Peter Collard was born in London in January 1916 and educated at the Royal Masonic School. He joined 615 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force in late 1937 and was granted a commission on 4th February 1938. Promoted to F/O on 4th August 1939 and called into full-time service on 24th August 1939.
Two weeks later he was sent on a Hurricane conversion course, having been used to Gladiators. However he flew with 615 to Merville on 15th November in a Gladiator from Croydon. The squadron did not receive Hurricanes until April 1940. In April 1940 he married Annette Christina McNally who gave birth to their son, also called Peter, in March 1941. (Unfortunately, in common with many others of the time, Peter Junior, would never have known his father).
During the fighting in France Collard destroyed an Hs126 on 15th May and one other enemy aircraft. The squadron was withdrawn to Kenley on 21st May. Collard claimed a He111 probably destroyed on 22nd June and then a Ju87 destroyed on 14th July. He shared a He59 on the 27th.
Aged 24, Collard failed to return from a combat off Dover on 14th August 1940. Shot down off Dover at 12.45 hrs, whilst leading Red Section, as a huge 200 aircraft dogfight developed, his Hurricane P3109 crashed into the sea.
A member of the 615 Squadron ground crew recollected:
“As things hotted up our young pilots began to feel the strain, and I remember the lad on KW (E or P) Flying Officer Peter Collard, sitting in the cockpit on Readiness, hearing of the award of his DFC, and I’m sure he was half asleep. A few days later he failed to return from a Scramble.”
Peter Collard lies buried in Oye-Plage Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, Row 1, Grave 10.
He was award the DFC on 11th August 1940 (gazetted 23rd August 1940). The official citation reads:
“During operations in France, and in particular in May 1940, this officer took part in almost every patrol undertaken by the squadron and destroyed two enemy aircraft. Since his return to England, Flying Officer Collard has continued his excellent work – and has destroyed a further four enemy aircraft.”
Collard Close in Caterham, Kenley is named in his honour.
Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website