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Battle of Britain day: 15 September 1940

[Peter Pease, 603 squadron)

In a bid to finally wipe out the RAF ahead of of invasion, the Luftwaffe mounted two massive raids on London on 15th September. It was a day on which Churchill himself visited 11 Group's operational headquarters at Uxbridge in order to watch the progress of the battle. It was also the time at which the Prime Minister asked 11 Group Commander, Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, whether he had any reserves left. The answer was 'No'. Every aircraft was committed to the defence of the country.

603 was amongst those squadrons trying to protect Britain. In the first major raid at mid-day, 603 was one of those scrambled to fight off the enemy between Dungeness and Dover. The second saw intense fighting at 3pm over Maidstone as the RAF attacked bombers which were targeting London. Amongst those involved was Peter Pease, a close of friend of Richard Hillary. In 'The Last Enemy', Hillary recorded his friend's unassuming but resolute belief that the battle, and the war itself, was worth fighting for the sake of humanity. Pease, he said, was:-

"fighting the war to rid the world of fear... the fear of fear. If the Germans win this war, nobody except little Hitlers will dare to do anything. England will be run as if it were a concentration camp or at best a factory. All courage will die out of the world - the courage to love, to create, to take risks... Men will hesitate to carry out the promptings of the heart or the brain because, having acted, they will live in fear that their action may be discovered and they will be punished. The oxygen breathed by the soul, so to speak, will vanish and mankind will wither.... I believe that we should all make our contribution, even though it's a mere drop in the ocean, to the betterment of humanity."

Even though Hillary disagreed profoundly with Pease's view, he went on to say

"About this I must say one thing. While Peter's words were all cliches on the surface, all copybook talk, underneath they were terrific. He was saying what was to him almost the most important tbing he could say.... what he would do, the lengths to which he would go, the probity and the charity with which he would live...would also be English; and magnificently English. Extinct is the word: Peter was the very parfit knyght."

Hillary's words were seemingly confirmed very soon afterwards. On 15 September at 3pm Peter Pease and others in 603 squadron attacked German bombers over Maidstone. Pease's lone attack was described by Leutnant Roderick Cescotti from his Heinkel 111:

"A few Tommies succeeded in penetrating our fighter escort. I saw a Spitfire dive steeply through our escort, level out and close rapidly on our formation. It opened fire from ahead and to the right and its tracer streaked towards us. At that moment an Me109, which we had not seen before, appeared behind the Spitfire and we saw its rounds striking the Spitfire's tail. But the Tommy continued his attack, coming straight for us, and his rounds slashed into our aircraft. We could not return fire for fear of hitting the Messerschmitt. I put my left arm across my face to protect it from the plexiglass splinters flying around he cockpit, holding the controls with my right hand. With only the thin plexiglass between us, we were eye to eye with the enemy's eight machine guns. At the last moment the Spitfire pulled up and passed very close over the top of us. Then it rolled onto its back as though out of control and went down steeply, trailing black smoke. The action only lasted a few seconds but it demonstrated the determination and bravery with which the Tommies were fighting over their own country."

Peter Pease's Spitfire dived into the ground at Kingswood near Maidstone at 3.07pm. His body was returned to his home in Yorkshire for burial at the family pl0t at St Michael and All Angels church in Middleton Tyas. He was 22.

if you would like to hear more about fighter pilots such as Peter Pease and others in 603 squadron on either a London walking tour or whole day tour in East Kent, please get in touch now.

You can also visit the website, call 07852 765901 or email

Photos and text courtesy of the Battle of Britain monument and 'The Battle of Britain: Then and Now'; David Ross, ‘Stapme’ and David Ross ‘The greatest squadron of them all – the definitive history of 603 squadron’

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