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Surbiton

Burma veteran celebrates 100th birthday at Royal Star & Garter

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Burma veteran Peter celebrating his 100th birthday at Royal Star & Garter

A soldier who narrowly survived enemy attacks while serving in Burma (now Myanmar) during WWII has celebrated his 100th birthday.

 

Peter Whiteley was born in Burma on 14 June 1922, and celebrated his birthday at Royal Star & Garter in Surbiton.

 

The Home provides loving, compassionate care to veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia.

Peter in 1945

The great-grandad enjoyed an outdoor party with family in the Home’s garden on Sunday 12 May, before celebrating with other residents two days later.

 

As well as his birthday card from Her Majesty The Queen, Peter also received a letter from the Burma Star Memorial Fund, on behalf of its Patron Prince Charles.

 

Peter joined the Army straight from school in 1940, at the age of 18, and was commissioned into the Royal Engineers. His love of adventure and new challenges led him to training in India, where he built bridges and helped set and clear mines. During this time, he fell in love with India and would later live in the country.

 

Battle of the Box

 

He then returned to Burma, helping build a mule track during the monsoon and an arched bridge. Peter was part of the Battle of the Box – which provided a welcome victory against the Japanese after successive failures and retreats – and later survived a deadly assault by enemy troops, which claimed the lives of several men he was with.

Peter opening his card from Her Majesty The Queen

Peter attained the rank of Captain, and left the Army in 1946. He soon moved to India, where he lived until 1976, and then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where he stayed for a further 10 years. He returned to the UK following the death of his wife Edith.

 

Peter later remarried, and moved to Royal Star & Garter with his wife Colleen in 2019. She sadly died later that year.

 

Peter’s daughter Christine said: “He had a great party and he loved having his family with him. It was a lovely day.”

 

‘A connection to his past’

 

Speaking about the Home, Christine continued: “It was great to find somewhere that had a connection to his past. He spent very little of his adult life in England, so he doesn’t know much about The Beatles, but he knows about the military!”

Peter married Edith in India in 1951

Royal Star & Garter in Surbiton is welcoming new residents. For more information, or to work at the Home, go to www.starandgarter.org/surbiton

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