The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. P K Walley
Peter Kenneth Walley was born in Barnes, London on 29th November 1919.
His father, George, had served in WW1 in the Machine Gun Corps and later in the newly formed Royal Tank Regiment. He died in 1933, quite possibly as a result of his being gassed during the war.
Peter attended Wandsworth School in Sutherland Grove, Southfields, his home was in the same street.
On leaving school he became an apprentice toolmaker in Croydon. He joined the Auxiliary Air Force in March 1938 as an Aircrafthand/Air Gunner. In August he transferred to 615 Squadron and by the time he was called up at the outbreak of war he had been selected for pilot training.
When the squadron moved to Croydon at the outbreak of
war, Walley remained at Kenley.
He was formally posted from 615 to RAF Kenley on
3rd October 1939 and from there to 5 EFTS Meir on the 21st, for
his elementary flying training.
Above: Walley, standing third from right, in training.
Walley did his intermediate and advanced training at 3 FTS South Cerney on No. 33 Course, which ran from 25th March to
11th July 1940.
He rejoined 615 Squadron, then back at Kenley, on 13th July and was immediately detached to
5 OTU Aston Down.
After converting to Hurricanes he rejoined 615 Squadron on
He was again detached, this time to RAF Uxbridge on the 30th, for a short course on
R/T procedure, rejoining 615 on 6th August.
Walley was briefly attached to the Kenley Sector Training Flight and was then assigned
to 'A' Flight of 615 on 8th August.
He shared in damaging a Do17 on the 14th and shared in the probable destruction
of a He111 on 16th August. Two days later Walley was shot down and killed by Me109s of
His Hurricane P2768 came down in Morden Park.
He was 20 and is buried in St Luke’s churchyard, Whyteleafe, Surrey. There is a
memorial plaque to Walley at Merton Technical College as it is believed that he steered his crashing aircraft away from housing in the area.
Above: a letter from the local lodge of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes to the Secretary of State for Air and (below) the covering letter when it was forwarded.
(Note: Walley's widowed mother Dorothy had remarried, to William Young, in 1937).
Below: the letter written to Walley's mother by S/Ldr. JR Kayll of 615 Squadron (transcript at bottom), he was obviously unaware of her actual surname.
Royal Air Force, Kenley,
Dear Mrs Walley,
It is with great regret that I have to tell you that your son was killed last Sunday.
It is difficult to tell exactly what happened as his section leader was also shot down and is now in hospital wounded.
The squadron was at 26,000 feet and we were climbing up to attack the enemy aircraft when we ourselves attacked by ME109 fighters. In the dog fight that followed your son must have been hit and he crashed on Morden golf course.
Although your son had not been with the squadron very long he succeeded in making himself very popular and was a keen and willing pilot. I had intended to recommend him for a commission as soon as he had got a little more experience.
You have the satisfaction and consolation of knowing that he played his part bravely, and I wish to offer my sympathy in the sad times through which you must be passing. If there is anything I can do, please do not hesitate to let me know.
As regards his personal kit, his billet was unfortunately hit by a bomb and nothing has been recovered yet, but if anything is found it will have to be sent to the Central Depot, Colnbrook who will communicate with you.
Yours very sincerely,
Squadron Leader J.R. Kayll
Below: the letter written to Walley's mother by the Rector of Morden (transcript at bottom).
September 26, 1940
Dear Mrs Young,
I am a stranger to you but I am the Rector of this Parish, and I am writing to you in connection with the heroic death of your son Sergeant Peter Walley.
I have been in touch with the Air Ministry and have only just received the necessary information.
I want you to know that several people here saw the machine coming down and they all bear witness to this fact that your son kept to his machine rather than baling out in order that he might prevent it crashing on the houses and so endangering the lives of others. It was wonderful the way he steered it into an open space and so succeeded but at the cost of his own life.
He was a real hero and gave his life for others, greater love hath no man than this.
We thank God for such a sacrifice and we send you our deepest sympathy. Praying that God may comfort you in all your trouble.
I feel sure that you will be proud to know that your son died as a true Englishman and that he upheld the honour of his Country and the wonderful tradition of the R.A.F.
May God Bless You
Yours Very Sincerely
Rector of Morden
The plaque was originally placed at the college entrance and unveiled in May 1972 by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire (below).
The local paper reported "The Mayor of Merton, Mr John Coombes, invites Group Captain Leonard Cheshire to unveil the memorial plaque to Sgt Peter Walley. Pictured (from the right of the guard of honour) are the Rev Peter Dawson, Rector of Morden and College Chaplain; Mr Scott; Mrs Dorothy Scott, Sgt Walley’s mother; Group Captain Cheshire; the Mayor and the Mayoress, Miss Maureen Coombes.
Above: the plaque on Merton Technical College, resited when the college was extended in 1990.
Above: when his mother Dorothy died in 1981 her ashes were interred in Peter's grave at Whyteleafe.
Additional research and all images courtesy of Mike Squires (second cousin).