Major Peter E. Warr
Unit : "B" Company, 10th Parachute Battalion
Army No. : 187052
Awards : Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Distinguished Service Order
In 1942, Captain Peter Warr was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, on the recommendation of Major David Stirling of the SAS. His citation reads:
This officer has shown untiring devotion to his task of creating parachute training facilities and staff of parachute instructors in the Middle East. He has succeeded in building up these facilities to a high degree of efficiency in spite of shortage of material and equipment; these he has overcome by enterprise and by improvisation.
When the 4th Parachute Brigade retreated across LZ-L on Tuesday 19th September, with German armour in pursuit, Major Warr was crossing the zone with his men when shots were fired above their heads. Private George Taylor was amongst the party: "We were moving back in extended order across the open when some fire came overhead. We all went down. Major Peter Warr shouted at us to stop doing that. He said that the next time anyone got down he would stay down. It was only a joking warning, but it worked." During the afternoon the 10th Battalion occupied Wolfheze and prepared to defend it from an expected German attack, though in the event one did not materialise. As his men were taking up their positions, however, Warr went about the village and urged the locals to seek shelter. For his actions over the following forty-eight hours, Warr was awarded the Distinguished Service Order:
At Arnhem on 19th September 1944, during hard fighting in which his Commanding Officer was wounded and the Battalion Second-in-Command missing, Major Warr took over command. The next day, after heavy casualties, he personally led the depleted Battalion in a bayonet charge through strongly held woodland to open a way for the remnants of the Brigade into the Divisional perimeter. With his Battalion now about 50 strong he was then ordered to take and hold some houses in Oosterbeek on the critical North Eastern edge of the Divisional perimeter. He led the attack on each house in turn himself, and in stiff hand to hand fighting in which he was wounded in the face, drove the enemy out. During these attacks he surprised and captured intact a Mk IV tank, finding the crew outside of it and killing or wounding them all with his sten gun.
During the night 20th / 21st September he encouraged and grimly drove exhausted men in defensive preparations so that on the morning of 21st September he was able to meet and drive off strong attacks by tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry, with mortar and machine gun support during which he moved fearlessly from house to house and kept the men constantly inspired by his own magnificent example.
That afternoon a still stronger attack overran the Battalion position. Major Warr collected a handful of men and savagely counter-attacked, driving out the enemy and re-establishing the 20 men, who were now left out of the Battalion, in the same houses.
With his little band of weary men, some of them wounded, he held the position against repeated attack and continuous fire at close range, with neither food nor water, often cut off and with ammunition almost exhausted, until in the rush attack during the night 21st / 22nd September he was severely wounded and fell into the hands of the enemy.
Before the defence collapsed, on Thursday, Warr was brought down into the cellar of the house belonging to Mrs Bertje Voskuil. She remembers "buoyant" Peter Warr: "They brought Peter Warr down and laid him on the ground in front of me... Peter Warr had been hit in the thigh; it was very painful. Sometimes he was unconscious and at others he was awake and grumbling and swearing - he had every reason to. I remember him saying, "Oh for a pint of beer."... Then I heard them fighting in the house above us - shots and screams; they made all sorts of noises when they were fighting, sometimes just like animals. Then the door burst open and the Germans came in. A tall British soldier jumped in front of me and Peter Warr, with his back to the Germans. I don't know whether he was trying to protect us. There were two terrific explosions then - German grenades. The British soldier was hit in the back and fell forward over me. He was dead. Many of the people in the cellar were wounded. I was hit in both legs and my hearing was affected - and still is... Major Warr was badly hurt again, in the shoulder. He had been hit when he reared himself up on his elbow when the Germans came in and called out to them that he and his men were surrendering."
Major Warr was sent to the Luidina Hospital in Apeldoorn and here his wounds began to heal. After several months of treatment, he had teamed up with Major Gordon Sherriff of the 7th King's Own Scottish Borderers, and the two planned their escape. They intended to seek the assistance of the Dutch Resistance and, thanks to the nurses in the Hospital, this was arranged. However their escape would undoubtedly bring suspicion down upon the hospital staff and the local population, and so to avoid this they arranged to be transferred to the German-controlled St. Joseph Hospital. They arrived on the 7th January 1945 and awaited further contact with the Resistance. Unfortunately before this could take place they were informed that they were to be removed from the Hospital and taken to Germany. If they were to escape then it was essential that it should be as soon as possible, however Major Warr felt that he was not fit enough for such a venture and so resigned himself to life as a prisoner of war, leaving Major Sherriff free to complete his escape in the company of others.
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