Battle of Britain Monument Home THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN LONDON MONUMENT Battle of Britain London Monument
The Battle of Britain London Monument "Never in the field of human
conflict was so much owed
by so many to so few
Site of Battleof Britain London Monument Work in Progress London Monument Site Drawing of Battle of Britain London Monument
Battle of Britain London Monument Home    

The Airmen's Stories - P/O P C Humphreys


Peter Cecil Humphreys was born in London on the 26th February 1916, the only child of Cecil Henry Humphreys and Gladys Mason.

At the time they were both rising stars on stage and screen on both sides of the Atlantic. When Peter was six years old he and his governess accompanied his parents on a P&O liner to Australia.

There they toured for a year before returning to England. Peter then attended Arnold House school in St. John's Wood before finishing at Canford School in Dorset. Intending to follow his parents into the acting profession he took the difficult path of learning to act by joining various repertory companies playing small theatres around the country.

This was a difficult profession to follow in the 1930's and his acting career was not particularly successful. At the outbreak of war he was coming to the end of a long engagement at the Repertory theatre in Bath.

Humphreys joined the RAFVR in April 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his elementary training at 18 EFTS Fairoaks and his intermediate and advanced training at 5 FTS Sealand.



He was commissioned at the end of the course and arrived at 5 OTU Aston Down on 26th September 1940. After converting to Hurricanes he joined 32 Squadron at Acklington on 18th October.

Humphreys was posted to 73 Squadron at Castle Camps on 5th November 1940. Later that month the squadron was posted to the Middle East. It sailed on HMS Furious and flew off at Takoradi on the 29th. It then flew in easy stages to Heliopolis via Lagos, Accra, Kano, Maidugari, Khartoum, Wadi Haifa and Abu Sueir. During December the pilots were attached to 274 Squadron in the Western Desert.


Above: Officers of 73 Squadron at Gazala.

Standing (L to R) F/O Lewis (Signals), unknown, P/O KM Millist, P/O JB McColl (CAN), F/O AN Hoole (Intelligence),

Sitting (L to R) P/O P Haldenby, P/O OE Lamb, P/O GE Goodman, P/O GCC Joubert, F/O WT Eiby, S/L AD Murray, F/O MLf Beytagh, P/O MP Wareham, P/O PC Humphreys.




At some time he made a forced-landing in the desert, due to the rough terrain he sustained a bad gash to his face. He was found by local Bedouin, sympathetic to the Allied cause, who made and applied a poultice to the wound. They delivered him to a RAF base where the MO wisely left the poultice in place. This ensured that it would heal without a scar, which would otherwise blight an actor's career.


Above: Humphreys at the Italian memorial marking their capture of Sidi Barrani in November 1940.


Once recovered he was assigned to fly Noel Coward on a tour of North Africa and the Middle East from July to October 1943. Their common calling led to a friendship, Coward later recorded '...In the afternoon I was flown to Baghdad in an archaic machine that looked as though it had never quite recovered from triumphantly flying the channel in 1910. My pilot was a fine-looking young man who turned out to be Cecil Humphreys' son. There is certainly a good deal of Wardour Street blood coursing through these desert sands.'.




In September 1944 Humphreys married Ingegerd Holter, the daughter of prominent Norwegian actors Karl Holter and Betzy Jordal. Ingegerd had been drawn into the Norwegian Resistance by one of its founders, a shipping tycoon who employed her as his secretary.



Above: Ingegerd was Oslo Princess 1936

As her boss was widely recognised it fell to her to liase between the various Oslo-based Resistance cells. This was extremely risky as if she was captured the Germans could extract enough information to bring down the entire network.

On what was to be her last day in Norway she had just left one of her contacts and was carrying a message to be transmitted by her cell's radio operator, who had to change location after almost every transmission to avoid detection.

But when she came up the stairs to the floor of the operator's apartment there was a Norwegian policeman standing guard outside. She carried on without a break to a higher floor and left the building as quickly as possible.

She went to her next rendezvous but her contact was not there.

Thoroughly alarmed, she returned home in time to receive a phone call telling her to go immediately to a town on the border with Sweden. She did so and was met by a contact who took her to an isolated hut right on the border. That night she was guided across the unmarked, but heavily patrolled, border into Sweden.

Sweden, being neutral, was supposed to intern any Norwegian crossing over. However when, by total coincidence, she encountered a Swedish policeman who recognized her, he walked past as if she was invisible.

Holter made her way to Stockholm and reported to the Norwegian Embassy there. The embassy reported her arrival to London and her boss, who had been extracted to London months before because of his importance to the Resistance, called for her to be immediately brought to London. Clandestine flights were operated by various unarmed aircraft to Leuchars in Scotland, mostly with very cramped and uncomfortable provision for passengers.

She was turned away from the next flight as Trygve Lie, then Norway's Foreign Minister for the Norwegian government in exile (later first Secretary General of the UN) wanted one of his people to take precedence. The next flight some days later was also full but when she explained her predicament the RAF pilot said 'Madame, this is the RAF and if the RAF decides that a Hottentot, a Houri or a Holter flies on a RAF plane that is entirely our own decision'. She made the flight.

Once in London Holter met Trygve Lie and, when he heard her story, apologised and said 'My dear, had I known it was you and who you worked for then of course you would have made the first flight'. In recompense Lie bought her dinner. Holter then joined the Norwegian Navy and was based at the Norwegian Embassy in London for the remainder of the war.





In 1945 Humphreys was stationed at Cairo's Heliopolis airfield and he was offered a Wing Commander's post overseeing its transition to a civilian operation. However he was keen to resume his interrupted acting career and returned to civilian life. The post-war London theatre was difficult to revive and in 1949 he emigrated alone to Toronto in Canada. He was able to send for his family a year later and in 1958 they moved to Hollywood.

Success eluded him and the family returned to the UK in 1962, Humphreys and his wife moving to southern Spain in 1975.

He died there in 1986 from smoking-related lung cancer.


Additional research and all images courtesy of Alan Humphreys (son).



Battle of Britain Monument