The Airmen's Stories - F/O P L Parrott
Peter Lawrence Parrott was born in Aylesbury on 28th June 1920 into a family of local solicitors. He was educated as a boarder at Lord Williams Grammar School.
He was then articled to the Clerk of the Peace at Aylesbury.
Parrott joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial flying course at No. 1 E&RFTS Hatfield on 27th June 1938.
He was posted to 11 FTS Shawbury on 3rd September and after completing his training went to No. 1 Armament Training School at Catfoss on 30th March 1939, towing targets. On 27th September 1939 Parrott went to No. 1 Air Armament School Manby as a staff pilot. He was posted to 11 Group Pool at St. Athan on 28th December, converted to Hurricanes and then joined 2 Ferry Pilot Pool on 22nd January 1940.
Parrott joined 607 Squadron in France on 29th January 1940. He claimed three He111s destroyed, another two shared and one damaged on 10th May, and a He111 probably destroyed and another shared on the 11th. He was jumped by Me109s near Louvain on the 13th and had his radio shot to pieces.
While in France Parrott was one of several pilots who were snapped by a visiting photographer. After being sent home on leave he saw himself on a RAF recruitment poster with the words 'Volunteer For Flying Duties' - to his embarrassment the posters seemed to be plastered everywhere.
Parrott shared a probable Do17 on 16th May, went on leave on the 17th and at home on the 19th he received a telegram, posting him to 145 Squadron at Tangmere.
On the 26th, over Dunkirk, he probably destroyed a He111 but was hit by return fire. Heading home, his engine seized as he crossed the coast in Hurricane I N2589 and he made a crash-landing in a field at Great Mongeham, near Deal.
On 3rd July 1940 Parrott shared a probable He111, on the 15th shared a probable Do17, on the 18th shared a He111, on 8th August destroyed a Me109 and a Ju87 and on the 12th destroyed a Ju88.
He was posted to 605 Squadron at Croydon on 27th September and awarded the DFC (gazetted 22nd October 1940).
On 1st November Parrott damaged a Me109. Acting as weaver on 1st December he was jumped by a Me109 and his Hurricane, Z2323, damaged. He dived to 3000 feet and, fearing fire, baled out over East Hoathly, landed in a field and was found by a farm labourer.
Parrott was posted to CFS Upavon on 21st April 1941 for an instructors course, after which he went to 9 FTS Hullavington on 26th May. He moved to 5(P) AFU Ternhill on 22nd March 1942, to instruct, and joined the Handling Squadron at Hullavington on 1st September to prepare pilots notes.
He married Ellen Garner Hutton, a WAAF officer, in January 1943 in Stanton St. Quentin, Wiltshire.
As a preliminary for a return to operations Parrott went to 57 OTU Eshott on 11th May 1943 for air-firing practice and up-to-date procedures. He joined 501 Squadron at Martlesham Heath on 1st June.
Parrott was posted overseas on 16th July 1943, arrived at Safi, Malta on 1st August and then joined 72 Squadron at Pachino, Sicily on the 10th as a supernumerary. Eight days later he went to 111 Squadron, also at Pachino, as a Flight Commander.
Parrott destroyed a Mc202 on 4th September. He was given command of 43 Squadron at Capodichino, Naples on 13th October 1943.
On 26th November he shared in destroying a Ju88 and on 17th February 1944 he damaged a Me109.
He led the squadron until 6th March 1944 when he was posted to the Middle East. After a course at the Air Bombing and Gunnery School at El Ballah in April, Parrott was appointed OC Gunnery at 73 OTU Abu Sueir on 22nd May.
He returned to Italy in early November 1944 and took command of 72 Squadron at Rimini on the 11th. He was posted away to HQ Desert Air Force, Italy on 15th February 1945 and was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 20th March 1945).
Above: his portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde.
Parrott became Group Training Inspector, Fighters and later Wing Commander Ops. He returned to the UK in June 1946.
He began training as a test pilot. After qualifying in 1948 at Farnborough, for the next two years he test-flew early versions of the Vampire and Meteor, as they were accepted into RAF service at Boscombe Down. The casualty rate among test pilots of the early jet fighters was high but Parrott survived to earn an AFC (gazetted 1st January 1952).
There followed tours of duty at the Air Ministry, RAF Staff College, RAF Nicosia and RAF Geilenkirchen and he completed his service in the RAF on 10th July 1965 as a Wing Commander.
Thereafter Parrott worked for Autair and, after it was taken over, for Court Line, initially flying commercial domestic routes in Britain and subsequently flying members of the Libyan royal family and government on tours of the Middle East.
During the Arab-Israeli war in 1967, Parrott arrived at the airport in Damascus by taxi to see his plane in the process of being destroyed by Israeli bombers. After seeking sanctuary at the British Embassy he was co-opted into leading an overland convoy of British civilians fleeing the conflict to Turkey.
During the 1972 Arab-Israeli war, Parrott flew (at Gaddafi's behest) to Uganda to collect ldi Amin, whom he was to take to Khartoum, where Amin was supposedly going to act as the mediator in the conflict. On landing the Learjet at Entebbe, Parrott and his co-pilot found themselves arrested and interrogated as suspected mercenaries before Amin realised who they were.
In 1973 Parrott returned to Britain to work as a training adviser until his retirement in 1983. After the Falklands conflict he organised the sending of a telegram 'From the Few to the Few' congratulating the Sea Harrier pilots on their part in the campaign. He was also instrumental in getting the statue of Lord Dowding erected outside St. Clement Danes in the Strand.
Parrott died on 27th August 2003.