NOT many people have shaken hands with Adolf Hitler, played football for their country and told a Beatle to carefully consider whether being in a “dance band” was really such a good idea.

Then again, most people aren’t Sir Daniel Pettit – who died last month at the age of 95, having lived in Worcestershire since the 1970s.

But his first trip to the area had been during his school days, before there was any indication of the amazing life he was set to lead.

Sir Daniel was born in Liverpool in 1915, one of six children, and won a place at Cambridge in 1934 to read history.

It was from Cambridge – where he played for the football team he would eventually captain during the 1938 season – that he was selected to play for the Great Britain football team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Sir Daniel told interviewers later that “there was not quite the excitement that there might be today” about the honour of being selected to play for his country.

Indeed, the letter which informed him of his place in the team, which arrived in June of that year, mentioned in post-script: “As there is a month to go, you might take some exercise”.

The games themselves were an impressive affair – Sir Daniel was well aware of the effort the Germans had gone to and, as the spectacle progressed, became more aware of their motives.

“All at once it became increasingly evident that Germany was heading for confrontation with the rest of the world,” Sir Daniel later said in an interview with the BBC.

The Germans, though, were still interested in building bridges with England, which is how Sir Daniel ended up at a British Embassy reception with all the top Nazi figures two days after arriving in Berlin.

Although he did shake hands with Hitler – “I’ve been washing my hands ever since,” he was often heard to say – the team drew the line at performing the Nazi salute, instead choosing to be “British” and simply turn their eyes right as they marched past.

The team went out in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Poland and Sir Daniel returned to Cambridge with a hundred cards signed by black athletic sensation Jesse James, which he later used to bribe unruly classes when he started teaching at Highgate School, North London.

But his teaching career was halted once the Second World War started.

Sir Daniel signed up to the Royal Artillery before he learned Swahili and headed to Mombasa, Kenya, in 1941.

His job there was to meet with the various tribal chiefs – including that of the Masai – and ask if he could “borrow 50 or so of the bravest going men to fight for King George, who had an empire and was having a bit of trouble with the Japanese”.

He and the King’s African Rifles travelled to Burma, where they were stationed until the war ended.

The loyalty Sir Daniel engendered in his men during this time is clearly shown in an incident 35 years later when he attended a function in Tanzania and one of his men walked about 500 miles just to say hello to him.

Sir Daniel returned to Liverpool in 1946 having not seen his beloved wife, Wynne, or then six-year-old son, Richard, for four years.

Richard said: “I always remember when I first met him. He called from London to say he was arriving at Liverpool Lime Street station that afternoon. We were dressed to the nines. This enormous yellow man picked me up. I though, ‘mother’s married a Chinese’.”

The yellow skin was a side effect of malaria medication that Sir Daniel had taken.

Although he returned briefly to teaching after the war, it wasn’t long before he ended up working in “business”, a job which hadn’t much appealed before but one he slipped into.

He was the training manager at Lever Bros from 1948 to 1954, later becoming chairman of SPD, the Unilever transport company.

It was then he had to tell a young delivery driver with great potential he had to choose between working for the company or his music.

Sir Daniel said in an interview: “I told him he had to make up his mind. He might become a foreman or even a manager – which would be much better than being in a one night stand in a dance band.”

The driver decided he needed time to make up his mind, and Sir Daniel gave him six months to see how the band went.

Sir Paul McCartney never returned to work.

Sir Daniel’s career didn’t go too badly either.

He became chairman of the National Freight Corporation and was appointed to the board of Lloyds bank in the West Midlands, among many other appointments.

In 1974 he was knighted and became Sir Daniel – by that time spending his weekends at his home near Bransford and farming in partnership with the Harper family.

Even in his retirement Sir Daniel could not keep still, becoming chairman of the governors for Colwall School, near Malvern.

Sir Daniel’s wife Wynne – or Lady Winifred – died in 2004 after 66 years of marriage. The couple had met, aged 14, when they were at school in Liverpool and Richard said Sir Daniel was “devoted” to her.

But it is Sir Daniel himself who best sums up his career and adventures.

In a radio interview, Sir Daniel said: “Throughout my life I found myself in innumerable situations where the people around me have made my life. I would not have missed any of it.”

He leaves behind his two sons – Richard and Michael – and four grandchildren.