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The Airmen's Stories - Mid.(FAA) P R J Gilbert


Peter Robert Joseph Gilbert was born on the 25th February 1921 at Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire.

His father, Samuel, was a surveyor and his mother, Agnes, a music teacher. He had an older brother, Anthony. The family lived in Ladbroke Gardens, West London for most of his childhood and he attended the Cardinal Vaughan School in Kensington.

Prior to the outbreak of war he enlisted in the London Rifle Brigade but later transferred to the Royal Navy, joining No. 7 Course at HMS St. Vincent, Gosport on 9th September 1939.


Above: Gilbert watching deck landings on HMS Victorious


His old unit took part in the defence of Calais in 1940 and suffered very heavy losses.

He carried out his elementary flying training at 14 EFTS Elmdon near Birmingham flying Tiger Moths, going on to Netheravon for navigational and weapons training on Hawker Harts.

Gilbert then went to No. 1 FTS Leuchars on No. 8 Course, which ran from 15th January to 22nd June 1940.

He was attached to the RAF on 29th June 1940 and went to 12 OTU Benson where he converted to Fairey Battles. He initially joined 142 Squadron at Binbrook, a light bomber unit.

Gilbert later transferred to Fighter Command and joined 111 Squadron at Croydon on 22nd September. He flew with 111 from Northolt and later Drem before being posted away on 31st December 1940 to 86 Squadron, recently-reformed at Gosport and equipped with Blenheims.

During 1941-1942 Gilbert served in 809 (FAA) Squadron aboard HMS Victorious, operating Fairey Fulmars on the Arctic Convoys. On 26th June 1942 he joined 787 Squadron at Yeovilton. After this posting he served in the Naval Fighter Development Unit at Duxford developing the ‘G’ suit and sorting out problems with .5 inch Browning guns.



Above: Gilbert standing rear row, third from left.

Date and location not known. The aircraft is a Fairey Fulmar


In early 1943 Gilbert qualified on a short Air Gunnery Officers course at Whale Island and was the AGO on HMS Unicorn with the Far East Fleet, based at Trincomalee and later at Leyte Bay in the Phillipines.

He transferred to the Emergency List on 11th September 1946 and in 1952 was released from the Reserve List.


After the war Gilbert joined the English Electric Company, at that time the company was developing the Lightning and Canberra.

He then went into advertising, handling accounts that included BP, Del Monte and Carling Black Label. He resigned a directorship in Royds, his last agency, and set up his own company with his second wife, renovating and converting residential properties.

Music and gardening were lifelong interests together with travel and the weather.

Gilbert died on the 22nd March 2015 at his home in Canterton Manor, Brook, Hampshire.


All images and additional research courtesy of Neill Pitcher.


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