Early 4th Battalion Parachute Regiment Photo of Peter Mathews
A brave soldier who was part of the very formation of the Parachute Regiment and served throughout the war as Part of the 4th Battalion with distinction.
Former Para Peter Matthews who was 86 passed away in the Bristol Royal Infirmary on 12th December 2011 after a brief illness. He lived and worked in the Bristol area for over 40 years, initially in the construction industry and in the licensed trade until his retirement.
He was born on 20th February 1925
Wanting to fight for his country when the war broke out he went to the recruiting centre on 21st September 1941 whilst only sixteen years old and stated that he was born in 1923. He enlisted into the London Irish Rifles and almost immediately volunteered for the newly formed Parachute Regiment, then under the umbrella of The Army Air Corps. After training at Hardwicke and Ringway he was posted to B Coy, 4th Bn Parachute Regiment.
In February 1943 he set sail for Oran in Africa and was then deployed to Tunis.
On 5th September 1943 he went to Southern Italy seeing action in Taranto and Laterza. It was during this time in the front line that Peter’s Company Commander Major Dick Hargreaves was awarded the MC. Towards the end of September 1943 the Battalion were re-deployed on the front line on the outskirts of Bari. In October 1943 they were on the outskirts of Naples along what had become known as “The Mad Mile” because of bobby traps and enemy sniper fire. By February 1944 Peter moved on with the Battalion to Monte Casino and after 2 weeks of intense fighting moved position again to Mount Pietro. By May 1944 they were back at Monte Casino and in June of the same year the battalion withdrew to Salerno where they trained for a “Top Secret” operation which would become known as Operation Dragoon, the liberation of Southern France. In August 1944 Peter as part of the 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade dropped deep behind enemy lines in the Le Muy region of Southern France. Peter was part of the successful attack to secure the main bridge and crossroads which lead up from the coast and was paramount to help the American seaborne advance. Also as part of B Company Peter also helped liberate the town of Le Muy itself.
Early in September 1944 the battalion was back in Italy deployed to Rome and in October 1944 moved to Foggia to board planes to drop in Greece. The Battalion fought up through Greece to Yugoslavia and then back to Greece. Fierce fighting in and around Athens followed until the cease fire was announced on 5th January 1945.
After the war Peter saw action in Palestine and was de mobbed January 1948.
Le Muy became a special place for Peter and over a 17 year period he never missed one Anniversary of the Liberation on 15th August each year. He contributed when he could to the town museum with military memorabilia.
One Last Trip - Southern France August 2011
He and 8 other former members of this operation where held in such high esteem for their achievement they were awarded The Légion d´Honneur by the French government on 16th August 2004.
Peter was also awarded the Greek Star by the Greek Government recognising his action in the Greek Civil war.
Upon leaving the Regiment and after a brief spell playing football for Swindon Town, Peter went to work in the construction industry.