- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Desmond Peter Middleton, Veda Gwendoline Middleton, Eileen Harris, Colonal Paddy Mayne
- Location of story:
- Family background in Sheffield and SAS career
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 18 November 2004
Des Peter in Uniform
Desmond Peter Middleton was born in Sheffield in 1921. His family were originally coal merchants in horse and cart days but the business apparently failed when the horses were commandered during the First World War. He was the youngest of 5 children of, as family tradition has it, the only teetotal landlord in Sheffield, 3 of the children, including Des, went into the teaching profession, with his sister Veda reputed to be the first female Head in Sheffield.
Following a period at De La Salle College, Sheffield and St Peter's College, Freshfield, Liverpool, Des to his family and Peter to his friends, started as an Articled Clerk with Peat Marwick Mitchell's Sheffield Coal Control Office but when the war came he joined the Royal Artillery as a Gunner Driver, Mechanic and was then selected to join A Squadron, the 1st Special Air Service as a Sabotage Agent where he served under Colonel Paddy Mayne. He was in the S.A.S from 30 June 1942 to 16 November 1945 taking part in the Western Desert, Italy and North West Europe campaigns. I was led to believe by his elder brother Arthur that he was driver/bodyguard to Colonal Paddy Mayne. Peter only spoke occasionally of his war experiences but he had an enormous respect for "Colonal Paddy" and a fierce loyalty to his comrades even after the war. He did not like heights yet had parachuted behind enemy lines. One of his relatives - Madam Cecilia was a palmist and clairvoyant I believe in Southport at one time - and Peter's sister Veda had a little of the 'gift'. One time when Peter was missing presumed dead, Veda woke up one night to see Peter and comrades in a boat in rough water at the end of her bed - she said to her mother "it's okay Des is alive" and sure enough, apparently he had escaped from Sicily in a leaky boat. He did say on one mission they were picked up by an American plane and were supposed to be dropped back in Scotland - however it was nearer to Devon where they landed - they were told "well it is England" and decided to make their own way back from there!!
After the war Peter eventually went to Brincliffe Teachers' Training College in Sheffield, where he met Eileen Harris (born in Wales) who had been in the WAAF during the war and had made maps for flying missions. She had been engaged to a Polish airman who had been killed during the war. She had at one time been invited to join Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop but family commitments had prevented her. They married and Peter subsequently became a science and maths teacher - November 5th was interesting with home made fireworks!
He was due to retire in January 1981 but had a cerebral haemorrhage on Boxing Day and died the day after.
He had a rough tough exterior but beneath that he was a kind and gentle man a real Good Samaritan, who always considered others feelings and needs before his own.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.