian was born in Hay Mills, Birmingham in 1948. He served in the British army for 22 years. When he left the army in 1993 he came to live in Small Heath, Birmingham. He spent the last two years of his life living in Yardley, Birmingham. (For those unacquainted with Birmingham, Small Heath, Hay Mills and Yardley are neighboring districts that are linked by the Coventry Road).

In the army Brian worked as a driving instructor for tanks. He didn't only instruct British troops, he was also sent to Canada to teach Canadian soldiers. He told me an amusing story of an exercise he took part in in the north of Canada. Several tanks had to take part in a race to a place that was 30 miles away across the ice. Brian's tank was the only one to arrive, all the others got lost.

Brian's hobby while in the army was mountain climbing, and being posted to foreign countries gave him plenty of opportunity. Brian claims to be the only person ever to have climbed to the peak of Mount Fuji in the winter. He attempted the climb as the leader of a group of four soldiers. The base of Mount Fuji is guarded by American soldiers, since climbing attempts are forbidden in winter, but he forged a document saying he was allowed to make the climb. On the first day he could see that the three soldiers with him were having problems, so he brought them back down. He was about to abandon the mission himself, but then he spontaneously turned back and climbed to the peak as a solo mission.

Brian told me that the happiest day of his life was when he shot down a Turkish plane with a machine gun in Cyprus. He says that this was an amazing achievement, since the chance of shooting down a plane with a hand held gun is close to zero.

I asked Brian on more than one occasion how many people he had killed during his time in the army. At first he was evasive and changed the subject. Finally he told me that it's something he would rather forget. When he remembers the army he prefers to think about the good times drinking with his friends.

When Brian turned 40 he was put in charge of the officer's mess. At first he was annoyed at this, because it meant he was no longer in active combat, but he soon grew to enjoy his new job. It meant that he was allowed to grow his hair long, which is a rare privilege in the army. He also mixed with high ranking military personnel. In particular, he claimed to be a personal friend of Prince Phillip and spent time with him whenever he visited the troops.

In 1990 Brian volunteered to take part in the Gulf War. I don't know the reason he had to volunteer. Maybe his regiment, the Royal Irish Hussars, didn't take part in the war. Prince Phillip was present when he volunteered, and when he heard that a member of the regiment had volunteered Phillip said, "It must be Brian, he's the only person crazy enough."

After fighting in the Gulf Brian returned to his duties in the officer's mess. He could have continued with the job for years, but he retired for the sake of his son. Brian's son was also in the regiment, and it was a tradition that if father and son are in the same regiment the son is never promoted to a higher rank than his father. Brian had never advanced further than sergeant, so he thought he was holding his son back. After Brian retired his son was promoted twice within 12 months.

Brian had saved money and was planning to buy a cottage on the Isle of Skye. Unfortunately, his wife divorced him immediately after he said he was quitting the army. The savings were divided, and he couldn't afford his dream any more, so he returned to Birmingham.

After leaving the army Brian had problems dealing with "normal life" and was unable to hold down a job for more than a few weeks. When I met him in 2003 he was working as a traffic warden. One of his many jobs. He was fired because he was letting off elderly women with a warning. He told me that he didn't have the heart to write a ticket for little old women.

Brian's main hobby after the army was his motorbike. I don't know if he belonged to a club, but he went on biking trips with friends and visited biker bars. He had a large collection of LPs, mostly from the 1960's and early 1970's. He never owned a CD player. Brian liked to drink, especially beer and cider. He had a special mix of brown cider, white cider and rum which he proudly offered to his friends when they visited. I refused, it tasted vile to me, but he enjoyed it.

During his time in Small Heath, where he lived for almost 20 years, he lived in a squalid single room. He was obviously unable to look after himself. He kept his rifle, a souvenir from the army, in his wardrobe. I once asked him if it was loaded, to which he replied, "Mike, there's nothing as useless as an unloaded gun".

In his last few years he was having trouble with his memory. I first realised it was serious when he forgot the name of his granddaughter. Later on he forgot what road I lived in, even though he had visited me many times. As he became more confused the parasites descended on him to take advantage. He received his army pension on the last day of the month. The local drug addicts used to visit him on that day, claiming they were his friends and asking him for money. He was too senile to refuse, and he was almost broke by the next day. On one occasion he refused to open the door and his window was smashed. This led to him being evicted, but his new place in Yardley was bigger and better. Unfortunately the addicts soon found out his new address, and the cycle started again. It's almost certain that some of them were responsible for his murder. I'll post more details as I find out.

Link to the BBC report of Brian Farmer's murder.

Click here to view the police appeal concerning the murder of Brian Farmer.

9 comments:

  1. A Very nice tribute. Came from the heart.
    Natasha

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  2. Thank you, Natasha. It's difficult to explain how hard Brian's death has hit me, even though I had less contact with him after he moved to Yardley. I'm not sure that my film blog is the appropriate place for a tribute like this, but at the moment it's the only place I have to express my thoughts in public.

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  3. I knew Brian for a long time,sadly alot of the stories he has told you are fabricated, due to being an alocholic.
    He served 22yrs in the Queens Royal Irish Hussars, Cpl in the Officers Mess for a short time, then a gunnery instructor.
    He never served in Northern Ireland, when the regiment went to the Gulf he was not allowed to go due to being close to retirement, his only involvment was manning the phones for relatives whos sons/husbands were in the front line, he did this job in Catterick Garrison.
    Prince Philip was Colonel in Chief of the regiment most certainly not his friend. The gun you mention was an expensive air rifle he purchased when he left the army.
    He left because he completed 22yrs nothing to do with his son, but he did get £25,000 in March and was all gone in 5 months, drink and vast amounts on gambling.
    We looked at properties in Skye and then found a cottage in Oban but couldnt sell cottage in yorkshire so move abandoned.
    I divorced him because of his violent outbursts due to drink
    (he was in a psychiatric ward for a month in a Military hospital in Germany he had a damaged liver and white blood cells,this was late 80's) Local police were often in attendance and he was finally arrested and not allowed back in the village, after a night in the cells and up before the magistrate for assaulting me, he was sent to Birmingham and not allowed back in the village, it took nearly 18 months to finalise the divorce and 5 years to clear all the debts he left behind, even the property was blacklisted.
    He went to Mount Fuji in the month of January leading a party of 12, half way up an officer put his rucksack and Brians outside a hut and they were both blown away by a gust of wind, because of this the climb was abandoned and all 12 returned, there was nothing underhand about the trip it was all above board.
    He had a lot of hangers on in Yorkshire when he had wads of money, I certainly never had any of his money, I had to ask for money to buy small things like milk etc !!
    I am not surprised how he ended up, when he was full of drink he lost all sense of reality and would have been an easy target but very prone to violent outbursts, I still suffer from the injuries I sustained to my arm , he was very strong.
    All I can say is it is a sad waste of life he was his own worst enemy




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    1. Thank you for your comments. My tribute to him is only based on what he told me, since I didn't meet him until 2003.

      Brian owned a book written about him by an army comrade. I looked at this book a few times while I was visiting him, but he never allowed anyone to borrow it. I hope this book has been salvaged in the middle of his junk, since I am sure it will be of sentimental value to his family. If possible I would like to borrow the book now, if you have it. I am sure you know the one I mean.

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  4. no need to slag the poor man now his dead.......WOMEN!

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    1. I know myself that when divorces happen stories abound with half-truths. In the first year after I left my wife she told people the most incredible lies about me, but fortunately she has mellowed with time and has retracted them. I have no way of judging what Brian's wife has said about him. It's only his word against hers. There is only one thing that I know for certain. The police confiscated Brian's rifle, and they verified that it's a real gun, not an air rifle. In this one point her story is incorrect.

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    2. True Mike i hate it when people chat shit and the person is no longer around to answer shame on them

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    3. So true what the person said above. How do you expect a person whom served queen and country for 22 years not to have any anger issues? I know from experience what this can do to peoples minds you can slag your ex husband all you want he isn't here to defend himself but i am for him. As for him being his own worst enemy your certainly right there YOU you nasty horrible bitch he was his own worst enemy meeting you! As for no milk why didn't you get off your lazy arse and get a job words fail me with trash like you. RIP SOLDIER BRIAN A TRUE HERO XX

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  5. Exactly t Brian i knew was kind loyal and loving and would do anything for his friends. Unfortunately he got abused by dirty drug heads scum bags and they should be made to rot and suffer the way my dear darling friend went through. No sentence will ever be justified for the hell he must of gone through. Never a day goes by when i don't think and talk to you you was and will always remain a true gentlemen friend in my eyes till we meet again rest my darling love and miss u forever xxx

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