He was the only son of Count Alexis Orloff-Davidoff, who married Thecla, daughter of Baron de Staal, the Russian Ambassador to London. He came straight from his home into College as a War Scholar in Short Half 1919. He had never been to school before, but settled down at once to life at Winchester. He reached Senior Part 2, and played in College XV.
In October 1924 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, and took Honours in Engineering in 1927. After four years with the Westinghouse Company in the USA, and three years in business in London, he was naturalized as a British subject in 1935.
On July 24th 1935 he married the Hon. Elizabeth Gwendolen Scott-Ellis, second daughter of the 8th Baron Howard de Walden. They lived in Lodsworth, Sussex, and had two daughters: Tatiana (born April 9th 1936) and Marina (born December 30th 1937).
In the war he was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant in the RNVR. A friend of twenty-five years’ standing wrote: “I met Serge in London early in the war, full of enthusiasm, about to embark as an Engineer Officer on a battleship.”
Orloff-Davidoff was then attached to the Special Branch of the RN in 1941, being promoted to Lieutenant. His friend wrote: “I next met him early in 1945 at SHAEF and heard of his exploits. After a short period afloat he did special work in the Middle East which took him as far as the Caspian Sea. His task was to organize the flotillas which took our men and their friends to and from enemy territory in the Balkans… For the success with which he carried out his important and hazardous task in the Balkans he owed much to his knowledge of European languages and his capacity for getting the best out of all sorts of people”.
By 1942 he had become a Lieutenant-Commander, and, as his friend hinted above, won fame for the skill with which he landed our men and their friends behind the enemy lines in the Balkans, and, when necessary, took them off again.
In 1944 he was appointed Liaison Officer with the Allied Naval Chief at SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force). “I saw him for the last time only a few days before his death. His work at SHAEF was over, and he was looking forward to his new appointment on the Allied Control Commission in Austria. It was on his way to his new post that he was killed in a motor accident on August 12th 1945; a sad end to a varied and fruitful war-time career, in which his cheerfulness and enthusiasm never flagged”.
He was thirty-nine when he died in the motor accident near Hamburg, and rests in grave 3A.H.1 of Hamburg Cemetery. A memorial service for him was held at the Russian Orthodox Church, Buckingham Palace Road, London on 23rd August 1945.
A portrait photograph of him exists in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records him as belonging to HMS President, the London drill-hall of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
- Surname: Orloff-Davidoff
- Forenames or initials: Serge
- House: College
- Years in School: 1919-1924
- Rank: Lieutenant Commander
- Regiment: Allied Control Commission, Austria attached from RNVR
- Date of Birth: 5th May 1905
- Date of Death: 12th August 1945
- How Died: Killed in an Accident
- Location in War Cloister: Inner E1
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: Hamburg Cemetery: Grave 3A.H.1