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Vale Peter Charles Firkins 1926-2002

Peter Charles Firkins went out a winner, beating Clough Limited chairman Harold Clough convincingly in a Saturday afternoon game of tennis just days before his death.

But he is remembered by friends, colleagues and family as a winner in many other endeavours.

He drew the respect of fellow members of his beloved 460 Australian Lancaster Squadron, commanded the attention of WA’s business community for more than two decades, was a leader of many of the State’s service organisations, and an acknowledged authority on Australian military history.

After commencing his career in Singapore when barely out of his teens, he influenced the State’s business development as director of the Perth Chamber of Commerce and Federated Chambers of Commerce of Western Australia from 1963 until retirement in 1982.

In Singapore he worked with British merchant house Messrs Harrisons & Crosfield.

He retained his Asian connections, initiating Australian Chambers of Commerce involvement with the Confederation of Asian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and representing Australia at CACCI conferences.

Under his direction, the Perth Chamber of Commerce hosted the 1972 CACCI conference in Perth. This event, opened by Prime Minister William McMahon, was, to date, the largest international business conference held in WA.

He was born in 1926 in colonial Penang - where his father worked for a British company - and attended Guildford Grammar School.

An all-round athlete, he represented the school in football and cricket and was under-16 champion in swimming and athletics. Years later he played for Subiaco Cricket Club and became club executive.

His military career began at 17, when he volunteered for aircrew service in the Royal Australian Air Force. While still only 18, and as a member of 460 Squadron attached to RAF Bomber Command, he completed a tour of 29 operations over Germany.

A proud Australian and keen for an historically accurate chronicle of Australia’s military contributions and successes, he began writing at nights in the 60s, chronicling Australian military history in 10 publications and contributing to a further six over a period of 35 years.

Peter Firkins was straight – in bearing, and in all his dealings, valuing honesty and integrity.

Yet he was also well-loved for his charm, wicked sense of humour, and his social passion.

"He was thoughtful, articulate, intelligent, and an absolute gentleman," WA Opposition leader and former CCI Western Australia director Colin Barnett said.

"He was from the older school of gentleman in business in WA.

"He was passionate in supporting free enterprise, travelling the State to set up chambers of commerce, but also could laugh at himself, and did not have a spiteful bone in his body.

"He would give a reassuring nod or grimace, lend advice and give a helping hand, and when he retired he did not step aside from this."

Eulogies to the man, who as a young adult was hospitalised with pulmonary tuberculosis for 18 months, and who became WA Citizen of the Year for Industry and Commerce, have flowed freely and generously.

"Peter Firkins was the face of business through the important development years of the 60s and 70s, appearing regularly as a commentator on civic affairs and as a strong advocate for this members’ interests," CCI WA deputy chief executive Ross McLean said

Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass said: "Through his broad involvement

in all aspects of life Peter

Firkins contributed significantly to Perth’s commercial, community, military and sporting life, and its issues, and will be missed by many."

"Peter Firkins was a most distinguished Western Australian," said Mr Clough. "As Director of the Chamber of Commerce he played a key role in the development of Western Australia at a most dynamic period of its history.

Above all else he was a passionately loyal Australian. It was probably this loyalty that encouraged his interest in all defence matters and publications in history - particularly war histories.

He was a fine fellow and will be sorely missed by all his tennis mates and in fact, by all Western Australians."

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