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15 October 2014
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Peter Dawbarn -Part 1: Other Exploits

by Genevieve

Contributed by 
Genevieve
People in story: 
Peter Dawbarn
Location of story: 
Various Locations in England, France and India
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A4447901
Contributed on: 
13 July 2005

Peter Dawbarn: June 2005

Peter Dawbarn began his training in February 1939 in Perth in Scotland; flying Tiger Moths. He was then posted to ‘253 Squadron’ which has just been reformed in Manston in Kent, and started flying Mark one hurricanes with single pitch propellers, then he was posted to France, whereupon he joined ‘17 Squadron’.

‘I would describe the Hurricane as very docile, no vices, and you could shoot great big holes in it and it’d still keep flying — which was a big advantage. I loved it! I have flown spitfires but not on operations. The spitfires are lovely too, but not as easy to fly as the hurricane.’

After a short while, he got sent back to Debden (Essex), and soon after that the battle of Britain started.

‘When Churchill gave his speech about this being our ‘finest hour’, we didn’t really think of having won, because they were still coming over and bombing. To be honest, if they’d have kept going for another couple of months, they’d have flattened us; because we’d lost so many pilots. Although I don’t think we’d ever thought we’d ‘had it’. When you’re young you don’t ever think you’ll get beaten.

I think I’m lucky to be alive really because hardly anybody in 17 Squadron is. Yes, other people getting killed worried me at the time; but you didn’t let it bother you. It wouldn’t happen to you- it only happens to other people, you know. But yes, I lost a lot of friends.

In the early days we used to go down to the pub after a sortie. I was a pianist, and so I was much in demand in the mess. We used to have little dance bands. I think every station I was on had a dance band, and I was the pianist (I didn’t get any tips though.)’

Following a nasty accident, and later role in ground duties, then as a flight trainer, he went back to a Hurricane squadron down in Devon- Warmwell, but…

‘I had to go into hospital again for Pleurisy, and after I came out of there they posted me to a delivery flight. It was one of the most interesting jobs I’ve had I think. By this time, in the Fighter Command there wasn’t much going on; so I wasn’t missing anything. I flew about 14 different types of aircraft while I was with them. You either picked them up from a Squadron and took them to a repair depot or something (whatever they wanted), or vice-versa; and I went all around the country doing this.

After that I married, and was only married 24 hours before I was posted to India. This was just about the time it was starting again in Europe- you know D-day and all that. I was in-charge of an Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit; but really the war was just finishing over there too really, and there wasn’t much to do. (It was a bit boring really). They used us to train Indian pilots and ground-crew.

I was in India on VE day. We thought ‘good for them, but we’re still here’. We were very pleased of course, but I don’t think we celebrated as much as they did here because we were still in India and that war hadn’t quite finished.

But when the war finished I was very keen to get home and get de-mobbed. Keen to see my wife.

I’ve flown since. I hate airliners though- it’s like being in a bus, but I love being back in a little light aircraft.’

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Becky Barugh of the BBC Radio Shropshire CSV Action Desk on behalf of Peter Dawbarn and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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