About Us




Guards Magazine Travel Offer


More Features

People, Places & Events



Book Reviews




Sir Peter Petrie Bt CMG
Late Grenadier Guards

by Major James Gatehouse
formerly Grenadier Guards

Sir Peter Charles Petrie, 5th Baronet, died on 28th October 2021, aged 89. He was known as one of the smoothest of diplomats, spending most of his career in the more sophisticated capitals of the Western world, his last appointment as Ambassador to Belgium from 1985-89. He then became foreign affairs adviser to the then Governor of the Bank of England and another former Grenadier, Robin Leigh-Pemberton, and subsequently to his successor, Eddie George. For the next decade Sir Peter became well known in the higher reaches of international banking, especially in Europe, and he was employed by the Governor in a quasi-diplomatic capacity.

He was born on 7th March 1932, the son of the historian, Sir Charles Petrie, 3rd Bt and former Editor of The Guards Magazine. Peter was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he read classics. He was commissioned into the Regiment in April 1955 and promptly sent out to join the 2nd Battalion in Egypt, at that time commanded by Lieutenant Colonel the Hon Miles Fitzalan Howard MC, later The Duke of Norfolk. The battalion was based in Golf Course Camp at Port Said, according to one young officer, a dreary location wedged ‘between the station and the jail. I could hear the screams of the prisoners who were chained to heavy balls. The bed bugs and lice were awful’. Nonetheless, Peter must have made a positive impression because he was soon the Intelligence Officer and had been sent with Support Company down to Aqaba, a tiny village on the edge of the Red Sea where Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan all meet. ‘It is very, very hot and the flies are appalling’. There were other excursions as far as Khartoum and Kenya and, with two Guards Brigades in the Canal Zone, there were more guards on the Queen’s Birthday Parade at Moascar, than there were on Horse Guards.

Fortunately, the days of the British Army in Egypt were numbered, and Anthony Eden had directed that there be a phased withdrawal. The Commanding Officer had persuaded the military authorities that the 2nd Battalion should be the last to leave Egypt, on the dubious grounds that the Coldstream and Scots Guards had each played a greater part in the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir in 1882. The final withdrawal was scheduled for 1st April 1956, but the Foreign Office intervened, saying that the last British troops could not leave on April Fool’s Day! On the night of 2nd April, the entire battalion departed, in secrecy, returning slowly by sea to Pirbright, via Tripoli.

Later in 1956, having left the Army, Peter took the Foreign Office exam, and his first posting abroad was to the UK Delegation to NATO, then still in Paris, where he met and married Countess Lydwine von Oberndorff, whose family had an extended cousinage in New York, Paris and The Hague. They were a very well-connected couple! After Paris there were postings to New Delhi, Kathmandu and then to the UN in New York, followed by Bonn and six years in Paris before the final move to Brussels.

Many colleagues thought it a pity that Peter did not rise still further in the Diplomatic Service, but his duties at the Bank of England enabled him to play an active part in financial diplomacy. He was also able to take on the honorary appointment of British Chairman of the Franco-British Council from 1997-2002.

He was appointed CMG in 1980 and, in 1988, he succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his half-brother. In 2006 he was appointed Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur. Sir Peter retained his youthful appearance and energy until late in life. He continued to split his time between London and Normandy, where he and his wife enjoyed country pursuits. They had two sons and a daughter.

© Crown Copyright