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Artefact of the Month

From Tangmere To The Palace

Peter Townsend, son of a colonial civil servant in Burma, was born in November 1914 and entered the RAF College, Cranwell in 1933. A natural pilot, he was posted to No 1 Squadron at RAF Tangmere to fly Hawker Furies. At the end of his tour with No 1, he was posted to No 36 Squadron in Singapore to fly the Vickers Vildebeeste. However, he was only to fly this aircraft for a few weeks before being struck down with a severe skin infection that necessitated a return to the UK. After treatment, he returned to Tangmere to join No 43 Squadron to fly the new Hawker Hurricane and on 3 February 1940 claimed his first victory when he shared in the destruction of a He 111 bomber over Whitby, Yorkshire. A few days later he shot down another enemy aircraft before the squadron moved to Wick to defend Scapa Flow. Here a third German bomber fell to Townsend and he was awarded the DFC.

On 23 May 1940, Townsend took over command of No 85 Squadron at Debden but on 12 July, was shot down by return fire from a Dornier bomber. He managed to parachute into the sea from which he was picked up by a minesweeper. By the 30 August he had claimed a further five enemy aircraft shot down. Next day his luck ran out and, after shooting down two Bf 109s, was himself shot down by a Bf 110. He again parachuted to safety but had to be hospitalised where the nose cap of a cannon shell was extracted from his foot. After being awarded a Bar to his DFC, he was soon back with his squadron and remained with it until June 1941 by which time it had converted to a specialist night fighter Hurricane squadron. Later in the war Townsend became equerry to the King. What happened to him in this post is another story!

A MODEL OF PETER TOWNSEND’S No 85 SQUADRON HURRICANE IS DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S BATTLE OF BRITAIN HALL.

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