Peter Howes was born in 1919 in Bodmin, Cornwall, the son of Harold Edward Howes and Etta Mary de Heriez-Smith. He was educated at Oundle School and St John's College, Oxford where he read Natural Science. He learned to fly with the University Air Squadron and was a friend of Richard Hillary. In June 1939 Howes joined the RAFVR as an Airman u/t Pilot. Peter Howes was called up on 1st September, commissioned on the 26th, completed his training and was posted to No.1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum.
Richard Hillary described the transformation in Howes as he went through his training:
The change in Peter Howes was perhaps the most interesting for he was not unaware of what was happening. From an almost morbid introspection, an unhappy preoccupation with the psychological labyrinths of his own mind, his personality blossomed, like some plant untouched by the sun, into an at first unwilling but soon open acceptance of the ideas and habits of others. At this time he was a very bad pilot, though his English was meticulous. In three months he was an excellent pilot and his vocabulary was pure RAF.'
On 23rd June 1940 Howes was sent to 5 OTU Aston Down and after converting to Spitfires he joined 54 Squadron at Rochford on 8th July. 54 Squadron was involved in intense activity throughout July and August but was moved from Hornchurch in early September to a quieter area. Hillary described how Peter Howes had been transferred back to Hornchurch with 603 Squadron on 11th September 'still deeply worried because as yet he had failed to bring anything down. The inevitable happened; and from his second flight with us he failed to return.'
Howes was shot down and killed by Me109s on the 18th. His Spitfire, X4323, crashed at Kennington, near Ashford. He was 21. Howes was cremated at St John's Crematorium, Woking.
Photo and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website and Richard Hillary 'the Last Enemy'.