Veteran Stories:
Peter Tesar

Army

  • The Distinguished Conduct Medal, awarded to Tesar in 1942 after the siege of Tobruk. Tesar was one of the youngest recipients of this award from the Duke of Gloucester, at nineteen years of age

  • Ring cast from a British florin (two shillings). The side not in view bears the inscription: "Czechoslovakian Army Abroad. Great Britain, 1944"

  • A soldier's service and paybook carried all of the individuals essential information for service, including certifications and trainings, rates of pay and a soldier's Will, as shown here

  • Peter Tesar as a Section Commander in the Royal Army Services Corps, 1941

  • New recruit Peter Tesar, shortly after enlisting in the British Army, 1940

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"We haven't got any weapons yet but we might get them. We had three rifles for five men"

Transcript

My name is Peter Tesar. In the British Army I was a Staff Sergeant. In the Czech Army I was a Corporal. Three or four years ago I was promoted to a Lieutenant Colonel. I served in World War II. First in the Middle East and then in the European theatre of operation. When the war broke out in '39 I left Prague to join the Czech Legion which was forming in France. I decided to go to Italy, supposedly to study at the Milan Conservatory. My plan was to get from Italy to France. When I got to Italy I found out it was impossible because the border was too closely guarded and I heard that, if I could get to Egypt, there was a Czech mission recruiting for the Czech Legion in France. So I hitchhiked from Trieste to Brindisi. I stowed away on a British coal ship and got to Alexandria. There was a Czech military mission but they didn't take me because I was only 16 years old. So I went to the British recruiting office, didn't tell them my right age and they took me. I volunteered for the dispatch rider course. We had a bunch of maniacs as instructors. There were forty of us that started, only twelve of us finished it. At that time the Italians penetrated Egypt. The order of the day was, we have to chase them out. We haven't got any weapons yet but we might get them. We had three rifles for five men. We had a handful of Hotchkiss machine guns and Lewis machine guns and that was it. We didn't have any trucks. So you went with the Australians on patrols and took the trucks away from the Italians. We worked with the Australians. We went as far as Banghazi then we were chased back by [Field Marshall Erwin] Rommel, by the German-Africa Corps until we were... we were stuck in Tobruk for nine months, besieged. After a sandstorm, everything gets covered. We had minefields around Tobruk. Germans laid mines. Italians before them laid mines. I had to go to Echelon Headquarters for dispatches after such a sandstorm and I hit a land mine. And nothing was left of the motorcycle. I was lucky I only came away with a smashed leg and a few other scratches. After the Battle of El Alamein, it was pretty well clear sailing to Tripoli in Libya. When we got into Tripoli, I got an order to report to Beirut - no further information given. And there I was told that I was assigned to the Middle East Skiing school and I was to report to Mount Harmon. At that time in 1943, British Command realized that they might have to fight the last battle somewhere in Bavaria - that's where they thought the Germans would have the last stand. And they realized they didn't have any troops who could ski. So that was my odyssey in the British Army.
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