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The Airmen's Stories - P/O P E Penfold


Paul Eric Penfold was born on 28th November 1915 at Barnham, Sussex and was educated at public school at Woodbridge, Suffolk.

In April 1937 he joined the RAFVR at Brighton and carried out his flying training at Shoreham Airport on Tiger Moths, Audaxes and Battles. Penfold was awarded his wings in 1938 and when he was called up on 1st September 1939 he had 250 flying hours in his logbook, a large number for a VR pilot.

He married Mary Virginia Tomlinson in Hove in October 1939.

In the latter part of the year Penfold was posted to 3 FTS South Cerney for a twin-engine conversion course and on 1st February 1940 he was commissioned, arrived at 12 Group Pool on 8th March, converted to Blenheims and was then posted to 29 Squadron at Debden on 6th April. Penfold served with the squadron on night fighting duties at various fighter stations.




On 3rd September 1940 he was posted to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge as an instructor, converting Polish pilots to Hurricanes. Penfold was later posted to 73 OTU Aden to instruct there. Its aircraft having been found to be unsuitable for the area, the unit was moved to Egypt in early 1942.

Soon after arriving Penfold joined 216 Squadron at El Khanka, fifteen miles north of Helipolis. The squadron had Bombays and carried out many tasks, including supplying troops, dropping paratroopers and transporting the severely-wounded back to Heliopolis.

Shortly after joining 216, Penfold's Bombay was attacked and set alight by a Me109 near Burg-el-Arab and he managed to make a forced-landing before the fire became too serious. German fighters strafed the burning aircraft for ten minutes, luckily without casualties. In thirty minutes it was completely burned out.

The squadron re-equipped with Hudsons and Dakotas and had a forward flight throughout the North African campaign up to the German surrender at Tunis. In late 1943 it returned to Cairo West.

In January 1944 Penfold was posted to Algiers and appointed ADC and personal pilot to Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson KCB, the Supreme Commander of Mediterranean Forces.

Penfold returned to the UK in April to collect a Dakota that had been specially fitted out for the Field Marshal's use. He flew it back to Algiers in May and a week later took it across to a landing strip at Caserta, north of Naples. From here Penfold made trips to various HQ's in Italy, Greece, Corsica, Sardinia and flew back frequently to North Africa.

In July 1944 the King arrived on a visit to the land and air forces in Italy. Penfold was given the job of looking after him and flying him from the base at Orvietto to front-line fighter strips, where he personally decorated many Army and RAF officers and men. For his services to the King, Penfold was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order.

Two weeks later Penfold performed the same services for Winston Churchill, flying him to the major battle fronts. During his time with Field Marshal Wilson, Penfold flew many VIPs and made many overnight flights to Britain.

When the Field Marshal was posted to Washington, Penfold flew back with him to the UK. He then joined the Communications Squadron at Hendon and continued flying VIPs to Europe and within Germany. On one occasion Penfold flew Air Vice-Marshal Janousek back to Prague and flew down the main thoroughfare, escorted by Liberators and Spitfires of the Czech Air Force.

Penfold's final trip was to take ACM Sir Christopher Courteney to Burma to plan the route for the bomber force, which would fly out via staging posts, each aircraft carrying 100 soldiers to finish the campaign against the Japanese if the atomic bomb proved ineffective.

From January 1944 until September 1945 Penfold had the same crew that he took from 216 Squadron. They had flown 1750 hours together in the same Dakota, FZ631, which still had the same engines as it had when he picked the aircraft up at Prestwick.

Penfold was released from the RAF in October 1945 as a Squadron Leader. His MVO was upgraded to LVO by Royal Decree in the eighties.

He died in September 1997 in Chichester.


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