The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. J R A Peel
John Ralph Alexander Peel, the son of Colonel Basil Peel DSO of the Indian Army, was born on 17th October 1911 at Boscombe, Hampshire. He was educated at Clifton and entered RAF College Cranwell in September 1930 as a Flight Cadet.
He graduated in July 1932 and joined 19 Squadron at Duxford. On 5th January 1934 Peel was posted to 801 (Fleet Fighter) Squadron, based at Upavon and on HMS Furious.
He joined the staff of 601 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force on 21st September 1935 as Flying Instructor. Peel went to the staff of RAF College Cranwell on 13th July 1936 but returned to 601 Squadron on 23rd September 1937.
Above: when Peel was posted away from 601 Squadron his colleagues presented him with a cigarette case engraved with their signatures.
In 1940 Peel was at the Air Ministry, in the Postings Section. He was given command of 145 Squadron at Tangmere in July 1940. On 7th July he shared in destroying a Do17. Peel was shot down over the Channel on the 11th and ditched off Selsey Bill in Hurricane P3400. He was rescued, semi-conscious, by the Selsey lifeboat.
In this action he is believed to have destroyed either a Me110 or a Do17.
On the 17th he returned to Tangmere, damaged by return fire from a Ju88 enaged near St Catherine's Point, which he damaged.
Peel shared a Do17 on the 19th, shared a Ju88 on the 29th and claimed two Ju87s and a Me109 destroyed on 8th August. He made a forced-landing on the Isle of Wight on the 11th, after being damaged by enemy fighters south of Swanage, slightly injured.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 13th August 1940).
On 16th September Peel left the squadron but returned to command again on 18th November. In January 1941 he was posted away and in March was appointed Wing Leader at Kenley. On 7th April he damaged two Me109s as they prepared to take off from Berck airfield.
His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde (below):
Peel was shot down into the Channel off the French coast in July 1941 but was picked up and led the Wing the next morning. He was posted away in early August and awarded the DSO (gazetted 5th August 1941). He was appointed Sector Commander and Wing Leader at Debden.
In 1943 Peel became Deputy Director of Fighter Operations at the Air Ministry as an Acting Group Captain. He was Assistant Commandant at Cranwell in 1947. He retired from the RAF on 20th January 1948 as a Wing Commander, retaining the rank of Group Captain.
He took up farming in Cambridgeshire before moving to Devon. In the early 1980s he retired to Wiltshire and spent most of his time painting. After his 1940 rescue he became a lifelong supporter of the RNLI.
He died in January 2004.