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MAJOR GENERAL PETER WILLIAMS, CMG, OBE After studying History at Cambridge University, Peter Williams spent over 30 years in the British Army (Coldstream Guards) and retired in 2005 as a major general. In addition to his basic career as an infantry commander, serving in London, Ulster, Oman and Germany, he qualified as an intelligence officer in 1974 and as a Russian interpreter in 1981. He then served for over four years with the British Military Mission to the Soviet Army in East Germany (BRIXMIS) during the 1980s. In total he spent six years based in Berlin, a city that he continues to love. In the 1990s he did three 6-month tours in the former Yugoslavia. During the first tour (1993-94) he commanded a peacekeeping battalion in central Bosnia during the civil war and played an important role in implementing a ceasefire which brought some of the carnage to an end. In 1995 as the Deputy Chief UN Military Observer in the former Yugoslavia he was involved closely with the crisis in Sarajevo and Srebrenica and then in monitoring the Dayton Peace Accord throughout Bosnia. In 1998 he was responsible in Sarajevo for ensuring that the Bosnian military leaders understood and delivered their peace accord obligations. Despite (or perhaps thanks to) the difficult times that he witnessed there, he has a great affection for Bosnia and its remarkable people. From 2002-05 he served as the first Head of the NATO Military Liaison Mission to the Russian Federation. Based in Moscow he and his team worked tirelessly to deliver NATO-Russia defence cooperation. The experience of living in Russia left a lasting and largely positive impression on Peter and his wife, Anne. He is currently based in southern England, from where he helps to train British defence attachés and lectures on military history and current affairs in the cruise and education sectors. He is a former member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides and edited The Guards Magazine, a prestigious military magazine, for five years. During his military career he received four British awards (MBE, OBE, CMG and a Mention in Despatches), in addition to US and other foreign awards.
1. Berlin in the Cold War An overview of the titanic struggle between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies as it affected Berlin, as seen by a long serving member of the Berlin British garrison.
2. The Curious Life and Death of Rudolf Hess The strange saga of the career of Hitler’s Deputy, of Spandau Prison and of the speaker’s minor role in Hess’ final years.
3. Life as a Cold War Military Spy A look-back at the three Allied military liaison missions that operated as intelligence agencies in East Germany from 1946-90 and the speaker’s long involvement with them during the 1980s.
4. Other Men’s Civil Wars: Keeping the Peace in Bosnia A review of the vicious conflicts of the 1990s, based on the speaker’s long involvement in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.
5. From Russia with Love Some views on what makes our great eastern neighbour and its people the way they are, based on the speaker’s extensive experience of working with them.
6. What did he say? – Language in Military Life The challenges and humour that arise from trying to understand what others are saying, based on the speaker’s experience of over three decades in uniform.
7. Commando Raids in Norway An examination of three Commando raids in Norway during the Second World War, all of which had tragic consequences for their Allied participants.
8. Helping to set the Balkans ablaze A look-back at the part played by British military personnel in the partisan campaigns waged in Yugoslavia and Albania during the Second World War.
9. Heart of Iron: The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich A review of the extraordinary killing by Czech paratroopers of Himmler’s deputy in Prague and its lethal repercussions.
10. Up, Up and Away The ill-fated Arctic hydrogen ballooning expedition of 1897 from Spitsbergen to the North Pole by the Swedish explorer, Salomon Andrée, and his rivalry with Fridtjof Nansen.
11. Spitsbergen in the Second World War A review of several aspects of the strange war that was fought in extreme weather conditions for control of Norway’s most northern archipelago.
12. The Crimean War: The Face of War - Parts 1 & 2 Two talks that look at the Crimean War through the medium of the broad spectrum of images that have come down to us from what many see as the first modern war.
13. Gallipoli: The Face of War A talk that examines the disastrous Dardanelles campaign during the First World War.
14. NATO in the 21st Century Looking at the evolution of the Alliance and its current focus on ‘out of area’ operations, including in Afghanistan, and its relations with Russia.