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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. P C Whitwell


Peter Coulson Whitwell was born in Hartlepool, County Durham on 16th August 1920, the son of the Revd. Samuel Mapleton Whitwell and Gwendoline Whitwell (nee Coulson).

He was educated at King's School, Bruton, Somerset and after leaving served in the Scots Greys before emigrating to New Zealand in late 1938.

He joined the New Zealand Artillery and was posted to the 1st Battery at Fort Dorset, Seatoun at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. He applied to join the RNZAF as aircrew on 28th November 1939.

On 13th February 1940 Whitwell reported to the Ground Training School at Weraroa, later going to the Air Observers' School Ohakea on 11th March for a gunnery course. Once qualified he sailed for the UK on 26th April in RMS Rangitiki.

After disembarking on 8th June Whitwell went to No. 1 RAF Depot at Uxbridge where he was promoted to Sergeant. He was posted to 5 OTU Aston Down on 17th July and after further training was awarded his air gunner's badge. Whitwell joined 600 Squadron at Hornchurch on 18th September 1940.



When the squadron began to receive Beaufighters, the air gunners did little flying and Whitwell and others requested a transfer to Bomber Command. He was posted to 11 OTU Bassingbourn on 6th February 1941. After crewing-up and converting to Wellingtons he joined 7 Squadron at Oakington on 11th May. Soon afterwards the squadron re-equipped with Stirlings, the first in the RAF to do so.

On the night of 2nd July Whitwell was rear gunner in an aircraft which was on its way to raid Bremen when it was attacked by a Me110. He shot it down in flames. On another occasion, Whitwell was in one of two Stirlings making a daylight attack on ships off Borkum. They were intercepted over the convoy by eight Me109s. Whitwell warded off eight attacks and probably destroyed two Me109s. For these two actions he was awarded the DFM (gazetted 16th December 1941), he was then a Flight Sergeant.

Commissioned in January 1942, Whitwell was posted to 11 OTU as an instructor. He returned to 7 Squadron on 10th September 1942 to begin his second tour of operations.

His crew failed to return from a mine-laying operation off the Friesian Islands on the night of 6th/7th November 1942 in Stirling I W7620 MG-L. It was probably shot down by flak off Vlieland.

Also Missing were;

P/O DJ Tottman RNZAF
Sgt. WJ Salter RAF
Sgt. RE Bates RAFVR
F/O G Cherniuk RCAF
WO2 WMcK Martin RCAF
F/Sgt. ER Springham RCAF


Whitwell is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 114.


Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner.


Above: he is commemorated on the war memorial at his father's church - St John's, Ashley Green, Chesham.


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