Retired British Army colonel, 72, is oldest member of team fighting to defend Ukraine


Retired British Army colonel, 72, is oldest member of team fighting to defend Ukraine from Russian troops

  • Ian Cunningham is part of first UK group to take up arms against Russian forces
  • It isn’t known what his family think as they believe he’s away on a business trip 
  • The 72-year-old retired colonel had served in the Coldstream Guards in Belfast


A retired British colonel has become the oldest member of Ukraine’s international brigade at the age of 72.

Ian Cunningham, who lives in south-west France, is part of the first British group to take up arms against Russian forces.

The colonel said he flew to Poland at the start of the invasion and took a taxi over the border into Ukraine. 

However, it isn’t known what his family think of the decision as they believe he’s away on a business trip.

Ian Cunningham, who lives in south-west France, is part of the first British group to take up arms against Russian forces. He’s also become ‘instant friends’ with the second oldest member of the Brigade, a Polish colonel called Martin Podpora

Ian Cunningham, who lives in south-west France, is part of the first British group to take up arms against Russian forces. He’s also become ‘instant friends’ with the second oldest member of the Brigade, a Polish colonel called Martin Podpora

Colonel Cunningham, who expects to be given an administrative role, has formerly worked as an aide to the British chief of defence staff. He also served in the Coldstream Guards in Belfast and commanded a Territorial Army infantry regiment.

He told The Spectator magazine that he is due to go to Kyiv in the coming weeks. 

He added: ‘One’s here for the duration. It could end in two days. It could end in two years. Who knows?’

He said he was impressed by the Ukrainian army, adding that everyone he has met has ‘very good military experience… [there are] very few cowboys as I can make out’.

He’s also become ‘instant friends’ with the second oldest member of the Brigade, a Polish colonel called Martin Podpora.

Nine out of ten volunteers in the International Brigade are in their 20s but that didn’t worry Colonel Cunningham.

He is expected to follow his ‘very punchy and extremely tough new best friends’ who have gone to Kyiv in the coming days and weeks.

More than 3,000 foreigners signed up to fight for Ukraine so far, which is thought to include around 50 British volunteers.

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