The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. P A Burnell-Phillips
Peter Anthony Burnell-Phillips was born in Richmond, Surrey on 5th May 1916. His father, Anthony Burnell-Phillips (1892-1934) served as a Captain in the 8th Battalion Hampshire Regiment in WW1.
He had married Ida Kemp at St. George's, Hanover Square in July 1913.
Both parents were actors in the theatre industry but after Anthony's death in 1934, Ida disappears from the records and it seems that PA Burnell-Phillips was adopted by the Lloyd family of Redhill in Surrey.
He was educated at St George's School, Weybridge. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in February 1936. After completing his flying training at Cranwell, he joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch, later moving to 65 Squadron.
Burnell-Phillips was obliged to resign his commission on 1st February 1939 for infringement of flying discipline when, for a bet, he flew at rooftop height along the main street of Crowborough, Sussex.
He joined the RAFVR on 20th April 1939 and did refresher training at 3 EFTS Hamble.
He was called up on 16th October. Burnell-Phillips was posted to 607 Squadron at Usworth in July 1940. He claimed two He111s destroyed on 15th August and he shot down a Do17 on 9th September. In the latter engagement, his engine seized and he made a forced-landing near Knockholt in Hurricane P2912. Burnell-Phillips was slightly wounded by a bullet in the ankle.
On 26th September he forced a Do17 to crash into the sea by making mock attacks, his ammunition having been exhausted. He also claimed a Me110 destroyed on 30th September and shared a He111 on 4th October.
Burnell-Phillips was awarded the DFM (gazetted 1st November 1940), credited with at least five victories.
He was commissioned in November 1940 but was killed in a flying accident on 9th February 1941 when his Hurricane I W9189 spun into the ground at Haddington, East Lothian. He was 24.
He is buried in Dirleton Cemetery, Peebleshire.
Burnell-Phillips' portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde in February 1941.
Although he came from Richmond he must have had some connection to Crowborough in view of the low-flying incident and the fact that he is commemorated there on the war memorial at All Saints Church.
The crash site was developed and a road was named after him in 2017.
Additional research courtesy of East Lothian at War.