All old 3rd Hussars will have been saddened to hear of the death of Col Billy Petherick on 22nd August 1988. He was buried two days later on his ninetieth birthday privately and, at his own request, no Memorial Service is to be held
He joined the 3rd Hussars in France in 1917 and saw action immediately. He left the Army in 1947 having enjoyed a career mainly at regimental duty, serving in Turkey, Egypt, India and England between the two world wars. In the early part of 1940, he took over command and sent part of the regiment to the short-lived campaign in Norway.
He then took the regiment to the Middle East taking part in the victorious campaign against the Italians culminating in the victory at Beda Fomm. He gave up the command after the retreat from Cyrenaica with half the regiment in Tobruk and the remainder in the Nile Delta.
One Old Comrade has written in to mention Col Bill’s deep profound interest and feelings for the men he commanded. Perhaps what he means is in some way summed up by Roy Farran, then one of his Troop Leaders, in his book Winged Dagger. The scene was on the retreat to Tobruk, Col Billy was sitting on top of his Mk VI B Light tank. The sun was hot and no one had received a water ration for two days, Farran lay beside the tank whilst his Squadron Leader discussed the situation. The Colonel leant down with his water bottle outstretched towards Farran.
Farran says “Unthinkingly I took speedy gulps before I realised what the Colonel had done. There was no more water to be had and yet he, who must have been as thirsty as I was, had given me his last reserve, such little things lead men to die for another“.
After the war Colonel Billy retired to his beloved Cornwall but never lost his interest in the regiment. He attended reunions regularly for many years. He was one of those who took part in the first OCA visit to Lubeck in 1949 for the unveiling and dedication of the war memorial. At least one post-war commanding officer was grateful for his interest and advice over Regimental affairs.
His interest continued after the amalgamation, Uniquely, perhaps, he had three godsons who all served in the regiment at the same time, perhaps this could be taken as some measure of the affection and respect of his brother officers since they were all sons of his contemporaries! His final visit to the regiment was at Catterick for the Tercentenary Celebrations.
He brought with him some of the fronds of a New Zealand fern grown in his garden in Cornwall which was incorporated in the floral decorations in the lunch marquee. He was, also, extremely proud to be asked to present Old Comrades to HRH Princess Margaret.
Colonel Billy lived his life as a gentleman, in the best sense of the word, There are still many who will mourn his passing and gain inspiration from his life.