Helen was born in Dundee and educated at Morgan Academy and St Andrews University. She got an MA in modern languages and a teaching diploma, but then she decided she’d like to join the army. So at 22 she was commissioned into the WRAC (Women’s Royal Army Corps). She was the first woman to graduate from Sandhurst Staff College, and the first to attend (in 1976) the now defunct Royal College of Defence Studies, being made a Lieutenant-Colonel.

Three years later she was made Commander WRAC Army of the Rhine. This was near the Berlin Wall, and men were not keen on women being in a potential combat area so she had to use all her diplomatic skills to soothe male egos. Up the military ladder Helen went; in 1982 she was appointed Director of the WRAC and Honorary Aide to the Queen. Her work did much to help the assimilation of men and women in the army. In 1986 she was awarded a CBE, also an honorary doctorate from Dundee University and was appointed Hon. Colonel of Tayforth OTC.

She stepped back from direct command and returned to the Royal College of Defence Studies, then moved to the post of Deputy Director-General of Personnel Services. The highest-ranking woman in the British Army, she retired at 53 and settled in London or Wiltshire before being appointed vice-president and chairwoman of the WRAC Association and made a freeman of the City of London. Helen had a passion for golf, tennis and travelling, and came back often to Scotland for golf. She visited USA, Hong Kong, Germany and N. Ireland on army business.

The Scotsman described her as: “A most efficient and accomplished lady who led the WRAC with style, commitment and devotion….. The sly shake of the head, the knowing grin and penetrating question established who was in charge.” A powerful lady, Helen had other things to do than get married; the army was her life, and women in the army have much to thank her for.