From The Daily Telegraph 22 December.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Terry, who has died aged 91, was the Governor of Gibraltar when he authorised a security operation that resulted in the shooting of three members of the Irish Republican Army; in September 1990, he survived a revenge attack on his life.
Peter David George Terry was born on October 18 1926 at Ramsgate and was educated at Chatham House Grammar School. He enlisted into the RAF in late 1944 but was not called up until September 1945. Initially he served as an airman before being commissioned into the RAF Regiment.
In 1948 he joined one of the Regiment’s Light Anti-Aircraft Artillery squadrons in Germany providing air defence for RAF airfields. After three years he became the personal staff officer to the Commandant General of the RAF Regiment.
In 1953 Terry started training as a pilot and two years later joined No 79 Squadron, flying the Swift in the tactical reconnaissance and ground attack role from airfields in Germany. At the end of his tour he was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air (QCVSA).
After RAF Staff College he spent almost three years in the plans division of the RAF’s Far East Air Force based in Singapore. During a busy tour, he was heavily involved in plans to support operations during the Indonesian Confrontation.
Return to the UK in 1966 he assumed command of No 51 Squadron, equipped with Canberra and Comet aircraft specially adapted for gathering electronic and signals intelligence, operations described in those days as “long-range calibration” sorties. At the end of his tour he was awarded the AFC.
From 1970 he held a series of high-profile appointments in MoD, overseas and in NATO. Following a period as Director of Forward Plans (RAF) he became Assistant Chief of Staff (Plans and Policy) at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), an appointment filled by the RAF’s most capable officers and those destined for senior posts in the service.
In 1979 Terry he was appointed Commander-in-Chief RAF Germany and Commander Second Allied Tactical Air Force.
After a brief period as the Deputy Commander-in-Chief at HQ Allied Forces Central Europe, Terry was expected by some of his contemporaries to be in line for the RAF’s top appointment as Chief of the Air Staff. One of them commented: “He was the best CAS [Chief of the Air Staff] we never had.”
However, with his wide experience, NATO had need of him and he became the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, a post he held for three years. He left the RAF in October 1984.
Terry was appointed as the Governor and Commander-in-Chief in Gibraltar in November 1985. In late 1987 British intelligence detected that the IRA were planning an attack in Gibraltar, most probably at the changing of the guard ceremony outside the Governor’s residence.
Three IRA members were tracked to Malaga in Spain and in early March 1988 they crossed into Gibraltar with a car mistakenly thought to contain a bomb. On March 6 Terry authorised the local police and a team of SAS personnel to pursue and arrest them as part of Operation Flavius. In the event, the three terrorists were shot and killed.
On September 18 1990 Terry was reading in a downstairs room at his house in Staffordshire. The curtains were partly open when a gunman fired some 20 shots through the window. Nine bullets hit him, shattering his jaw and two lodging in his skull close to his brain.
The surgeon who spent five-and-a-half hours rebuilding Terry’s face subsequently told the Telegraph that a bullet “stopped just short of going through the softer inner membrane near the sinus and was no more than two millimetres from entering the brain”.
Terry was also wounded in his side and left leg. His wife Betty suffered an eye injury, which later affected her sight. At the time of the attack she was on the floor sorting through photographs with her daughter, who was uninjured but deeply shocked.
The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, said she was “utterly appalled and deeply grieved” by the shooting. Interviewed by the Telegraph while her husband was recovering Lady Terry spoke about the “wonderful” floral tributes and letters the family received, many from Ireland. Asked about the lack of security around Terry, she explained that her husband had known he was at risk but had been determined to lead a normal life in retirement. “It is too expensive to expect people to nursemaid us,” she said.
Terry spent many months recovering and later led a very private life before moving to a new home in Buckinghamshire.
He was appointed GCB (1983), KCB (1978) and CB (1975). In May 2006, after a wait of almost a quarter of a century, Terry was one of seven of Britain’s most distinguished military officers who were finally installed before the Queen at Westminster Abbey as Knights Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
Although they had been granted their knighthoods (GCB) in the 1980s, the longevity of previous holders of the honour had made the waiting list for one of the coveted 34 stalls set aside for the most senior knights unusually long.
Full obituary with photographs.
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