Historic Aviators series cover signed by Group Captain Peter Wooldridge Townsend, CVO, DSO, DFC and Bar, RAF (22 November 1914 – 19 June 1995) was Equerry to King George VI 1944–1952 and held the same position for Queen Elizabeth II 1952–1953. Group Captain Townsend is best known for his romance with Princess Margaret.
He joined the Royal Air Force in 1933, and trained at Cranwell. He served in Training Command, and as a flying instructor at RAF Montrose. He was stationed at RAF Tangmere in 1937 and was a member of No. 43 Squadron RAF. The first enemy aircraft to crash on English soil during World War II fell victim to fighters from Acklington on 3 February 1940 when three Hurricanes of ‘B’ flight, 43 Squadron, shot down a Heinkel 111 of 4./KG26 near Whitby. The pilots were F/L Townsend, F/O ‘Tiger’ Folkes and Sgt. James Hallowes. He was awarded the DFC in April 1940. Two more He 111s were claimed by Townsend, on 22 February and 8 April, and a sixth share on 22 April.
By May 1940, Townsend was one of the most capable squadron leaders of the Battle of Britain, serving throughout the battle as CO of No. 85 Squadron RAF, flying Hawker Hurricanes. On 11 July 1940 Townsend, flying Hurricane VY-K (P2716) intercepted a Dornier Do 17 of KG 2 and severely damaged the bomber, forcing it to crash land at Arras. Return fire from the Dornier hit the Hurricane coolant system and Townsend was forced to ditch 20 miles from the English coast, being rescued by HM Trawler Cape Finisterre. On 31 August, during combat with Bf 110s over Tunbridge, Townsend was shot down and wounded in the left foot by a cannon shell which went through the glycol tank and exploded in the cockpit. He continued to lead the unit on the ground even after this wound resulted in his big toe being amputated, and he returned to operational flying on 21 September. A bar to his DFC was awarded in early September 1940.
He oversaw the conversion of 85 Squadron to night operations at RAF Hunsdon during early 1941. Awarded a DSO in April 1941, he later became Commanding Officer RAF Drew in April 1942 and commanded No. 611 Squadron RAF, a Spitfire unit.
Townsend was later leader of No. 605 Squadron RAF, a night fighter unit, and attended the staff college from October 1942. In January 1943, he was appointed Commanding Officer of RAF West Malling.
His wartime record was 9 aircraft claimed destroyed (and 2 shared), 2 'probables' and 4 damaged.
In 1944, he was appointed temporary equerry to King George VI. In the same year the appointment was made permanent, and he served until 1953, when he became Extra Equerry, an honorary office he held until his death. He was promoted Group Captain in 1948. In August 1950, he was made deputy Master of the Household and was moved to comptroller to the Queen Mother in 1952. He retired from the Royal Household in the next year, and was air attaché in Brussels 1953 to 1956.
WW2 RAF Battle of Britain ace Peter Townsend signed cover
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