John Desmond (Des) PECK DCM

PECK, John Desmond

Service Number: VX9534
Enlisted: 15 December 1939, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 2nd/7th Infantry Battalion
Born: Sydney, New South Wales, 16 February 1919
Home Town: Crib Point, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Natural causes, England, 2002
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Tree Plaque: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

15 Dec 1939: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN VX9534, Melbourne, Victoria
1 Mar 1945: Honoured Distinguished Conduct Medal, Prisoners of War, Supreme courage and high organisation escaping pow camps
23 Dec 1945: Promoted 2nd AIF WW 2, Lieutenant, 2nd/7th Infantry Battalion
13 Jul 1946: Discharged 2nd AIF WW 2, Lieutenant, SN VX9534, 2nd/7th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by John Edwards

"John Desmond Peck (1922-2002) was born at Woollahra, New South Wales, son of H J Peck of the Royal Australian Navy. The family later moved to Victoria where they lived at Crib Point, Melbourne, near the Naval Base. When he was thirteen years old Peck obtained a job on a farm at Craigieburn. Peck needed no encouragement to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force in October 1939 when the Second World War broke out. He increased his age by four years to 22, in order to be eligible for an overseas posting. He travelled on the 'Empress of Japan' to Egypt and then on to Palestine for training and was posted with the Headquarters Australian Overseas Base. Eventually his age was discovered and rather than being sent back to Australia, General Blamey allowed him to stay in Gaza as his batman. In 1940 Peck transferred to the infantry and joined the 2/7th Battalion, AIF. From Palestine he went to Libya in the Western Desert for training. He saw action for the first time at Bardia in January 1941, then went on to Tobruk and Derna. Landing on Crete at Suda Bay in April 1941 he was involved in hand to hand combat when he and others were surprised by a large body of Germans advancing from the aerodrome. The 2/7th Battalion remained on rearguard duty and so were not evacuated from Crete and were captured by the Germans. 

He escaped from Galatas prisoner of war camp and with help from friends at Georgioupolis evaded capture for about a year. New Zealander Noel Dunn and Lt Peck trained bands of Cretan partisans in infantry weapons and tactics. He met Commander F G Pool, a British naval intelligence officer who with him coordinated the escape of many prisoners from the island by submarine. Peck suffering from malaria was assisted to escape by George Psychoundakis, a local Cretan, but missed two Royal Navy undercover submarine evacuations. He was captured with a RAF radio set in May 1942 by an Italian patrol and taken to Italy via Rhodes for trial as a spy. He avoided the firing squad, escaped and arrived at Bari Camp PG 75 in Athens. In 1943 after spending time at Cranina Camp 65 and Udine Camp 57, he escaped from Vercelli Camp 106 and travelled to the Swiss border. During 1943 to 1944 Lt Peck organised the expatriation of 1,500 ex POWs to Switzerland. He received a DCM for his work. Arrested in February 1944, he was sentenced to death, and was sent to the San Vittore Gestapo Prison in Milan, North Italy but escaped to Switzerland. He returned to Italy in June 1944 to join the underground Italian resistance. Peck crossed the Swiss frontier in October 1944 and travelled to England. In January 1945 he returned to Australia and attended the Victory March in London in 1946. Lt Peck lived in England after the war and worked with the English Electric Company in Stafford." - SOURCE (