Bobby Pegna. RIP.

Discussion in 'Memorials & Cemeteries' started by CXX, Oct 5, 2009.

  1. CXX

    CXX New Member

    Bobby Pegna - Telegraph

    Bobby Pegna, who has died aged 89, enjoyed a cosmopolitan upbringing in Alexandria before serving as an RAF radio operator and an occasional Arabic interpreter with "Popski's Private Army" in the desert; after the war he settled down to a career in retailing in London.

    Edward William Pegna was born in Alexandria on November 29 1919, the son of a cotton plantation owner of Italian, Greek, French and Spanish origin who had a British passport because his father had been a Queen's Messenger.

    Growing up speaking five languages, Bobby went to the city's Victoria College, and was tutored in classical Arabic by H St John Philby, father of the spy Kim Philby. He won numerous cups for dinghy racing, became a national swimming champion and was attending the Sorbonne as war began.

    When he joined the RAF, however, his eyesight proved too poor for him to become a pilot, so he was posted to signals intelligence (Y service), intercepting, monitoring and interfering with enemy air and ground communications.

    Since Pegna and his father had been on painting and mapping expeditions in the Western Desert during the 1930s, he also found himself periodically being lent to the irregular force led by "Popski" (Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Peniakoff) which was attacking German fuel dumps behind the lines.

    Once Pegna was playing football on an airstrip when he saw a camel killed by a mine. Realising that the Bedouin rider was badly wounded, he ran to help, and recited from the Koran to keep the man conscious until help arrived. Next day a group of Bedouin galloped up, bearing gifts for "the Muslim major" who had given succour to one of their own.

    He was then posted to Tunisia with No 276 Wing, whose mobile units were involved in jamming enemy radio, before being sent to Italy, where he took part in night raids on the Romanian airfields. Finally he was aide-de-camp to the Governor-General of Burma, Colonel Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith.

    After leaving the RAF in 1946, Pegna and his wife, Ruth Layton, a codebreaker whom he had met in Cairo, came to London, where he turned down a suggestion that he join The Economist, of which his father-in-law, Lord Layton, was chairman.

    Instead he became a trainee on the shop floor at Selfridge's, graduating to assistant buyer and then a managing director, helping to boost the careers of the young Mary Quant and Terence Conran. When Sears Holdings, owned by Sir Charles Clore, acquired Selfridge's and the Lewis group in 1966, Clore asked him to overhaul their merchandising policy, putting him on the board and also on the British National Export Council for Israel. Pegna persuaded Australian and New Zealand stores to enter into a relationship with the group, and was involved in promoting British Weeks in Paris and the United States.

    This busy career did not prevent him pursuing his love of sailing: he competed in 40 Cowes Weeks in Dragon and Daring Class boats, usually with one of his sons, and was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. He celebrated his 60th birthday by diving from a 60ft high cliff in Minorca, and three months before his death he sailed with friends from Malta to Greece.

    After his first marriage was dissolved, Pegna married Barbara Toler, a director for Panorama, with whom he retired in 1986 to a Gloucestershire manor house. Among his favourite stories was of the occasion he bought plastic roses in a murky part of Kowloon from a young man whom he predicted would go far – the future Sir Li Ka-shing, head of Hutcheson Whampoa.

    Bobby Pegna enjoyed cooking, and would paint the houses and yachts of friends in return for their hospitality. Late in life his interest in business was rekindled, and he recruited staff from his old team to trade in the United States and the Far East, continuing to work until shortly before his death on July 31.

    He is survived by both wives, three sons and two daughters.

Share This Page