30 March 1897|
|Died||15 May 1951
The National Hospital, London, England
|Buried at||Wixoe Suffolk, England|
|Years of service||1917 - 1918 (France)
1940 - 1946 (UK)
|Commands held||Popski's Private Army|
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Distinguished Service Order
Croix de Guerre
Inter-Allied Victory Medal 1914-1918 (source for this?)
Vladimir Peniakoff was born in Belgium to Russian parents. In 1914 he studied at St John's College, Cambridge and describes his early education in Popski's Private Army: "For years I never had less than three tutors who pumped knowledge into my precocious brain". Vladimir initially had conscientious objections to the Great War but by his fourth term at Cambridge he had changed his mind. Unlike many of his peers, he opted to join the French artillery as a private rather than go through the lengthy training that a commission in the British Army entailed. He was injured during his time in the French Army and was invalided out after the armistice.
In 1924 he emigrated to Egypt where he worked as an Engineer for a sugar manufacturer. Here he married Josephe Ceysens and had two daughters, Olga and Anne, born in 1930 and 1932. During this time he learned to sail, fly and navigate vehicles through the desert, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Vladimir Peniakoff was a polyglot who spoke English, Russian, Italian, German, French and Arabic well.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on the British Army General List on 4 October 1940, serving in the Libyan Arab Force. He divorced Josephe and sent the family to South Africa. He was awarded the Military Cross on 26 November 1942, and on 26 April 1945 he was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). In 1947 Popski was made a Belgian Officier de l'Ordre de la Couronne avec Palme and awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 avec Palme. He married Pamela Firth on 2 April 1948 (she went on to marry T. S. Matthews, former editor of Time magazine, after Popski's death).
Within a year after his best-selling book on Popski's Private Army was published he was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumour and died on 15 May 1951. Pamela Matthews died on 5 December 2005 and is buried beside Popski in Wixoe, Suffolk.
- Friends of PPA online part of the PPA Memorial, Official Register of PPA Personnel, PPA Roll of Honour, PPA Awards, PPA War Establishments and other information.
- PPA Preservation Society personnel database, photos and information.
- Special Forces Roll of Honour awards, images and links for many units including PPA.
- Popski's Private Army a comprehensive synopsis of the PPA story, by Allen Parfitt.