Airborne Engineers Association

Peter Pellereau

 

 

Peter Pellereau

 

Peter Pellereau - Officer whose birthday celebrations almost led to a showdown with the USSR

Major-General Peter Pellereau a former CO 131 Parachute Engineer Regiment (TA) has died aged 92.

Prior to taking command of the Regiment he first had to qualify as a parachutist. This he achieved at the grand age of 40 years. Among 'jumps' that he organised for the Regiment was a spectacular 'drop' into the sea at St Peter Port, Guernsey.

In early 1946 he was commanding 26 Armoured Engineer Squadron near Hamburg, close to the Soviet Sector. His squadron had many buildings and bridges to repair, and to instill his men with a sense of urgency he gave them a deadline — his birthday in April — by which time the task had to be finished. When the work was indeed completed on time, he decided to reward his squadron with a day of celebration. The main feature was a March Past in which his whole compliment of 320 men, 24 Churchill tanks, six armoured cars and four half-tracks took part. The column stretched for more than a mile and raised clouds of dust across the countryside. It was a time of increasing tension between the Soviets and their former Allies, and Pellereau received a report from Intelligence that the Soviets feared that the British were mobilising.
The notion that the manoeuvre was no more than the celebration of the commanding officer's birthday did not find ready acceptance among the stolid Soviet military, and the Red Army moved to a high level of preparedness. Eventually, however, after a frank exchange of views, their units stood down and a major international incident was averted.

 

 

 

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