Obituary: Canon Peter Blake; after the shock of witnessing Nazi war crimes tribunals he did much good work in Africa

Born: 23 May, 1927, in Calcutta. Died: 11 December 2011, in Tynron, Dumfries and Galloway, aged 84.

The son of Captain Gerald Stuart Blake MC, Romanian VC, Peter Blake was born in Calcutta, and returned to the UK to be educated at Eton College, where he excelled at cricket and boxing. On leaving Eton, Peter, like many of his peers, was undecided on his future, and was subsequently called up for national service.

He was commissioned at Ogbourne St George, and posted to Germany. He was made sports officer, winning the Brigade Welterweight Boxing Championship.

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As platoon commander of B Company, he was stationed in barracks in Buxteheide near Hamburg. By now the war over and there was peace in Europe.

Lt Blake’s platoon was detailed to guard the war crimes tribunal, dealing with the trials of the Gauleiters of the Nazi concentration camps near Hamburg.

As the duty involved was simple, Peter had plenty of time to attend and hear what the accused – who had all come from the infamous Ravensbruk concentration camp – had done.

This experience was to shape Peter’s life and work. Of 130,000 prisoners, only about 26,000 survived. Witnessing the detailed evidence of casual murder and gratuitous torture was a shattering experience for one so young. All the prisoners and prison warders were female, making the treatment all the more difficult for him to comprehend.

Upon demob, Peter took up a university place at Brazenose College, Oxford, studying history for one year. He then changed course, graduating in theology. Here again Peter excelled at sport, winning a Blue and representing Sussex for five years at cricket.

In 1952, Peter went to theological college in Cambridge and became a curate in Armley. Around this time he married Susan. He was ordained in 1955 and three years later responded to an offer to become rector of Mufulira in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.

In Zambia, he was chairman of the Zambian Anglican Youth Council and ran a youth soccer team, was an adviser on religeous programmes for TV and radio, and produced Passion and Nativity plays.

Reverend Blake organised the building of two churches, one African and one European, sparking off a racial incident by allowing President Kenneth Kaunda to address the Europeans. The Reverend Peter Blake was made an Honorary Canon for the ecclesiastical work in Africa.

Peter and Susan were blessed with four daughters.

The family returned to the UK, with charges in Cropthorne, Leek and Hartfield. Peter retired in 1987 following a heart attack.

He and Susan them moved to Tynron in Dumfries and Galloway, taking, as locum, many services in various local parish churches.

He is greatly missed by his widow Susan, daughters and 12 great grandchildren.

He was a truly remarkable man, who was loved by his family and parishioners both in the UK and Zambia.