Lieutenant John Desmond Peck

Service number VX9534
Birth Date 1922-02-17
Birth Place Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Death Date 2002-01-09
Final Rank Lieutenant
Service Australian Army
Unit 2/7th Australian Infantry Battalion
Place Sydney
Conflict/Operation Second World War, 1939-1945
Gazettes Published in London Gazette in 1945-03-01
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1945-05-24

John Desmond Peck was born on 17 February 1922 at Woollahra, New South Wales, to Herbert Frederick Peck of the Royal Australian Navy and Jean Peck. 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 enlisted to 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, Lieutenant Peck transferred to the infantry and joined the 2/7 Australian Infantry Battalion. He went on to train in Libya, and saw action for the first time at Bardia in January 1941. Lieutenant Peck then served at Tobruk, Derna and Crete. Lieutenant Peck, alongside many other members of his battalion, was captured as a prisoner of war when the Germans invaded Crete.

Lieutenant Peck escaped from Galatas prisoner of war camp and, with help from friends at the village of Georgioupolis, evaded capture for about a year. New Zealander Noel Dunn and Lieutenant 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. Lieutenant Peck suffering from malaria was assisted to escape by George Psychoundakis, a local Cretan, but missed two Royal Navy undercover submarine evacuations. In May 1942, He was captured in the possession of a Royal Air Force radio set by an Italian patrol and taken to Italy 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 Lieutenant Peck organised the expatriation of 1,500 ex POWs to Switzerland. He received a Distinguished Conduct Medal 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. He later escaped to Switzerland, and returned to Italy in June 1944 to join the underground Italian resistance. Lieutenant 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. Lieutenant Peck lived in England after the war and worked with the English Electric Company in Stafford. He died on 9 January 2002, at the age of 79.


  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Honours and Awards:

    2/7th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Second World War, 1939-1945
    London Gazette
    01 March 1945 on page 1186 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    24 May 1945 on page 1181 at position 3


Date of birth 17 February 1922
Date of death 09 January 2002