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Desmond Peter Middleton S.A.S The Middleton Family Middleton/Gough Family The Harris Family
Desmond Peter Middleton
A Butlins holiday photo - always made us laugh!
Desmond Peter Middleton1921-1980(website includes pages on the Middleton family history from 1806 - Wellingborough to Sheffield and also information on the Harris family form Mynddislywn, Monmouthshire and Fanny Wardley from Killamarsh and the Keeling family from Walsall, Burton on Trent)
Desmond Peter Middleton was born at the George IV on Infirmary Road in Sheffield on 1 January 1921. His mother was Lily Middleton (nee Gough) (1882-1950) and his father was Arthur Middleton (1880-1970). Family tradition has it that his father was the only teetotal Landlord in Sheffield at the time, but I don’t know if this was true. His family were originally coal merchants in horse and cart days but the business apparently failed when the horses were commandeered during the First World War. Des had 2 elder brothers, Arthur Gough (1905-1996) and Nigel Gordon (1918-1983) and 2 sisters Veda Gwendoline (1908-1996) and Marjorie Olga who died when she was 2, I believe of scarlet fever (1915-1917). Des, his brother Nigel and his sister Veda went into the teaching profession, his sister Veda becoming Headmistress of Carbrook County Junior School, Attercliffe Common, Sheffield around 1955. Following a period at De La Salle College, Sheffield (1932-1935) and St Peter’s College, Freshfield, Liverpool (1935-1938) - he apparently was going to be monk at one time and was also chorister before his voice broke. Des to his family and Peter to his wife Eileen and friends, started as an Articled Clerk with Peat Marwick Mitchell’s Sheffield Coal Control Office (1938-1939) but when the war came he joined the Royal Artillery as a Gunner Driver/Mechanic and was then selected to join A Squadron, the 1st Special Air Service as a Sabotage Agent where he served under Colonal “Paddy” Mayne. Des could recite a lot of poetry, especially “there is a one eyed yellow idol to the North of Kathmandu”. This is listed on an “A” Squadron song sheet in my possession. He was in the S.A.S. for 4 and a half years, from 30 June 1942 to 16 November 1945 taking part inthe Western Desert, Italy and North West Europe campaigns. He was a qualified parachutist and ski instructor (Ecole de Haute Montagne). I was led to believe by his elder brother Arthur that he was driver/bodyguard to Colonal Paddy but have not found any proof of this. Peter only spoke occasionally of his war experiences but he had an enormous respect for “Colonal Paddy” and a fierce loyalty to his comrades, even after the war. His Aunt — Madam Cecilia (nee Gough) was a palmist and clairvoyant, in Southport at one time—and Peter’s sister Veda had a little of the ‘gift’. One time when Peter was missing presumed dead, Veda woke up one night to see Peter and comrades in a boat in rough water at the end of her bed—she said to her mother “it’s okay Des is alive” and sure enough, apparently he had escaped from Sicily in a leaky boat. See Gavin Mortimer's book the SAS in WW2 an illustrated history and SAS with The Maquis, June-September 1944 by Ian Wellsted.After the war Peter eventually went to Brincliffe Teacher’s Training College in Sheffield (1946-1948) where he met and subsequently married Eileen Harris (1920-1976) born in Cwmnantyrodyn, Mynyddislwyn, Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales. Her Polish fiance had been killed during World War II. She had apparently had an opportunity to join Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop but family commitments had prevented her. Her claim to fame was singing ‘run rabbit run’ at the Lyceum in Sheffield.Peter often talked about his courting days and the nostalgia he and Eileen had for the old original Sheffield tram. Peter then taught at Philadelphia in Sheffield.After their marriage they went out to teach in Africa for a few years (1951-1957). Peter initially teaching with the Army Schools in Tel El Kabir. They made many friends out there, a lot of them American, including “the man who came to dinner and stayed for 6 months”. They moved to Swaziland, South Africa and Peter taught at Goedgegun High and Bremersdorp. They then returned to England with their daughter who had been born in Tripoli, travelling on the Union Castlle line. They stayed in Sheffield with family initially with Peter teaching at Philadelphia, Sheffield (1948-1951) and then moved to Bedfordshire, subsequently living in a small village called Swineshead where Peter became the Rural District Councillor. Peter taught at Silver Jubilee School for boys in Bedford (1958-1960), Bushmead at Eaton Socon (1961-1970) and then Longsands near St Neots where he ran a Film Club. Peter liked to visit hostelries such as “the Case is Altered” at Ravensden which reputedly had the oldest landlord in England and the “White Horse”, Kimbolton when May and Robbie Robbins were landlords and the “Kings Head” Hotel, St Neots when Cynthia was landlady. Her daughter was at Stage school.Later the family moved to Kent where Peter taught at Rowena School for Girls in Sittingbourne (1970-1980). He was due to retire in January 1981 but had a cerebral haemorrhage on Boxing Day and died the day after, leaving a wife and one child. His first wife Eileen had died just after their 25th Wedding Anniversary from hepatitis and Peter had only recently remarried.He always tried to be fair and he cared about people. He always put his family first and always helped with the housework—his speciality was ironing and washing up but he turned his hands to most things. He used to send Valentines cards on Valentines Day and bring unexpected presents during the year. Eileen had had to have a radical mastectomy following breast cancer and he was extremely supportive. He would always give a lift to a stranger or a helping hand to someone in trouble. I remember him saying that when he came to collect his daughter from a birthday party when she was small, everyone came to the window to look at him— she had told them all that her Dad was a funny clown! His favourite song was “Wonderful Life” by Louis Armstrong and his favourite colour was maroon/red.The film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” with James Stewart reminds me of Peter, he was one of many unsung heroes. He was very proud of his Sheffield roots he had a rough, tough, exterior but was a genuine Good Samaritan - always putting others before himself and perhaps surprisingly, was a “new man” before the word was invented.