Vladimir PETRO-PAVLOVSKY [1897-1971]

Submitted by brian edgar on Fri, 03/14/2014 - 18:35
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Mr Petro was a White Russian who had taken French Nationality. His wife, Barbara, was a friend of American writer Emily Hahn.

He was a supporter of the Free French. He joined the Volunteers on the penultimate day of the December 1941 hostilities, and was wounded in the leg. Later he escaped Hong  Kong via Macau.


Emily Hahn, China to Me, 1987 ed., 257, 293, 368

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Vladimir is also spelled Wladimir, and Pavlovsky is also spelled Pavlovski.

Henry Ching writes:

I have found, on Tony Banham’s excellent Search Garrison lists, a Sub.Lt. W.Petro in the HKRNVR. A note says he was a White Russian with a French passport.  He is said to have been admitted to the Queen Mary Hospital on 23rd December.

This list, https://www.academia.edu/2318232/THE_MOST_SECRET_LIST_OF_SOE_AGENTS_P, says he was an SOE agent in WW2, though it isn't clear whether he was already with the SOE in 1941 Hong Kong:

Wladimir PETRO-PAVLOVSKY - born 29.06.1897 

Special Operations Executive: Personnel Files (PF Series). Wladimir PETRO-PAVLOVSKY - born 29.06.1897.

Collection: Records of Special Operations Executive

Date range: 01 January 1939 - 31 December 1946 

Reference:HS 9/1156/7

Subjects:Oil and gas, Intelligence

That reference refers to a document held at the UK National Archive, see http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/Details?uri=C9215351, which may tell us more.

Vladimir Petro-Pavlovsky (pen name W. Petro) wrote a fantastic book of his early life published in 1968 "Triple Commission". He married Barbara Rose Shurman, daughter of Dr. Jacob Gould Shurman, foremer President of Cornell and US Minister to China.  Fluent in French, Arabic, Russian, English, Chinese and a smattering of Yougoslavian dialect his wes an adventure filled life. His service in the OSS being one of the smaller adventures. 

His own reporting on his service during the battle was brief. Arriving from Singapore with a new commission (his 3rd) he reported to Maltby who posted him as a 2LT in 2/14 Punjab Regiment. In a brief chapter on the battle he claims little glory but takes credit for the anecdote (reported elsewhere) of tracking the advance of Japanese troops by calling local police stations and asking if the Japanese were about. 

Barbara is memorialised elsewhere on Gwelo.  

If anyone had more information on this fascinating individual I would welcome the chance to learn more.