Much-loved Petersfield and Hampshire sportsman Peter Corbett has died aged 84.
Peter, who lived in Petersfield for more than 35 years, was well known particularly in the tennis, table tennis and badminton circles.
He was popular with all fellow competitors and playing partners because of his sportsmanship, his gentle manner and quiet sense of humour.
Hazel, his wife of more than 50 years, died three years ago, and Peter felt her loss very deeply.
However, through his sport and love of the outdoors , Peter carried on enjoying life as much as he could right up to the last week of his life, popping over to Steep Lawn Tennis Club, cycling and walking around Petersfield Heath Pond.
Peter Arthur Corbett, one of four siblings, was born on August 28, 1938 in Gorakhpur, India, where the family had settled from Ireland in the 1830s.
Peter’s father ran a farm and in the evenings the family would go for walks in the fields, and the children sometimes rode elephants belonging to the local Raja, who was the landowner and the regional ruler.
When Peter was six he joined one of his brothers at the elite La Martiner boarding school in Lucknow and later went to Sherwood College in Naini Tal, a 45-acre green campus, east of the Jim Corbett National Park.
Jim Corbett was the great-great uncle of Peter – a man still remembered as a hero in the region, with worldwide fame thanks to the books he wrote.
On May 3, 1951, when Peter was 13, the family moved to England and stayed in New Barnet with an uncle. Shortly afterwards, the family found their own home nearby and Peter went to the John Hampden School locally.
When Peter left school, he first worked for a small optical company, Hill & Co, mainly dealing with telescopes and binocular repairs. His was one of the last year groups to be called up for National Service.
He chose to join the military police because they rode motorcycles, and he served in Cyprus.
Peter soon found out that being in the army at this time was all about ironing your shirts to perfection and polishing your buttons until they gleamed. He hated the “quick march” and all the rules and regulations, and left after his two years’ service and later took on another optical job at Watson’s in High Barnet.
He started on his life’s career when he joined British Aerospace. Studying in his spare time, Peter worked his way up and became a well-respected aeronautical inspector. He was known to be one of the toughest inspectors, letting nothing get past him unless it was perfect. He was often asked to travel to other parts of the country for his expertise.
In his spare time Peter played most racquet sports and was also a proficient windsurfer and sailor. He had a brown belt in judo, and he could ski the black runs.
He climbed Mount Snowdon with brother Victor and completed the London to Brighton 100km walk, despite suffering with terrible muscle pains.
He was so determined to finish he continued walking backwards!
He won a countless number of trophies in mainly racquet sports but also in lawn bowls at the Petersfield Bowls and Snooker Club.
Tennis was Peter’s favourite sport and he reached county level, playing competitively into his late 70s. He enjoyed wearing his tennis shorts whenever he got the opportunity and taught himself to string his own racquets and came up with the idea of stringing them diagonally.
This heightened the racquet’s “sweet spot”, which meant that on serving he could get a further reach and better spins.
Some players accused Peter of cheating so he approached The All-England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon and questioned a top-level official – and was happily told it was completely legal.
On holidays with Hazel in Austria Peter enjoyed ice-skating and continued his love of skiing. On one family holiday, visiting Monte Carlo, Peter’s love of shorts prevented him from joining Hazel at the gambling tables. Shorts, he was told, were absolutely not the dress code!
Peter was well known at the Taro Centre’s over-50s sports club for many years, and he even found time to be a driver for Brendan Care, a voluntary organisation.
Peter believed physical fitness was the key to a long life – along with curry, which he thought was a cure for Covid. He absolutely adored eating curry and even ate it for his Christmas dinners.
Steep tennis player Ann Flynn said: “I probably knew Peter better than many, having travelled a little around England playing in national veteran mixed doubles tennis tournaments.
“We always had to go to a curry house for dinner!
“He was such a good player with great finesse. He knew many prominent tennis players and had played with the late and noted tennis player Geoffrey Paish, MBE.”
Former Steep player Penny Campbell (now Wilson) wrote from New Zealand: “Peter was a great guy and I had lovely memories of him teaching me how to serve down the middle and stringing my son’s racquet for a minimal fee. He was a special guy.”
Steep’s club secretary Carol Norris said: “Peter was held in high regard and is remembered affectionately by many members. The club participates in the Recycaball scheme whereby old tennis balls are collected and recycled.
“In Peter’s memory we will be donating the money the club receives back from the scheme to Peter’s favourite charities, WWF and Cancer Research.”
Hazel’s niece Fiona Peters paid tribute to Peter at his funeral and finished saying: “And when you next watch tennis, hold Peter in your thoughts – and think of him with fondness as a champion of this sport!”
Peter is survived by his brother Victor and his nieces and nephews.