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General Sir Peter Edgar de la Cour de la Billière, KCB, KBE, DSO, MC & Bar (b. 29 April 1934) is a former British soldier, who was Director of the United Kingdom Special Forces during the Iranian Embassy Siegemarker and Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in the 1990 Gulf War.

Early years

He was born as Peter Edgar Delacour to Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Denis de la Billiere and his wife Kitty Lawley. On 22 May 1941, his father was killed when his ship, HMS Fiji, was sunk by Germanmarker bombers in an attack southwest of Cretemarker.

He was educated at Wellesley House, Broadstairs and Harrowmarker. He originally enlisted as a private in the King's Shropshire Light Infantry in 1952. He was later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Durham Light Infantry. During his early career as an officer he served in Japanmarker, Koreamarker and Egyptmarker.

Entry into SAS

In 1956, he attended and passed Selection for the 22 Special Air Service Regimentmarker. During his first SAS tour, he served in Malayamarker during the Malayan Emergency and Omanmarker, where he was mentioned in despatches and won the Military Cross in 1959. After his initial tour with 22 SAS, he returned to the Durham Light Infantry to run recruit training, before taking up the post of Adjutant of 21 SAS - the London based Territorial Army (reserve) SAS regiment. In 1962, he was attached to the Federal Army in Adenmarker. In 1964, he failed Staff College but was appointed Officer Commanding A Squadron 22 SAS. From 1964-1966, A Squadron was deployed to Borneomarker for the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation. For his actions during this period he was awarded a bar to the Military Cross.

After this tour, he re-attended Staff College, and, this time, passed. After Staff College he was posted as G2 (intelligence) Special Forces at Strategic Command. He then served a tour as second-in-command of 22 SAS, of which he was Commanding Officer 1972-4. For service in Oman, he was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1976.

He then served in a number of administrative posts before returning to the regiment as Director, 1978-82. It was during this period that the SAS shot to public fame as a consequence of their storming of the Iranian Embassymarker in 1980. In 1982, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). After the SAS he was appointed Military Commissioner and Commander of British Forces in the Falkland Islandsmarker 1984-5 and thenGeneral Officer Commanding Wales 1985-90.

In 1987 he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. In 1991, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).

Gulf War

Despite being due for retirement he was appointed Commander-in-Chief British Forces in the 1990 Gulf War - in effect the second in command of the multinational military coalition headed by US General Norman Schwarzkopf. His past experience of fighting in the area, knowledge of the people and some fluency in the language overrode concerns about his age. In this role, he was largely responsible for the use of SAS and other special forces in significant roles in that conflict. His experience in 22 SAS allowed him to convince Schwarzkopf to employ special forces in various roles. Prior to this, Schwarzkopf was resistant to the use of special forces due to his experiences in Vietnam.

Retirement

By the end of his career he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant General. In order to allow him to receive the pension benefits of full general he was given the newly created sinecurist post of Middle East Advisor to the Secretary of State for Defence. He retired in 1992.

In 1993, he received Canadamarker's Meritorious Service Medal, Saudi Arabiamarker's Order of King Abdul Aziz, 2nd Class and was made a Commander of the United Statesmarker' Legion of Merit.

He has written or co-authored 18 books, including an autobiography, a personal account of the Gulf War and a number of works about the SAS.The SAS traditions about not reporting operations means that this generated considerable tension.He is currently a patron of the UK based international development charity, FARM-Africa having served on the Board since 1992 and as Chairman from 1998 to 2001.

References






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