PETER MOORE was one of the bravest soldiers of his generation and one of the most modest. Those of us who knew him in later life had only the haziest knowlege of the hair-raising exploits in which he was involved as a younger man.
Peter Moore was educated at Clifton College, and commissioned in the Royal Engineers in 1931. His record of courage began in Waziristan on the North-West Frontier in 1936 where he was mentioned in dispatches. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was a captain and second- in-command of an Engineer Field Squadron with which he was sent to the Middle East at the start of the North African Desert campaign. His time in the desert started inauspiciously by being taken prisoner in one of Rommel's lightning raids to encircle some of the British forces.
On the same day that he was captured, he was awarded the Military Cross for his part in previous operations. Thanks to his own determination he only remained a prisoner for a few days before escaping and making his way back to the British lines at Tobruk. When a gaunt emaciated figure found its way into Tobruk, even his old school friend Lieutenant Morgan- Giles RN (later to become Rear- Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan- Giles) failed to recognise him.
But Moore was quickly back with his regiment as a major and it was on the night of 23 October 1942 that he won the first of his three awards of the Distinguished Service Order. At that time the task of his squadron was to help clear the minefields which were constantly under enemy machine- gun fire. Part of his citation reads:
Later the same night the Squadron reached a minefield on the crest of the Miteiriya Ridge, for the possession of which we were still fighting, Major Moore went ahead and reconnoitred the whole minefield although the far side was still in enemy hands. Throughout the mine-lifting operation the Engineers were under continuous and intense machine-gun fire for three hours. Major Moore walked up and down the whole time encouraging his men. The gap was successfully cleared.
Wounded and exhausted, he continued to lead his men in this vital task for a further six days.
In 1943 Moore was chosen to assist Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean's mission to Yugoslavia to help Marshal Tito's partisans in their fight against the German occupying power. He was parachuted into Yugoslavia by night where he trained and helped the partisans in what he later described as 'little bits of mischief' to disrupt the German forces. These 'bits of mischief' earned him the first bar to his DSO.
Soon after the war, Moore served with the 6th Airborne Division in Palestine as the Engineer Commander. A fellow officer recalls beings sent on a reconnaissance with Moore at a time when the British forces were under attack from Stern Gang terrorists. As they drove towards a small village they noticed suspicious bumps in the road. Moore insisted on examining and clearing what proved to be extremely dangerous mines himself rather than leaving the job to his following engineers.
In 1952 the Korean War broke out and Moore was given command of the Engineers supporting the Commonwealth Division. Here his courage was legendary. Always in the forefront of the fighting there seemed to be no task, however dangerous, which he would not undertake. Winning his second bar to the DSO, part of his citation reads:
Lieutenant-Colonel Moore's courage is a byword throughout the whole division. Never once has he committed a sapper to any task until he was personally satisfied that the task was reasonable and every possible step taken to ensure success. Wherever there has been danger, there has been Lieutenant-Colonel Moore.
This war over, Moore was promoted to command the Commonwealth Brigade in Singapore. As a commander his standards were immensely high but he was a man of very few words. His methods of command were not the same as some of his commanding officers and clashes of personality ensued. Moore was not supported by the Commander-in-Chief, who later became CIGS.
Moore returned to a desk job in Weapons Development in the War Office. It was not his metier and he found the Whitehall scene frustrating. It was a time when the Army was being greatly reduced in size and after a final appointment at the School of Land/Air Warfare, Moore retired as a Brigadier. Many felt he deserved much better.
But with characteristic determination, he sat the entrance exam for the administrative civil service from which he passed out top. He accepted an appointment in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries as Principal, working there from 1963 to 1976. Still having a young family to educate, he became a Research Officer at the College of Estate Management at Reading, turning his mind with great ability at the age of 70 to computer programming.
A more generous, kindly and hard-working man it would have been hard to find. He was blessed with a happy marriage and a large and loving family.