Biography of Robert Runcie

Robert Alexander Kennedy Runcie, Baron Runcie (2 October 1921 – 11 July 2000) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980 to 1991.

Runcie was born and spent his early life in Great Crosby, Merseyside, to middle class and rather non-religious parents. He initially attended St Luke's Church, Crosby (where he was confirmed in 1936), before switching to the Anglo-Catholic St Faith's Church about a mile down the road. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, Crosby, before going up to Brasenose College, Oxford.

He earned a commission in the Scots Guards during World War II, serving as a tank commander and earning the Military Cross for two feats of bravery in March 1945: he rescued one of his men from a crippled tank under heavy enemy fire, and the next day took his own tank into an exceptionally exposed position in order to knock out three anti-tank guns. As a result, he is unique among modern Archbishops of Canterbury in having killed fellow human beings. In May 1945, he was among the first British troops to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

After the surrender of Nazi Germany, Runcie served with the occupying forces in Cologne and then with the boundary commission dealing with the future status of the Free Territory of Trieste.

On his return to Oxford, he surprised many by taking first class honours in Greats. He was a member of both Tory and Socialist societies at Oxford, and through that he had his first dealings with the young Margaret Thatcher (then Margaret Roberts), a relationship which was to prove pivotal during his archiepiscopate.

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