|Years of service||1967–2001|
Alex Birtwistle was born in Accrington and attended Lancaster Royal Grammar School. He joined the Army as a university cadet at Cambridge University in 1967 and was commissioned into the Queen's Lancashire Regiment following his graduation in 1970. He then saw service in Cyprus, Nigeria, Northern Ireland and Germany and as an aide-de-camp to Her Majesty the Queen. He was also Commander of the 1st Battalion Queen's Lancashire Regiment and was awarded an OBE in the 1992 Queen's Birthday Honours.
He was due to retire aged 53 on 2 April 2001 as the commander of the 42 (North West) Brigade based at Fulwood Barracks, Preston when he was asked to oversee the livestock mass burial site at a disused airfield near Great Orton, Cumbria. He supervised the disposal of thousands of sheep which were culled on site or brought there from Carlisle abattoir. He said at the time:
The Army is here to set up systems to deal with the problem. I hope this is going to work, because if it doesn't the consequences for this area are terrible.
On 6 February 2011 he appeared on television in an edition of the BBC 1 programme Countryfile. He contributed his recollections of the crisis and was seen with John Craven and retired farmer William Littleat, planting an oak tree to mark the tenth anniversary of the crisis at the Watchtree Nature Reserve that has been created on the Great Orton airfield site.
- "Brigadier maps out a way to contain the enemy". The Daily Telegraph. UK. 29 March 2001. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
- "The man waging war on disease". BBC. 29 March 2001. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
- "Battle honour for soldier Alex". Lancashire Evening Post. 1 January 2002. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
- "Countryfile". BBC. Retrieved 28 June 2011.