Education: Harrow School The Harrow School register, 1801-1893 p460 Entrances in May 1876.
Peto, Basil Edward, son of Sir S. Morton Peto, 1st Bart., The
Hollands, Yeovil (Mr. Bowen's)
Left Dec. 1879; Director of the Morgan Crucible Co., Ld., Battersea. B. E. Peto, Esq., East House, Pinner
Occupation: Building Contractor, Plumbago
Magnate and later Member of Parliament
Upon leaving Harrow, Basil chose not to take the opportunity to study law,
but instead joined the building firm of Peto Brothers, run by his brother
William Herbert. Herbert and Morton Kelsall Peto had started the firm in
1882, but Morton, according to Basil in his diary "was not suited to
business and retired after a few years with £10,000 to follow Art and study
painting" and Basil joined the firm in his place. Basil wrote in his diary
(p16; unpublished, quoted in The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and His Partners
vol 1 p35)
At the end of 1879, a great family debate was held with regard to
my future. My mother and elder sisters, and Morton Peto were strongly in
favour of my going to Cambridge and going to the Bar, and a great friend
of my Father's, Mr Barber, QC, offered to take me into his Chambers as
pupil. This was thought to be a rare opportunity, as he had never taken a
pupil and was one of the leading QC's.
However, against this prospect Herbert Peto, who was at Gillingham
Street and had the whole business of Peto Brothers now on his hands,
proposed the suggestion that, if I left Harrow at once - the Christmas of
1879 - and came there, he would, as soon as I was about 21 years of age,
take me into partnership as, in his view, business was the way to make
money, not Law. My Father rather leaned to Gillingham Street as the
proposal was almost exactly repeating what had happened in his own case...
I finally decided on. the Gillingham Street offer, although I
realised that it had many social and other disadvantages.
Basil Peto's diary describes his early days at the firm. Work began
at 6.00am (Basil Peto Diary p16; unpublished, quoted in The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and His Partners
vol 1 p75):
I was allotted for bench-mate a very nice man, named Overton, who was a
very good joiner. Of course, I was given all the easier parts of the
different joiners' work that we made on our benches, doors, windows etc.
At breakfast time each day I retired to the cashier (Ellison's) office as
he did not come for about three quarters of an hour later, and I was able
to toast a kipper or a sausage in front of the fire and heat tea or coffee
on it. At dinner time, if I had any hot dinner, it was heated in a pudding
basin on the glue-heater and about 12.30 every day one saw joiners
removing the glue-pots and substituting pudding basins tied up in cloths
The day's work ended at about 6.00pm. After about eighteen months of this
apprenticeship Basil worked for nine months on buildings, "learning
something about bricklaying and masonry".
The building I was on most of the time was a house in Harrington Gardens
that Herbert was building - to Ernest George and Harold Peto's design, for
Sir Robert Palmer Harding --the father of Kate Peto and Nellie Peto.
Another of Basil's brothers, Harold Ainsworth Peto, was an architect in
partnership with Ernest George, and that architectural concern did some
business with Peto Brothers. Basil describes, again from his diary (p17;
unpublished, quoted in The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and His Partners
vol 1 p75):
In the summer of 1882, in the evenings, did a lot of overtime work at
Harold's office, where he was working on a big specification for an
elaborate house for his friends, the Middletons, which was ultimately
never built, as the Father, old Middleton - died. However, it gave me a
lot of very useful experience.
In 1882 Basil attended a course of lectures on carpentry, and sciences
connected with the building trade, at University College, Gower Street. In
February 1883, with an advance of £600 from William Herbert Peto, Basil
sailed on the Arizona the United States where he stayed for almost a year,
returning in November 1883. The trip which was "as much an instructional
visit and a holiday". Basil visited New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore,
Washington and Chicago. From Chicago he travelled to Montreal via Niagara.
In an attempt to find a guide to take him salmon fishing, he happened (Basil
Peto Diary p19; unpublished, quoted in The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and His Partners
vol 1 p76):
to stumble across what I wanted when visiting the Grand Trunk Railway
offices, where of course, I found everybody at that time very friendly to
the son of Sir Morton Peto, who had been the actual constructor of the
greater part of the system, including the great bridge over the St
While visiting Ottawa, Basil recalled that he:
thoroughly investigated the newly built Canadian Houses of Parliament -
the ventilation system was something new and clever. In winter, when they
want the heat, the air there is naturally extremely dry, as it is at a
very low temperature, and when it is brought in and heated it is very bad
for the skin and cracks it. They therefore arranged a wonderful system
under the Houses of Parliament of a network of pipes, perforated so as to
make an imitation rain, through which they drew the air from outside so as
to damp it all before heating it. This system of perforated pipes has been
used also as a means of extinguishing fire'
From there to Newport where he "definately ceased the instructional side" of
his visit in favour of socializing and then
After another stay in New York and more study of American building
methods, my time in America was drawing to an end. On both my first visit
to New York and the last one I saw a good deal of Charles Gregory, a
crucible maker and a competitor of the powerful firm of Dixons, makers of
pencils and crucibles, who had always been in very close touch with the
Morgans of Battersea.
In 1884 Basil was made a partner in Peto Brothers. The firm was engaged to
build the new London
Pavilion under great time pressure, and they took the novel step of
building durin gthe night as well. He notes in Basil Peto Diary p26;
unpublished, quoted in The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and His Partners
vol 1 p78, that this was:
quite a new sight for London, only made reasonably possible by the recent
invention of electric arc lighting. The internal lighting by incandescent
lamps, on the Edison principle came later.
Five huge glass globes containing the carbons, were suspended high
over the building site and above the level of the three Scoth cranes,
which covered the walls of the three corners of the triangle which
constituted the site. I had seen Scotch cranes used in New York on
buildings of moderate height, but, although they had been used for some
time - as the name suggests - in Scotland for lifting masonry, those
working on the London Pavilion were the first that had ever been used in
London. On one or two occasions at night I added to the show by stepping
on to an empty brick skip at the street level and being swung up to the
scaffolding above by the Scotch crane, to save the trouble of climbing
The London Pavilion was the first building to be constructed using
the new fireproof system known as 'Doulton-Peto' flooring, developed by
Basil Peto. Basil wrote:
Among other thing that I had observed in America was their system of
fire-proof flooring, made of terra-cotta blocks, partly covering the
bottom flanges of the rolled iron joists, and forming a much more
fire-proof floor than concrete... (I) designed blocks that were shaped
with a bottom flange which would meet and entirely cover the underside of
the joists and these were used throughout the London Pavilion.
Peto Brothers took a large contract for the International Fisheries
Exhibition held in 1883 during which Basil extended the company to supply
(Basil Peto Diary p27; unpublished, quoted in The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and His Partners
vol 1 p80):
a stream of exhibitors, all anxious to have lengths of counter, platform
and stands, acres of green baize, show cases and all sorts of things
supplied to them ... In the fortnight before the opening of the Exhibition
I had nearly 2,000 accounts, varying from 7/6d, to some hundreds., of
pounds and I was there almost day and night.
In 1887 Peto Brothers took a job constructing the exhibition arena for
William Cody - "Buffalo
Bill" - whom Basil had met during his trip to the United States. Basil
wrote in his diary that Cody: proceeded to draw on a bit of paper an oval ring,
which he said would about fit the site, and which I was to understand
meant tiers of seats for the audience to see the performance all round -
he gave me a rough indication of the length of the arena and the width he
required for the galloping ponies, for the ball shooting and Red Indian
battle shows. As far as I recollect, it was all to be ready in three
weeks' time. That seemed a big order, but we managed it alright by getting
a sufficient strength of carpenters and our good friend, my brother-in-law
Pendrudock-Wyndham, reaped a rich harvest in selling a large quantity of
timber again - though not anything approaching the quantity he had
supplied for the Fisheries Exhibition
In 1889, Peto Brothers won the contract for the Canehill Asylum Extension.
The firm offered workers a profit-sharing scheme in which they would share
one quarter of the contract's net profits, but attached conditions
forfeiting the profit sharing by anyone earning less than a total of £5 in
wages on the contract, by anyone who diminished the profits by "neglecting
their duties, misconducting themselves, wasting their time, or by joining
any strike for shorter hours or for
wages above the existing recognised rates of wages." The Building Trades
Unions rejected the scheme, taking exception to the restrictions and feeling
that there would be incentive to dismiss men before they earned their £5.
The project was subjected to a number of strikes, with the strikebreakers
being forced to sleep at the shop, and sent home only at weekends, under
heavy police escort. On 11 June 1890 a fire was set at the works that
"destroyed the buildings and the whole of the joiner's shops, joinery, and
machinery which had been used to make it". The firm never recovered, and in
1891 Basil joined another of his brother, Samuel Arthur Peto at the Morgan
Crucible Company rather than restarting the building business. Peto Brothers
was wound down and officially dissolved on 30 June 1893 (London Gazette 5 December 1893 p7143).
Basil remained a director at Morgan Crucible Company until 1904, and then
entered the business of mining and buying plumbago
(graphite), the material used to make molten-metal crucibles. Basil made
three trips to the United States and Canada and four trips to Ceylon and
India in connection with his plumbago trade (The Straits Times (Singapore), 8 August
1928, p12). He is recorded arriving on the Lucania
on 13 May 1905 (manifest),
trip which he describes as "touring on business" with a final destination of
Montana. His occupation is listed a manufacturer, and his residence as
Guildford. On that trip, Basil also recorded border crossings on 12 June
1905 from Canada into Niagara Falls, New York (Border
From Canada to United States) and from Canada into North Stratford,
New Hampshire, also in June (Border
From Canada to United States). Basil is also recorded arriving in New
York aboard the Lusitania on 9
October 1908 (manifest).
this trip he lists his final destination as Holland House, New York, and his
residence as Kirby House, Hungerford.
Election rally for Basil Peto
1910 - Market Lavington
At the January 1910 general election Basil was returned as Member of
Parliament for the Conservative party for the Devizes constituency in
Wiltshire, and retained the seat until the 1918 election. He was later
elected twice as Member of Parliament for Barnstaple, holding the seat as a
Conservative from 1922 to 1923 and again from 1924 to 1935. In 1927, Peto
was expelled from the Conservative Party after which he sat in Parliament as
a Unionist. The Straits Times (Singapore), 8 August
BASIL PETO. "Excommunicated" By Conservative Party.
Extraordinary disciplinary action has been taken by the Chief
Government Whip in removing the name of Sir Basil Peto (Cons. Barnstaple)
from the list of members receiving the Whip, which is tantamount to
expulsion from the Conservative Party. Apparently the Government Whips
were dissatisfied with Sir Basil's activities in opposing Government
notably in pressing the claims of the South Irish loyalists, resisting the
Totalizator Bill, and promoting the movement for the extension of the
safeguarding system. The irritation reached a climax when Sir Basil Peto
last week, late at night, moved an embarrassing resolution after the bulk
of the Government supporters had departed.
The excommunication of Sir Basil Peto, M.P., has provided a
first-class end-of-session sensation.
Sir Basil saw the Prime Minister this afternoon. It is expected
that he will see the Chief Government Whip next week.
Sir Basil Peto, in an interview, stated that he had received no
warning of the punishment and knew nothing of the Whip's action until he
read of it in the newspapers, though on Thirsday night the Chief
Government Whip sopke to him angrily in the lobby.
Meanwhile, the opinion is expressed that his excommunication is
also in the nature of a warning to other Conservatives.
[Sir Basil Edward Peto, 1st Bt., (1927), has been M.P.
(Conservative) for the Barnstaple Division of Devon since 1924. Born in
1862, he was educated at Harrow. Sir Basil is a well-known building
contractor, and was a partner of Peto Brothers, Pimlico, 1884-91; a
director of the Morgan Crucible Co., Ltd, 1892-1904. He has had
considerable experience in the mining and buying plumbago, in connection
with which he has visited the U.S.A. and Canada three times and Ceylon and
India four times. He was Chief Commissioner (unpaid) of Belgian Refugee
Affairs in 1916. Sir Basil entered Parliament in 1910, as Conservative
M.P. for the Devizes Division, Wilts, and during 1922-23 represented
Barnstaple. He was re-elected in 1924.]
Debrett's House of Commons p130 (1918) B. E. PETO (Wiltshire, Eastern, or
Basil Edward PETO, son of the late Sir Samuel Morton
Peto, 1st Bt., by Sarah Ainsworth, who d.
1892, da. of the late Henry Kelsall, of Rochdale; b.
Aug. 13th, 1862; ed. at Harrow: m.
1892, Mary Matilda Annie, da. of the late Capt. Thomas Carpendale Baird. A
Conservative; has sat for E., or
Devizes, Div. of Wiltshire since Jan. 26th, 1910. Residences - 33,
Grosvenor Road, S.W.; Tawstock Court, near Barnstaple, N. Devon. Clubs - Carlton, Orleans.
Basil's father suffered some financial difficulties in 1869, and was forced
to give up their home in Chipstead Place, Sevenoaks. The family 'went
abroad' for three years. The winter was spent at Cannes at the villa of a
French protestant Pasteur, Monsieur Espinet and his wife and the spring of
1870 at Ventimiglia and summer at Villars, above Lake Geneva. Basil recalls,
"In the summer holidays Arthur, Harold and Frank came out to join us".
During the winter of 1870-71, Lady Peto and the elder sisters went to Rome,
but Helen and Basil were left with a governess in Florence, "thought to be
much too young to benefit from the historical glories of what became the
capital of Italy". They joined their mother in Venice in the spring of 1871,
then went to Lugano, Monte Generose and Le Prese, above Lake Lugano and
across the Maloya Pass to Pontresina. The winter of 1871-72 was spent at San
Remo and Cannes. They travelled back to England in the spring of 1872, via
Cologne and Dresden. The family's movements are then recorded in Sir Morton Peto: a memorial sketch (Henry Peto,
Then from 1873 to 1875 Cowley House, Exeter, was the home; the summer of
1875 was spent at Stargrove, near Newbury; in 1876 The Hollands, Yeovil,
was rented; from 1877 to 1884 he resided at Eastcote House Pinner;
Basil lived in Gillingham Street, London from 1882 until 1889 at which time
he writes in his diary (p29; unpublished, quoted in The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and His Partners
vol 1 p39):
During the time that I lived at Gillingham Street Harold decided to buy a
mahogany double sculling boat. As one would expect from Harold's taste in
such things, it had very special cushions and other such fittings and he
was very proud and careful of it. We often went down to use it on Sundays
and generally kept the boat at Goring, Pangbourne or Streatley. The 'White
Hart' Hotel was our favourite resort. We generally had two or three
friends with us and the picnic lunch on Sunday became quite well known and
Basil was nominated a Baronet on 1 January 1827 (Edinburgh Gazette 4 January 1927 p2)
The KING has been graciously pleased to signify His Majesty's intention of
conferring Baronetcies of the United Kingdom on the following:-
Basil Edward Peto, Esq., J.P., M.P., Member of Parliament for Devizes,
1910-18; Barnstaple, 1922-23 and since 1924. For political and public
and the grant was made official on 18 February 1827 (London Gazette 18 February 1927 p1111).
Marriage: England Marriage Index
(3Q1892 Bridge vol 2a p1345); exact date from thepeerage.com
Occupation:The Architecture of Sir Ernest George and His
Partners vol 1 is the Ph.D. thesis of Hilary Joyce
Gainger at the university of Leeds. The thesis focusses on Ernest
George, and his partner Harold Ainsworth Peto, but contains significant
information on Basil Peto, and quotes extensively from Basil Peto's
diary which is unpublished but provided to Grainger by Lady Serena
Matheson, Basil Peto's granddaughter; Wikipedia
Army Officer and Member of Parliament.
Basil was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the 6th Battalion of the
Devon Regiment in the Territorial Army on 22 July 1921 (London Gazette 5 August 1921 p6263) and
promoted to Lieutenant on 22 July 1923 (London Gazette 24 August 1923 p5766). On 30
January 1923 he transferred to the Royal Artillery (London Gazette 8 February 1924 p1166) and
then transferred again on 7 July 1926 to the King's Dragoon Guards (London Gazette 6 July 1926 p4445). On 7
November 1929 Basil was seconded for service as Aide-de-Camp to the Governor
of Bombay (London Gazette 21 January 1930 p427).
During this period Peto defended the acting Governor of Bombay during an
assassination attempt in Poona. The
Argus (Melbourne) 23 July 1931 p8: Attempted Assassination. Acting Governor of Bombay.
CALCUTTA. July 22.
At attempt to assassinate Sir Ernest Hotson, Acting Governor of Bombay,
was made at Poona this morning. When Sir Ernest Hotson was inspecting
Ferguson College a student fired two shots at him from a revolver. Sir
Ernest Hotson was uninjured.
As the student fired, Captain B. A. J. Peto, of the Dragoon Guards,
aide-de-camp to the Acting Governor, struck him down with his sword.
A communique issued to-night states that the first shot struck Sir
Ernest Hotson's coat just above his heart, but it was deflected by a metal
stud and a pocket-book. The second shot missed him.
The Straits Times (Singapore) 10
September 1931 p11 ATTEMPT ON LIFE OF SIR JOHN HOTSON. Indian Student Gets Eight Years.
The student, Vasudev Balawant Gogate, who attacked Sir John Hotson,
the acting Governor of Bombay, as he was entering the library of the
Fergusson College at Poona on July 22, has been sentenced to eight years'
rigorous imprisonment. - Reuter.
Gogate, it will be recalled, took deliberate aim with a .22
revolver and fired two shots in rapid succession. Before a third shot
could be fired, the Governor sprang at the student, while Captain B. A. J.
Peto, his A.D.C., knocked the revolver from Gogate's hand with his sword.
Together they overpowered the student after which the college staff handed
him over to the police.
Following Sir John's return to Government House, after the
shooting, the bullet which struck him was found in the pocket of his
lounge suit. It had passed through his coat, struck the wad of notes in
his wallet in the breast pocket, and been deflected by the wallet's metal
Basil was elected as Member of Parliament for Birmingham King's Norton at a
by-election in May 1941 following the death of the sitting MP Ronald
Cartland, but was defeated at the 1945 general election by the Labour Party
candidate, Raymond Blackburn. Basil was Parliamentary Private Secretary to
the Chairman of the Oil Board (Geoffrey Lloyd) from December 1941 until
February 1945. These are Basil
Peto's contributions to Parliament.
Shortly before the by-election, Winston Churchill wrote a letter of
encouragement to Basil: The Churchill War Papers: The ever-widening war, 1941
pp595-6 (Martin Gilbert, 2001) 3 May 1941
Dear Captain Peto.
King's Norton had in Ronald Cartland a young member of high promise
who was loved by all who knew him for his great personal charm and
respected by his friends and opponents alike for his courage and
intellectual integrity. His death on the field of battle has left a sad
gap in our ranks and it is only fitting that his successor at King's
Norton should be like him a serving officer who supports the war policy
pursued by the Government and generally approved by the nation.
I am confident that I can rely on the electors to make clear by the
majority they accord to you that this is their view and that they are not
the people to be duped by well-meaning extremists in to the illusion that
victory or peace can be reached by any easy short cut. By giving you their
vote they will show their confidence in me and my colleagues from all the
political parties to make the best strategic use of the ever-increasing
resources at our disposal.
Those who are sincerely convinced that Hitler and Hitlerism must be
extirpated from Europe should regard it as part of their duty in defending
their country to go to the poll and record their vote. They must remember
that every enemy of Britain will look to the voting in King's Norton to
see if there is any weakening in the national resolve. No one should
commit the act of negligence involved in staying at home just because the
seat is in no danger of being lost. Every vote counts.
Winston S. Churchill
Notes: Basil usually went by his third name, John.
He was author of a book of poetry Escape from Now
published in 1947.
Army Officer and Member of Parliament.
Peto served in both World War I and World War II, attaining the rank of
Brigadier. He was commissioned in the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers and on 24
September 1923, Lieutenant Peto was appointed Adjutant and promoted to
Captain (London Gazette 25 September 1923 p6426). He
served as adjutant of the 9th Lancers until 24 September 1926 (London Gazette 24 September 1926 p6158) and
then, from 1 November 1926, he was seconded as adjutant of the
Northumberland Horse in the Territorial Army (London Gazette 19 November 1926 p7478)
which appointment he held until 20 July 1929 (London Gazette 3 September 1929 p5718). On
5 July 1933, Captain Peto was seconded as Instructor at the Equitation
School in Weedon (London Gazette 14 July 1933 p4720). He was
promoted to Major on 7 April 1935 (London Gazette 16 April 1935 p2598) and
relinquished his appointment as Instructor on 16 September 1936 (London Gazette 2 October 1936 p6276). Peto
was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel of the 9th Lancers on 17 October 1938 (London
Gazette 4 November 1938 p6888) and tasked with carrying on
the mechanised training of the regiment in the build up to the war, to
mobilise it when war came and to take it to France in May 1940. He received
the Distinguished Service Order for the action described below, although the
D.S.O. was not awarded until 8 November 1945 (London Gazette 6 November 1945 p5432). An
entry written about Peto in the forward of the Lancer's regimental
history The Ninth Queens Royal Lancers
1939-1945 (Bright, 1951) reads:- His was the responsibility of showing all ranks
how to behave under fire, and so much depends upon the leadership the
first time men go into battle. His calm and fearless example was an
inspiration to all, and laid the foundation of the enthusiasm and
steadiness which the regiment so consistently displayed throughout the
war. He commanded with conspicuous ability in the fantastic operations
south of the Somme until a severe wound obliged him to be evacuated. He
earned the D.S.O. for his services in France in 1940, though this was not
known until Major-General Victor Fortune, Commander of the 51st Highland
Division, was able to make his recommendations on his return from
captivity in Germany. These he backed up by a personal visit to the War
Office. Those who did not take part can have little idea of a commanding
officer's difficulties during those two years. Many were caused by failure
in higher places to foresee more accurately the type of equipment which
would be required, to provide it in time, and to settle with less
vacillation the organisation of the troops who would use it. Luckily for
the regiment, Chris Peto had, and has, an inexhaustible fund of humour and
an irrepressible spirit. These, he would be the first to admit, have
sometimes got him into trouble, but they were invaluable assets through
those years of exasperating trial. He did not come back after his
recovery, but was promoted to the command of armoured brigade. The
Regiment owes him a debt.
When the regiment was deployed to France it was not well equipped and the
account of Peto's injury illustrates this: Major MacDonell seeing the head and face of a
German popping out of the ground periodically about three hundred yards
from the Regimental Headquarters, suggested an investigation.
Lieutenant-Colonel Peto agreed and led the reconnaissance accompanied by
Major MacDonell's tank and two scout cars. They opened fire on twelve slit
trenches full of enemy infantry. After ten minutes the Germans crawled out
and surrendered. The "bag" was one officer and forty-three other ranks. We
had found it impossible to depress the guns on our tanks sufficiently to
bear, and Lt-Col Peto, firing from his turret with his pistol, was badly
wounded in the right hand. He carried on until the Germans surrendered,
and was then evacuated.
Ray Goodwin, who worked as a gardener at Lockeridge House from 1955 until
1973 remembers: Sir Christopher Peto managed the river
from Clatford to the Bell at Overton. Sections of the stream would be
attached with scythes to clear it for fishing. All the weed would be
dragged out for 30 metre stretches and trout from the Hungerford Trout
Farm would be put in in April. They never had to feed the fish; there was
so much natural food like molluscs, leeches, insect larva and so on. There
would be some wonderful fishing such as at Stanley Wood. You could catch
trout up to four and a half pounds.
The water always dried up around July. The trout would be left in
little pools. They’d be collected up and returned to Hungerford Trout
Christopher succeeded to the baronetcy on his brother's death on 24 March
Education: Harrow School and Balliol
College, Oxford, from 1913 to 1914, then the Royal Military College,
Sandhurst (1914 to 1915). Balliol College register, 1832-1914 p266
(1914): Peto, James Michael :b.
May 8, 1894; s. of B. E. Peto,
of Worton Littlecourt, Devizes. Educ.
Harrow; Balliol 1913- (A.L.S.,N.S.T). Union andn Arnold Socs. Addresses:
Worton Littlecourt, Devizes; 243 St. James Court, London, S.W.
Balliol College register, 1833-1933
p341: Peto, Maj. James Michael. - b. May 8, 1894; e.s.
of Sir Basil Peto, Bart., M.P., of Tavistock Court, Barnstaple, N. Devon,
and London, and 1st cousin of H. L. P. Baker (Balliol 1906). Educ.
Harrow; Balliol 1913-14 (A.L.S., N.S.T.); R.M.C., Sandhurst, 1914-15. 2nd
Lt., Coldstream Guards, May 1915; France and Flanders 1915-18; mentioned
in disp., France, 1916; Temp. Capt. 1916-19; Staff Capt. 1919-21; Capt.
1921; Staff Officer, East Anglian Area, 1926-8; Maj. Coldstream Guards,
1928; retired 1931; Lloyd's Underwriter; m.
1920, Frances, e.d. of Canon W.
H. Carnegie, sub-dean of Westminster: one daughter.
Army Officer in the Coldstream Guards. After his retirement from the army in
1931, Peto became a Lloyd's underwriter.
James was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards in May 1915.
He served in France and Flanders from 1915-18, and was mentioned in
dispatches from France in 1916. He was appointed temporary Captain on 13
February 1916 (London Gazette 17 March 1916 p3029), and
retained the acting rank when appointed adjutant of the Coldstream Guards on
8 October 1918 (London Gazette 22 November 1918 p13876).
James was seconded to the Staff and temporarily appointed Staff Captain on 5
March 1921 (London Gazette 29 March 1921 p2544) and was
promoted to Captain on 1 April 1921 (London Gazette 8 July 1921 p5538),
remaining seconded to the Staff. He relinquished the appointment on 26 July
1922 (London Gazette 15 December 1922 p8875). On
20 August 1926, James was again appointed Staff Captain of the 54th (East
Anglian) Division (London Gazette 3 September 1926 p5762).
James was promoted to Major on 1 October 1928 (London Gazette 2 October 1928 p6346) and
relinquished his staff appointment on promotion (London Gazette 5 October 1928 p6415). Major
Peto retired on 20 May 1931 (London Gazette 19 May 1931 p3227), but
returned to the service during World War II. He was appointed temporary
Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General on 17 April 1939 (London Gazette 30 June 1939 p4438) then, on
5 February 1941, Assistant Director of Transportation with the temporary
rank of Lieutenant-Colonel . James retired to the Reserve of Officers on 27
July 1942 (Army List 1945 p20A)
Lt-Col T.V. Nicholson recalls in A Humble Man's Notes on World War II
In the course of our studies we visited all Commands but not London
District which was manned by Guards Div. I was glad of this, for I would
not have liked to try to slim an organisation run with much success by my
friend Lt Col Sir Michael Peto. (Shortly after this tour Peto took a step
into a lift which was not at his floor though the gate was open, broke
both legs, and rebuilt about half the cottages at his village of
Dundonnell in Wester Ross out of the compensation.)
On 3 October 1945, Major Sir J. Michael Peto, having exceeded the age limit
of liability to recall, ceased to belong to the Reserve of Officers in the
Coldstream Guards, and was granted the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel (London Gazette 23 November 1945 p5742).
James succeeded to the baronetcy on his father's death on 28 January 1945.
James was a Ross-shire County Councillor in 1948 and commissioned Deputy
Lieutenant of the County of Ross and Cromarty on 14 April 1950 (Edinburgh Gazette 25 April 1950 p195). In
1948 he participated in a scheme to resettle men from the cities in remote
areas like his estate at Dundonnell. White settlers: the impact of rural repopulation in
Scotland p46 (Charles Jedrej, Mark Nuttall, 1996):
At the same time another resettlement scheme was undertaken on the Scoraig
peninsula in Wester Ross...In this case the land owner, Sir Michael Peto
was actively cooperating with the scheme and the Department of Agriculture
had assisted by reseeding 25 acres of pasture. The majority of the
prospective settlers were men in their twenties from Edinburgh and
Glasgow. In November 1948 there were six of them on Scoraig. The scheme
failed. According to the landowner, who was also a Ross-shire County
Councillor, this was due to the failure of the Government to provide
sufficient funds for the construction of a road into the peninsula, a road
which would, of course, greatly enhance the value of his land. Sir Michael
was evidently eager to keep the settlers and two years later expressed
concern that now they 'would like to get away' (back to the city,
presumably). Without people there would be no question of the County
Council constructing a road going nowhere.
You've heard the tale of how I got
My dressing gown with stripe and spot;
Well, now I'll risk being rather bory
And tell you yet another story.
* * *
One day I went to town by train -
(My home's at Weybridge on the Main
Line of the Southern Railway)- when
I cursed the cross-word, dropped my pen
(My Biro pen!) in the pocket
Of my handbag, where my locket,
Lipstick, rouge, and my mascara
Lie side by side with something rarer . . .
Where was I? Oh, I know, please listen;
I looked outside and saw them glisten,
As we were going fast through Clapham -
(A most peculiar thing to happen); -
Glanced through the window, quite by chance,
And saw a pair of nylon pants,
Glinting glossy, sheer and gleaming,
Just my cup of tea, and seeming
What I'd sought in shops and stores
Bargain-basement and first-floors.
There they were, hung out to dry,
I yelped with envy, gave a cry
Of greed surcharged with thisty longing.
At Waterloo I joined the thronging
Crowds milling for the only cab,
My conscience never gave one stab.
You know my methods; off we went
In search of Clapham knickers bent.
We found them, and I did persuade
Their owner, a girl both prim and staid,
To part with them for two pound ten.
They fit divinely. Do say when
You'd like to see them? Darling now? . . .
There, how d'you like them? . . Oh, and how! . . Michael Peto
Death: 24 March 1971. Michael died less than
three weeks after his wife, who died on 3 March 1971.
College register, 1801-1893 p341; place from 1901 census;
England Birth Index (2Q1895 Hendon vol 3a p159) is an entry for James
Michael Peto. Hendon district includes Pinner. It is curious that this
is almost a year later than the birth date given in multiple sources,
including the Balliol College Register of 8 May 1894. The 31 March 1901
census age of 6 also indicates that his birth was 1894, not 1895.
College register, 1801-1893 p341
College register, 1801-1893 p341