Early life and family
George Pereira was descended from an old Roman Catholic family of Portuguese origins, settled at Caversham Place, near Reading, which had profited in the 19th century from the Chinese trade. He was eldest of the three sons of Edward Pereira by the Hon. Margaret Anne Stonor, 8th daughter of Thomas Stonor, 3rd Baron Camoys of Stonor Park, Oxfordshire. He was educated at The Oratory School in Edgbaston, where his younger brother Edward Thomas Pereira ('E.P.') (1866–1939) was later principal and benefactor. A third brother was Major-General Sir Cecil Pereira, KCB (1869–1942) a distinguished commander in the Boer War and the First World War.
George Pereira was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards and served in China (1900) with the 1st Chinese Regiment, where he received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his services during the Boxer Rebellion. In April 1902 he was in charge of bringing to South Africa a reinforcement of 500 officers and men of the Grenadier Guards for the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the regiment, serving there during the Second Boer War. During the First World War, he served on the Western Front as officer commanding the 47th Brigade (from January 1916 to November 1917) and then the 43rd Brigade (1918). He was one of the great characters of the 16th Division. Known to the men as 'Hoppy' because of lameness after a riding accident, he was an irascible fire-eater and firm disciplinarian; characteristics he combined with an obvious concern for the welfare of his men. 'Every officer and soldier of his brigade swears by him', one of his battalion commanders wrote.
Pereira had served as British Military attaché in Peking from 1905 to 1910 and was fluent in Chinese. He made many adventurous journeys in China and Tibet, frequently travelling thousands of miles on foot. He was the first European to walk from Peking to Lhasa, when he described the Amne Machin massif in eastern Tibet in 1921-2, sometimes reckoned among the great geographical discoveries of the twentieth century.
His journals of Chinese exploration were edited shortly after his death. Further extracts from his journals have been published recently (2004-) in the Guards' Magazine, edited by his great nephew, Edward Pereira.