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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 11:44 GMT
Been and gone
By Bob Chaundy
BBC News Profiles Unit

Our regular column covering the passing of significant - but lesser-reported - characters of the past month.

Wrestler Jackie Pallo and David Hamilton
Wrestler Jackie Pallo and David Hamilton

The novelist Sybille Bedford, who has died aged 94, was famous for such works as Legacy and Jigsaw. She had no formal education as a child, save her father teaching her the appreciation of wine. He died when she was 10, and she was left with a mother who was an alcoholic and heroin addict. She travelled around Europe and began mixing in literary circles. Eventually, she arrived in England where she undertook a marriage of convenience. Her biography of friend Aldous Huxley was described by Stephen Spender as a "masterpiece".

George Psychoundakis, who has died aged 85, became a hero figure to the Resistance in World War II by guiding Allied soldiers over the mountains of Crete so that they could escape the brutal German occupation. Later, he carried messages, wireless sets, batteries and ammunition. Wearing only worn-out boots, he would cover many miles each day. A poor shepherd, he had a love of learning, and formed a lifelong friendship with one of the Resistance officers, the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. Fermor translated Psychoundakis's account of his heroics in the Cretan Runner.

Kapitein Luitenant Francis Steinmetz, who has died aged 91, was a Dutch naval officer who made a remarkable escape from the infamous Colditz Castle. He descended from a British rugby scrum into a manhole beneath the pitch which was situated outside the castle walls. He and a fellow escapee replaced the manhole cover with a replica glass one that they could smash from below, and remained in the hole for several hours until darkness fell. They then emerged, replaced the original cover, and made off, escaping to Switzerland and then to Britain.

Brigadier-General Samuel W. Koster of the US Army, has died aged 85. He was exposed for covering up the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War. Though he was not at the scene, he was in command of the division in which the rifle platoon under Lt. William Calley massacred more than 300 Vietnamese civilians, women and children among them. Contrary to regulations, no report of the massacre was made, but a reporter from Stars and Stripes had witnessed it and taken pictures of the corpses. Koster was removed from his post and demoted from Major-General.

Peggy Appiah, who has died at 85, was the youngest daughter of the former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps. She caused a sensation in 1950s British society by marrying an African. Joe Appiah was a Ghanaian lawyer and politician who was to spend two terms as a political prisoner. Peggy Appiah remained a loyal wife and made her home in Kumasi where she brought up their four children. She wrote a series of children's books, collections of poetry and a volume of 7,000 Ashanti proverbs. She also amassed one of the finest collections of Akan gold weights.

In the 1950s and 1960s, when wrestling attracted a British audience of some 15 million, Jackie "Mr TV" Pallo was a household name. With his peroxide pony tail and candy-striped trunks, Pallo was the "bad guy" of the wrestling ring. In particular, he had a long-running "feud" with Mick McManus. Female fans loved to hate him, pricking him with hatpins and swinging their handbags at his head. He once told one woman "Go and live in India, darling, you'd be sacred there." In an autobiography, You Grunt, I'll Groan, he revealed the fixes that went on in the sport.

Among others who have passed away this month are football manager Ron Greenwood (see full obituary), entrepreneur Freddie Laker (see full obituary), actors Phil Brown, Richard Bright, Don Knotts (see full obituary), Dennis Weaver (see full obituary) and Lou Gish, Jaws author Peter Benchley (see full obituary), controversial American Archbishop and Vatican Bank head Paul Marcinkus (see full obituary), and comic Linda Smith (see full obituary).


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