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Geoffrey Peirson (1888-)

Brancepeth man who served with 4th and 18th DLI was awarded DSO

Geoffrey Peirson, the son of Henry Thomas and Eliza Mary Peirson, was born in Brancepeth, Durham in the summer of 1888. He had two brothers and two sisters and lived in Brancepeth until he joined the army. He went to Durham School, where he joined the school regiment and became a 2nd lieutenant in the 4th Volunteer Battalion Durham Light Infantry on 23 March 1908, being transferred to the 8th Battalion a few days later. He was promoted to lieutenant on 17 February 1910, while studying colonial agriculture in Canada.

In 1911 he was studying at the South-East Agricultural College in Wye, Kent, possibly with a view to becoming a land agent like his father. He resigned from the Durham Light Infantry on 11 May 1912 and went to Borneo where he worked for the Borneo Rubber Plantation Company in Sarawak.

He was re-commissioned in Singapore as a 2nd lieutenant in the 4th Battalion Durham Light Infantry on 10 June 1915 and joined the regiment a month later. He was promoted to temporary captain in August on transfer to the 18th Battalion and in October was transferred to the 20th Battalion. On 12 December he landed in Egypt and served there until March 1916 when he was moved to France. In September 1916 he was transferred to the General List as a temporary captain and was later appointed General Staff Officer III (Local Forces) in the 9th Division. The following year he was appointed brigade major of the 48th Infantry Brigade and in June won the Military Cross (MC).

He was captured by the enemy and remained a prisoner of war until February 1918, when he was repatriated. In the 1919 Birthday Honours he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and a month later was mentioned in despatches. He retired on completion of service in January 1920, retaining the rank of captain, and emigrated to Kenya, where he took up farming and In 1926 was living in the Rift Valley. In 1930 he was a Control Officer during the anti-locust campaign and later was digging for gold. In 1934 Geoffrey was Technical Manager of New Saya Mines Ltd. in Tanganyika.

At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the 6th Battalion King’s African Rifles and later was employed as an Intelligence Officer with the 12th (A) Division. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year’s Honours of 1942 and was appointed lieutenant-colonel (GSO I Operations) to the British Military Mission to Ethiopia, becoming brigade commander of the 1st Ethiopian Infantry Brigade from 1943 to 1944. In February 1945 he was appointed Chief Commandant of the Kenya Auxiliary Police Force, retiring in 1947.

The award of the MC was gazetted on 4 June 1917 and that for the DSO on 3 June 1919 and the citation reads:

“For distinguished service during military operations in France & Flanders”.

Civil Parish: Brandon and Byshottles

Birth date: 1888

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: Quarry Hill, Brancepeth, Durham (1891 & 1901 censuses)
Overpond Lane, Wye, Kent (1911 census)
‘Journey’s End, Rumiwiti, Kenya (British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920)
Solai-Nakuru, Rift Valley, Kenya

Education: Durham School
South-East Agricultural College, Wye, Kent

Employment: Borneo Rubber Plantation Company, Sarawak, Borneo
New Saya Mines Ltd., Tanganyika
Kenya Auxiliary Police Force

Family: Father: Henry Thomas Peirson
Mother: Eliza Mary Peirson (nee Young)
Siblings: Isabel, John, Henry Arthur & Dorothy Peirson

Military service:

4th & 18th Battalions Durham Light Infantry
6th Battalion King's African Rifles

Medal(s): Member of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Mentioned in Dispatches
1914-1915 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Gender: Male

Contributed by John Edwards

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