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In Memoriam - Peter Gayward

The Late Peter Harry Gayward

Peter was the first Finance Officer at the University of Warwick
(a position now known as Group Finance Director)

Born 14 March 1925
Passed Away 6 May 2018

Peter was born in Vienna, Austria, the only child of Erich and Elisabeth Gayduschek, and was Austrian by birth. His father was Jewish, unlike his mother.

In the mid 1930s, the growing influence and threat of the Nazi Party spread from Germany into other parts of Europe, including Austria. Following the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938, one can only imagine just how tough all aspects of day-to-day life would have become for a family with any Jewish background. His parents became increasingly anxious about what might happen to him and, with the aid of the Quakers, his mother was able to get him on to a list of children who would eventually benefit from the Kindertransport programme, which enabled around 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from around Europe to be evacuated to Britain.

So, in early 1939, Peter left his family and was flown to England, landing in Gravesend and, after being put up for the night, he was put on a train to Letchworth in Hertfordshire, where he was met by some children from St Christopher School, a boarding school where he would stay for the next 4 years, again thanks to the Quakers. At the age of 13, Peter was now in a foreign country, having left his family behind in Austria. His mother tongue was German and he spoke very little English. Without doubt, he will have had some idea that his family’s lives would be extremely difficult because of the Nazis. Coping with all of this must have been a huge challenge.

Fortunately, Peter settled in well and was happy at school although, of course, he wasn’t able to spend any holidays with his parents. However, along with a number of other children in a similar position at the school, he was always looked after, sometimes by holidaying with school friends.

Sadly, he would never see his father again. After suffering a breakdown in the middle of 1939, his father was sent to an extermination camp where he was killed in July 1940, as part of a Euthanasia Programme. He was one of approximately 18,000 people who were gassed or received a lethal injection there, and his remains were never found.

Keeping in touch with his mother during the war was very difficult, but in November 1945, with the aid of the Red Cross, he and his mother learned that they had each survived the War.

In September 1943, at the age of 18, Peter joined the British Army, and commenced training with the Royal Armoured Corps. In the summer of 1944, he was accepted for officer training at Sandhurst and, by then, he’d followed advice that he should change his surname in case he saw active service and was taken prisoner of war, and hence Peter Gayduschek became Peter Gayward.

Peter subsequently also served in the Reconnaissance Corps, which became the Royal Tank Regiment, and he also served in the Yorkshire Hussars, and rose to the rank of Captain before he was 21. He became a British national in 1947.
After the end of the War, he served in Italy and then Germany where, in 1948, he met Sheila. They married in 1949 but, sadly, their marriage ended in divorce in 1984.
After more than 6 years in the Army, Peter took up an appointment in the Colonial Service, otherwise known as the Overseas Civil Service, and moved to Uganda, East Africa, in 1950. There, he undertook a number of roles in different parts of the country, before working in the Ministry of Finance, where he rose to become a senior civil servant. In the meantime, Peter and Sheila had a son (Ian) in 1953, and daughter (Alison) in 1960.

In 1963, a year after Uganda had obtained independence and, realising that his family’s future was in the UK, Peter was appointed as the first Finance Officer (a role now titled Director of Finance) at the University of Warwick, which was then just being established. On leaving the University of Warwick in 1977, Peter was awarded an Honorary Degree in recognition of his contribution to its progress and, indeed, its success.

He then became Director of Finance at the University of Liverpool where, for the 18 months immediately prior to his retirement in 1990, he was also Registrar. Both prior to and post his retirement, he also led and was involved in a number of university sponsored overseas assignments to the USA, Canada and to Nigeria, as well as sitting on various committees and working parties linked to university activities.

In the Spring of 1985, Peter met Audrey. They actually met on a blind date and this was the start of 33 years of close companionship.

For his services to higher education, he was awarded the OBE in 1988.

Despite being 65 when he retired, Peter had no intention of taking life quietly. He was Director of a number of University owned companies for a few years, and amongst a number of other roles, he was a Governor of St Hilda’s Church of England High School, and he was also a Board Member at Hornby Homes Housing Association, both in Liverpool.

In early 2016 he suffered a number of falls forcing him to move into a nursing home. He felt the loss of his independence very keenly, but he received wonderful care there, and his family really could not have found a better place for him to spend his last 2 years.

After a short illness, Peter passed away peacefully in May 2018 at the age of 93. His children, Ian and Alison, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren, as well as Audrey, his long-term partner, survive him.