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Homage to a fallen comrade

To quote the immortal bard, 'Courage mounteth with occasion', which was never more true than when applied to Lieutenant Peter Cartwright (1930-1953) of the Royal Scots Fusiliers,' who volunteered for the SAS to conquer the tedium of regimental duties in the Home Command. He was by any measure of bravery an exceptional Dukie who died in unexceptional circumstances exercising his singular responsibility for the care and safety of the men under his command. Peter Baxter Stuart Cartwright, whose father was an OR (other rank) in the RSF commissioned in WWII, joined the Duke of York's Royal Military School in 1940.
    To make the school premises available for operations in Europe at the outbreak of hostilities, the School was evacuated from its permanent premises on the cliffs of Dover to Cheltenham. The buildings at Cheltenham also being required for military use, the School moved a second time to Saunton Sands in North Devon in 1941 and there spent the remainder of the war years.
    It is interesting to speculate why Peter joined the Duke of York's School when, as the son of a soldier in a Scottish regiment, he might have been expected to join the Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, which was founded in 1908 for the sons of soldiers of Scottish regiments. As his school life turned out, the Duke of York's gain was the QVS's loss, for he was outstanding at sports. He had, in a manner of speaking, an eye for the ball, representing the school at football and boxing. Later, after joining the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, he played for the Institute in the football and cricket teams; he boxed, too, in the lightweight class.

Gathering of Dukies on the front porch of Saunton Sands Hotel taken in 1943 with Peter Cartwright in the centre.
Cartwright in centre with friends Dunkeld (left) and Hobbs (right) on sports field.
Drum Major Cartwright checking to make sure the drum corps and fifes are following him during a practice formation parade.
Peter was undoubtedly a first-class student and excelled academically, receiving an Army Special Class certificate of education before he left. [Until Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Nye, himself a former Dukie, instituted educational reforms to bring military education into line with civil society, the Army had its own certificates of education: the Second, First and Special class certificates]. Peter may have excelled in various ways, but he was no plaster cast saint. A record of his time at school would have read like Tom Brown's Schooldays, for the rivalry between the companies - or houses as they were renamed in the 1920s - was fierce and Cartwright was always in the thick of it.
    When others arranged a fist fight between him and a boy of another company, one with whom he was unacquainted, he cheerfully accepted the challenge and engaged in combat. CSM Jan Fry, attracted by the noise, stopped the fight and sent the rivals packing to Dusty Miller [see the entries for these two sergeant majors in the staff bios section] to settle their differences in the boxing ring. Peter was to his bosom pal Peter Harrington, 'exceptionally good company … willing and able to get into all sorts of scrapes with the teaching staff, taking the mickey out of people such as "Pin Hole Smith", who tried to teach us about the camera."
    In the countryside about Saunton was dotted with orchards, which became favourite scrumping grounds for always hungry boys. The apple trees were mainly stripped bare, but a good one was left in the centre. According to Harrington, on a slate under one tree, the farmer has written, 'Dear boys, please leave these, they are for the harvest festival on Sunday' to which Peter scribbled on the back, 'All are safely gathered in, 'ere the Winter storms begin.'
    Despite his at times wayward behaviour, Peter got on well with the school staff and was well thought of. This is evident from the fact he became Drum Major of the drum corps as seen in the accompanying photograph on a practice march drill (c1943) taken at Saunton. As he was among a select group of Dukies chosen by the sergeant-majors and encouraged to stay on at the school, he became a prefect and, in time, the Chief School Prefect (CSP).
    His Army Special Certificate of Education was not sufficient to gain him entrance to the RMA, Sandhurst. For consideration of entry, he sat and passed the Civil Service entrance examination for entry along with a fellow Dukie, Jim Mehlert. At Sandhurst, Peter met up once more with other Dukies including Peter Somerville and his friend Peter Harrington.
    In confirmation of the contention he was no plaster cast saint, although he was a fine soldier, Peter's attendance at the final farewell ball for his intake was a disaster. Blind drunk cadets were found all over the Academy after the ball was over. Peter Cartwright was among them. It landed him and others in the slammer. For their lack of restraint, they were made to do another term at Sandhurst.
Lieutenant Peter Cartwright, Royal Scots Fusiliers before his service in the SAS.

A reunion of Dukies at the Victory Club, London in 1953 (l-r) Ken Robinson, John Balderson, Peter Harrington , Grace Maxwell, Eric Marriott, Peter Cartwright
and Peter Somerville..

Wreaths at the School cenotaph after Peter Cartwright's memorial service
Lieut. Peter Cartwright, RSF, died on 21 March 1953 when on a training exercise with the SAs in Malaya. He died as one might have expected in an effort to rescue three comrades who got into difficulties when swimming in full kit in a disused open tin mine at Sungei Besi, which was used by the SAS for training. Lieut. Cartwright was a strong swimmer, but must have struck his head when he plunged into the water, for he failed to surface. All four in training were drowned.

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