Here are some brief facts about me, mainly before and after the war, and my enduring interest in the Second World War.
I was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, on 9 June 1930.
Health issues and then the war disrupted my schooling. In 1936 or 1937 I contracted scarlet fever then, in Seacroft Isolation Hospital in Leeds, I was given a wrong injection which left me paralysed down my left side for several months. I had just got back to school when the war broke out.
From June 1940 to 1946 I was in Italy (I give a full account of that here: A1993403), I started Italian primary school, but that too was disrupted. I left school at 13 ('quinta elementare', a grade reached by 11 year olds) and started working. Fortunately I could read from the age of 4 or 5, and have been an avid reader all my life, that compensated somewhat for my very limited formal education. I returned to Leeds in 1946. Almost at once I began work in a small printing shop, sparking a lifelong interest in printing. But I couldn't settle down and in August 1948 I joined the regular army as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery. I did my basic training at Oswestry and Rhyll, as a signaller. I was posted to BAOR (Germany) in December 1948.
Following a Junior NCOs training course with the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, I joined M Battery, 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, 7th Armoured Division (the Desert Rats), at Verden Aller. All the senior NCOs and most of the officers in the III RHA, including the battery commander, were veterans of WW II, having fought from El Alamein to Germany.
In late 1949, as Mao Tsetung's communist forces were about to reach the Hong Kong border following the defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek and the collapse of the Chinese Republic at the end of the civil war, volunteers were sought for Hong Kong throughout BAOR. It seemed an excellent chance to see the world, so I volunteered. We sailed from Liverpool in January 1950 on SS. Devonshire, one of the last troopships to have old style mess decks and hammocks, a sea journey of five weeks.
In Hong Kong a few of us joined 173 Location Battery, Royal Artillery, the unit having arrived a few weeks before us from the Middle East. For several months we were under canvas at Lowu, in the New Territories, on the Chinese border. Apart from communist planes making a brief incursion (either accidental or probing, which were seen off by RAF Meteors) nothing happened. Later we were moved to Fort William on Hong Kong Island. In 1952 I returned to BAOR where I remained until my demob in 1953.
After several jobs, in 1956 I joined the GPO Telecommunications branch (eventually to be privatised as British Telecoms) as a Grade II Technician, having been trained as a regimental signals instructor in the army.
I had the good luck to join with an ex-World War II RAF signals NCO. He got me interested in mathematics and we both attended evening classes in Leeds for 3 nights a week for 3 years, both qualifying as Technical Officers. In 1959 I became a Telecomm Engineering Draughtsman.
The GPO was then part of the Civil Service, and in 1956, having a good knowledge of Italian and Italian dialects, I joined the Immigration Service at Folkestone (in those days Immigration Officers had to be good linguists and were expected to qualify in more than one language. Full-time interpreters were not then used).
Most of my older and senior colleagues had served officers during WW II; even our office clerk was an ex-brigadier from WW1. In tune with the prejudices of the time, the Immigration Service was then barred to women. This was at the height of the cold war and there was a great emphasis on security issues within the service. Having qualified in French, Italian and Spanish, I later attended a 6 months Home Office Portuguese course. But this was nothing, compared with the number of languages mastered by some of my colleagues.
In 1970 I was seconded to the Foreign Office and did a short spell as an Entry Certificate Officer in Rawalpindi, in Pakistan. I went to the Khyber Pass several times, to Peshawar and Afghanistan, and the tiny semi-autonomous state of Swat, bordering on China and the then USSR.
In 1973 I was promoted to Chief Immigration Officer and later to H.M. Inspector, respectively at Terminals 2 and 3, Heathrow Airport. I retired in 1987.
In 1988 I graduated with a B.A. honours degree with the Open University and in 1993, following two years post-graduate studies, an M.A. at the University of Bradford in European studies, with a Master's dissertation on "The Rise of Fascism in Italy"
My current interests include computing and I occasionally contribute to a site dealing with Windows XP problems.
I am still an avid reader and I have good collection of books on all major campaigns of WW II, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy, and I would be glad to help others in their researches of the Second World War.
Despite the impression some may have gained, judging from your emails and comments on this site, my primary interest is in books, not in WW2, and I have read and continue to read fairly widely in English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. I have collected books all my life and I now have over 3,000 (now constantly weeded due to space problems), my earliest three books dating back to 1570, 1572, and 1574. Fine bindings also interest me as do printing types and early printing presses.
My interest is in history in general, primarily European (Western and Eastern), American, and Chinese. Prehistory fascinates me and as you may see from photos on my website (http://www.petergh.f2s.com/) I have several Neolithic and Bronze age tools and weapons. Art in general and philosophy are also of great interest to me, both Spinoza and David Hume have had a deep influence on me, particularly Hume.
I have a love of ancient history stemming, I suppose, from reading Gibbon. He aroused my interest in the ancient world and in early civilisations. Military matters are secondary, but I have read fairly widely on some: primarily the Peloponnesian War, the Punic Wars, Caesar's campaigns, the Barbarian Invasions, the Hundred Years War, the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Great War 1914-1918. My knowledge of WW2 is simply a spin-off from WW1 and from my deep interest in the rise and spread of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism.
I am also interested in physics and biology, particularly in evolution, and in computing, its history and development.