Forgotten Hero

Forgotten Hero

 

The London Gazette June 12 1945

DSO

Acting Wing Commander Peter Livingstone CHILTON,

D.F.C., A.F.C. (33459), R.A.F., 149 Sqn.

Wing Commander Chilton was pilot and captain

of an aircraft detailed to lead a bomber force in

a daylight attack against Bremen in April 11945.

To ensure success, a high degree of accuracy was

essential owing .to the presence of our ground

forces in the vicinity. When passing over

Wilhemshaven, much anti-aircraft fire was

encountered. Wing Commander ChiltonJs aircraft

was hit. The starboard aileron was rendered almost

ineffective, the hydraulic system was made unserviceable

and petrol commenced to leak from the

tank in the starboard wing. Although the aircraft

became difficult to control, Wing Commander

Chilton maintained his position in the formation

and went on to execute a successful attack. He

afterwards flew the damaged aircraft safely back

to ‘base. This officer, who has completed many

sorties on his third tour of operational duty, set

. a splendid example of skill, courage and tenacity

throughout.

Why is this especially interesting? Here is an excerpt from my old school magazine, the Clayesmorian 1932.

“With great regret and all good wishes we say goodbye to Chilton who goes to Uppingham next term. Chilton has been captain of football and vice captain of the prep school this term and has been an outstanding example of cheeriness and loyalty. He has been at Clayesmore since the tender age of seven and looks upon the school as a second home.”

At the time the school was based in Northwood Park,near Winchester(it moved to Iwerne in l933) and was 180 strong of which 46 were in the prep. While at the school Chilton appeared in plays, got his 1st X1 soccer colours and as a bowler got remarkable 4.13, 4.2 and 6.50 against Portsmouth Grammer,Bedales and Cathedral School.His father was an engineer with Vickers in India, he was an only child sent to stay with grandparents in the holidays.

Previous to Clayesmore his education was at home in India, a hill side cottage in Ooty,a smart bungalow in Simla? No wonder the school was his second home. In that era parents only came home every two years.After Uppingham he went to Cranwell in 1936.

A word about those three tours of duty. The overall casualty rate in Bomber Command was something like 55% , 12 % were shot down and  captured . Only 27% survived .First tour was forty sorties and only around 35% completed that tour. A six month gap was allowed and then a second tour of 20 sorties started.  Another figure states in 1943 only one in six survived the first tour and 1 in 40 two tours, A third tour was only open to volunteers. It was all about experience, crews were ten   times more likely to be shot down in their first five raids, after twenty raids the chances moved to evens.

The little lad who got 6 for 50 against Cathedral School was such a  volunteer-hero who did more than sixty operations.His eyes were open and he could see no other way. A school boy’s“cheeriness and loyalty “ became a man’s”a splendid example of skill, courage and tenacity”. Throughout the War Bremen had been bombed many times because of its submarine base.In 1942 the RAF launched one of its first 1000 bomber attacks on the city, it lost 48 planes.

After the war Chilton went to work for Aviation Fuel Services and died aged 57 in 1975. The school has no memorial to this hero. It should have.

(This was the  speech I gave  yesterday at the annual Beaujolais Lunch for  the OC Society) Part of my interest in this story was the fact that Chilton was a contemporary of my mother who was also sent from the childhood  paradise of The Raj to boarding school and spinster aunts aged seven. Its unlikely they ever met.

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