Peter Douglas Thompson was
born on September 7th 1920. He joined the RAFVR in January 1939 and
began elementary flying training at 20 E&RFTS Gravesend.
Called to full-time service at the outbreak of war, Thompson was posted to 5 EFTS, Hanworth. In January 1940 he went to 3 FTS, South Cerney
and after completing the course in June he was sent to 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge on September 4th to convert to Hurricanes.
Thompson joined 32 Squadron
at Croydon on September 21st 1940 but was then posted to 605 Squadron on
He damaged Me109’s on October 20th, November 1st and November 13th. He shared a damaged Do17 on March 26th 1941.
On April 27th 1941 Thompson
was one of twenty-four pilots who flew Hurricanes off HMS 'Ark Royal' to
Hal Far, Malta.
He joined 261 Squadron and was wounded on May 6th but landed safely. When 261 was disbanded in May he went to the newly-reformed 185 Squadron on the 12th.
Thompson shared in destroying a Cant Z1007 on July 25th, destroyed a Mc200 on 26th, shared a SM79 on the 27th,
claimed a probable Me109 on December 29th and a probable Ju88 on January 25th 1942.
He returned to the UK in
January 1942 and was awarded the DFC (gazetted 30th January 1942).
In early 1943 Thompson joined 601 Squadron in the Western Desert,
as a Flight Commander, moving with it later to Sicily and Italy. He destroyed two SM79’s in an attack on Ancona airfield on November 3rd 1943.
He returned to the UK in
early 1944 and in July took command of 129 Squadron, operating from Ford
He destroyed three V1 flying bombs and damaged two others. Thompson led the squadron until April 1945.
He stayed on in the RAF, retiring on September 7th 1975, as a Wing Commander, retaining the rank of Group Captain.
Thompson is pictured above
(left) with his close friend F/O Derek Forde when they both were serving
with 605 Squadron.
Forde is holding a Hurricane landing light cover pierced by a bullet from a Dornier 17. This is most likely an aircraft from 2/KG2 which
they had combined to attack over the Channel on 26th March 1941.
The photo appeared in an issue of the ‘London Illustrated’ with a caption suggesting that Forde has told Thompson to “jolly well pull his finger out !!”
An Aerobatic Occasion At
Treble One Squadron Chosen As The RAF's Formation Aerobatic Display Team
(Flight, May 10th 1957)
Hunter 6s of No. 111 Squadron
lined up for the flying display following the presentation of the Standard.
The first eight aircraft in the glossy black finish have no squadron markings and the fin marking is swept for the first time on Hunters.
Last year No. 111 Squadron
raised the official team for No. 11 Group with four Hunter 4s, but this
season there is an added element of novelty
with the increase of the acrobatic formation to five Hunter 6s. These are painted distinctively and uniquely glossy black overall, relieved only by national markings,
including highly swept fin flashes, red serial numbers and tiny Union Jacks on the nose. The team's first display followed the presentation ceremony,
which was performed by Air Chief Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst, K.C.B., K.B.E., D.S.O., D.F.C., A.F.C. Although now C.-in-C. Bomber Command,
Sir Harry had served with No. 111 Sqn., from January, 1939, to January, 1940, when he had the distinction, as he was reminded by Sqn. Ldr. Roger Topp, A.F.C.,
the present C.O., of shooting down the first enemy aircraft to be destroyed by " Treble-One " in World War II.
As Sir Harry, who was accompanied
by the C.-in-C. Fighter Command, Air Marshal Sir Thomas Pike, K.C.B., C.B.E.,
D.F.C., and the A.O.C., No. 11 Group,
Air Vice-Marshal V. S. Bowling, C.B.E., mounted the rostrum on his arrival, a very pleasant surprise was the beautifully co-ordinated fly-past overhead of the R.A.F.'s aast Hurricane.
Flown by Wg. Cdr. Peter Thompson, from Biggin Hill, the Hurricane commemorated the fact that " Treble-One " was the first R.A.F. squadron to receive this famous fighter, in January, 1938.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
Thre Battle of Britain Memorial
Flight is a household name and a national institution but the modern BBMF
was created from humble beginnings
and though it paid the same mark of respect it did so under tight constraint. It has gone from being a loose collection of ‘obsolete types’ tucked away
in the corner of various hangars, to a dedicated unit with its own headquarters, entrusted with caring for priceless assets of British aviation heritage.
Wing Commander Peter Thompson DFC, then Station Commander at Biggin Hill, Kent, was primarily responsible for the formation of what we now know as the BBMF.
After gaining his pilot’s wings in the summer of 1940, Peter flew Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain. By the mid-1950s Hurricane IIC LF363
was the only airworthy representative of its type with the RAF and was based at Biggin Hill. This gave Peter the basis for a grander plan.
There was a strong belief
among some in the RAF that the service’s greatest Hurricane LF363 at Tangmere
in 1957 Battle Honour should continue
to be commemorated in a fitting fashion and the best way to do that was to keep the last remaining examples of the legendary fighters which had won the Battle of Britain
– the Hurricane and Spitfire – in the air. Wing Commander Thompson was an enthusiastic advocate of this notion.
Peter gained the authority to form an historic flight at Biggin Hill but, with no public funding, all manpower would have to be voluntary.
By 1957, the only three remaining
airworthy Spitfires available to the RAF were being flown by
the Temperature and Humidity Monitoring (THUM) Flight at RAF Woodvale. With their operational careers over, the three Spitfire PR XIXs of the THUM Flight
– PM631, PS853 and PS915 – were allocated to the new memorial unit. They flew to Biggin Hill on 11th July 1957, when what we now know as
the BBMF was formed as the Historic Aircraft Flight (HAF).
However, the ex-wartime pilots
thought that it was not fitting to form a tribute to the Battle of Britain
with a variant of the Spitfire that was not designed to fire guns.
An alternative came in the form of three Mk XVI Spitfires – TE330, TE476 and SL574 – brought out of store for ground display at the 1957 Royal Tournament.
Recommendation was made that priority be given to bringing these up to flying condition, partly because they were fighters, but also because Mk XVI spares were more readily available.
Wg Cdr Thompson in Spitfire MkXVI TE330
Peter air tested TE330 at
Biggin early in September 1957. On 15th September that year, the
HAF carried out its first
commemorative flypast over Westminster Abbey for Battle of Britain Day with Hurricane LF363 and Spitfire TE330.
In February 1958, Peter Thompson
was posted away. He had always referred to the HAF as the “BoB Flight”
and on 21st February it was officially renamed
as the Battle of Britain Flight.
Return to the Pilots page
Click here to return to the top of the page