|PETER O'NEILL DARBISHIRE
77 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died 16 December 1940
Commemorated on War Memorial in St Stephen's, Great Wigborough and on Runnymede Air Forces Memorial, Panel 13.
Peter Darbishire was the son of George and Edith Helen Darbishire née Boyce - they had married in 1911 in Sydney, New South Wales. Peter was born 1913. His father died 28 May 1914 at the age of 36 at Ocean Island, Gilbert & Ellice Islands, where he was a Deputy Commissioner for the Western Pacific.
Peter and his mother Edith returned to England on the AENEAS, arriving Liverpool 18 September 1914, address on arrival given as Bramfield Vicarage, Halesworth, Suffolk. Edith's father was a clergyman at Bramfield. In July 1921, Edith remarried, Frank W. Aldred, at Ipswich. There are several records of the Aldred family living in the Bramfield area.
Kelly's 1937 directory lists Frank Waldron Aldred, farmer, Moulshams Farm.
The 1939 Register shows Frank and Edith Aldred at Moulshams Farm, Great Wigborough. Frank is described as a Farmer, and is also Billetting Officer. Frank, Edith and domestic help Edith R. Pooley are all in the A.R.P.
Peter's address in his Probate record is Park Gates Hotel, Eastbourne. The presence of His Mother and Step Father living in Great Wigborough explains why he was added to the Great Wigborough War Memorial - he is the only WW2 death.
Peter would have been flying in a Whitley bomber with 77 Squadron. The Whitley bomber was generally manned by a crew of five, consisting of two pilots, one of whom often did the navigation; an observer who acted as bomb aimer and sometimes as navigator or gunner, and two 'wireless operator air gunners' (WAG) who could carry out either duties. The squadron was based at Driffield (July 1938 - August 1940), Linton-on-Ouse (August 1940 - October 1940), Topcliffe (October 1940 - September 1941).
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk V T4226 was lost 20 miles off Scarborough 03:50 16 Dec 1940. All 5 crew on board were killed. It had departed from RAF Topcliffe for operations on Berlin but crashed into the sea on return. Peter Darbishire was the wireless operator. [ aviation-safety.net ]
During the whole period the Squadron was operating Whitley aircraft with Bomber Command, September 1939 to May 1942, about 1687 operational sorties were flown on 239 raids, mostly over France and Germany, and 69 aircraft were lost, of which 65 were on operations, a loss rate of 4%. It is believed that the Squadron carried out more raids and suffered more losses than any other Whitley squadron. The theoretical probability of an aircrew member completing the standard tour of 30 operations was only around 30%.
With regard to the period Peter was flying: Between the outbreak of war in 1939 and the end of December 1940 the squadron lost 27 aircraft on operations, of which 2 crashed on return and 2 ditched. The casualties were: 92 aircrew killed or missing believed dead and 21 taken prisoners of war. Near the end of this period Berlin was attacked on several occasions and Turin twice, the latter target was at the extreme range for Whitley aircraft. Five aircraft were lost in the raids on Berlin. Not only were they at risk on operations but at home as well.
Whilst at Driffield on 14 August 1940 the airfield was attacked by Junkers 88 aircraft of the Luftwaffe and 12 Whitley bombers of 77 and 102 Squadrons were destroyed. Thirteen airmen and soldiers were killed.
1939-1945 Star: Aircrew Europe Star; 1939-1945 War Medal; Defence Medal.
Photograph of Armstrong Whitworth Whitley via Wikipedia: By RAF - RAF website , photo , Public Domain,
Jan 2020 This version built from Edwin's Memorial Profile. Peter Darbishire's connection to Wigborough researched by Carol Wyatt and much information added in first 3 paragraphs.