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Sir Christopher Henry Maxwell Peto, 3rd Baronet DSO (19 February 1897 – 19 May 1980) was a Brigadier in the British Army during World War II and a post-war British Conservative Party politician.

Contents

Early life

He was born at Chertsey, Surrey.

Military service

Peto served in both World War I and World War II, attaining the rank of Brigadier.

He took command of the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers in October 1938, being one of the only officers in the regiment to have seen action in WW1. He was tasked with carrying on the mechanised training of the regiment in the build up to the war, to mobilise it when war came and to take it to France in May 1940.

An entry written about him in the forward of the Lancer's regimental history reads:-

"His was the responsibility of showing all ranks how to behave under fire, and so much depends upon the leadership the first time men go into battle. His calm and fearless example was an inspiration to all, and laid the foundation of the enthusiasm and steadiness which the regiment so consistently displayed throughout the war. He commanded with conspicuous ability in the fantastic operations south of the Somme until a severe wound obliged him to be evacuated. He earned the D.S.O. for his services in France in 1940, though this was not known until Major-General Victor Fortune, Commander of the 51st Highland Division, was able to make his recommendations on his return from captivity in Germany. These he backed up by a personal visit to the War Office. Those who did not take part can have little idea of a commanding officer's difficulties during those two years. Many were caused by failure in higher places to foresee more accurately the type of equipment which would be required, to provide it in time, and to settle with less vacillation the organisation of the troops who would use it. Luckily for the regiment, Chris Peto had, and has, an inexhaustible fund of humour and an irrepressible spirit. These, he would be the first to admit, have sometimes got him into trouble, but they were invaluable assets through those years of exasperating trial. He did not come back after his recovery, but was promoted to the command of armoured brigade. The Regiment owes him a debt."[1]

When the regiment was deployed to France it was not well equipped and the account of Peto's injury illustrates this:

"Major MacDonell seeing the head and face of a German popping out of the ground periodically about three hundred yards from the Regimental Headquarters, suggested an investigation. Lieutenant-Colonel Peto agreed and led the reconnaissance accompanied by Major MacDonell's tank and two scout cars. They opened fire on twelve slit trenches full of enemy infantry. After ten minutes the Germans crawled out and surrendered. The "bag" was one officer and forty-three other ranks. We had found it impossible to depress the guns on our tanks sufficiently to bear, and Lt-Col Peto, firing from his turret with his pistol, was badly wounded in the right hand. He carried on until the Germans surrendered, and was then evacuated." [2]

As well as being awarded the DSO in 1940, Peto also received:

Political career

At the 1945 general election he was elected as Member of Parliament for Barnstaple. When that constituency was abolished at the 1950 general election, he was returned for newly recreated Devon North constituency, where he served until 1955. He was elected High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1966.

He died at Basingstoke, Hampshire, aged 83.

References

  1. ^ Bright, Joan - The Ninth Queens Royal Lancers 1939-1945, Gale & Polden Ltd, Aldershot. 1951.
  2. ^ Bright, Joan - The Ninth Queens Royal Lancers 1939-1945, Gale & Polden Ltd, Aldershot. 1951. pp 15-16

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Richard Acland
Member of Parliament for Barnstaple
19451950
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for North Devon
19501955
Succeeded by
James Louis Lindsay
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Peto
Baronet
(of Barnstaple)
1971 – 1980
Succeeded by
Michael Peto
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