Jonathan Fryer

In Memoriam Peter Wakefield

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 24th February, 2011

Sir Peter Wakefield’s sudden death last November brought a premature end to a distinguished career of public service, not only as a British diplomat but also to a wide range of voluntary organisations, including the Richmond Theatre and London’s Asia House — all of which was evoked at his packed Memorial Service at All Souls Church, Langham place, this afternoon. I first met Peter in Brussels, where he was Ambassador to Belgium and I was working as a freelance journalist, mainly for an idiosyncratic weekly magazine called The Bulletin. Sometimes we met at official functions, but more often at artistic events; one of my regular jobs was as The Bulletin’s theatre critic. We soon discovered that we had other, unusual, mutual twin interests: the Middle East and Japan. His most memorable diplomatic posting was probably his time in Beirut during the civil war. One side of his life that I hadn’t been familiar with until today, however, was his devotion to the Anglican church. In retirement he was a regular communicant at St Mary the Virgin, Twickenham (as well as sometimes attending Catholic Mass with his RC wife, Felicity). The Vicar of St Mary’s, Jeff Hopkin Williams gave a perceptive Introduction to the Memorial Service, highlighting Peter’s humanity behind his sometimes haughty bearing, while Sir James Craig — also a British diplomat who was part of the ‘Camel Corps’ serving in the Middle East — had some charming anecdotes in his eulogy. Asia House hosted a reception after the service.

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