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Air Marshal Sir Peter Wykeham (33211)

Air Marshal Sir Peter Wykeham

Peter Guy                     

b: 13 Sep 1915                    

r: 31 Jan 1969                     

d: 23 Feb 1995

KCB – 1 Jan 1965 (CB – 10 Jun 1961), DSO - 4 May 1943, Bar – 20 Oct 1944, OBE – 1 Jan 1949, DFC – 29 Nov 1940, Bar – 8 Aug 1941, AFC – 1 Jan 1951, MiD - 1 Jan 1942, MiD - 11 Jun 1942, MiD - 14 Jun 1945, AM (US) – 25 May 1951, OD (Cdr2) - 7 Mar 1947, FRAeS - 1968, FBIM.  

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

Plt Off: 31 Jul 1937, Fg Off: 31 Jan 1939, Flt Lt: 3 Sep 1940, Sqn Ldr: 20 Nov 1942 [1 Dec 1941], Act Wg Cdr: xx xxx xxxx, Act Gp Capt: 8 Mar 1944, Wg Cdr (WS): 8 Sep 1944 – 1 Nov 1947, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1948, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1952 [1 Jan 1952], A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1958, AVM: 1 Jan 1960, Act AM: 10 Jun 1964, AM: 1 Jan 1966.

xx xxx 1932:            Aircraft Apprentice, No 1 School of Technical Training, RAF Halton.

 5 Sep 1935:            Flight Cadet, 'C' Sqn, RAF College.

31 Jul 1937:            Appointed to a Permanent Commission

31 Jul 1937:            Pilot, No 80 Sqn.

15-31 May 1940:    Attended Link Trainer Course, RAF Helwan

17-24 Jun 1940:     Attached to No 33 Sqn

19 Aug 1940:          Pilot, No 274 Sqn.

14 Oct - 27 Nov 1940:           Admitted to Anglo-Swiss Hospital as the result of injured knee sustained playing Rugby

27 Nov 1940:        Officer Commanding (Temporary), No 274 Sqn

xx Jan 1941:            Flight Commander, No 274 Sqn.

20 Apr 1941:           Officer Commanding, No 73 Sqn.

 1 Oct 1941:           Wing Commander - Fighters, HQ Desert Air Force.

xx Feb 1942:           Air Fighting Instructor, USA.

xx May 1942:          Officer Commanding, No 257 Sqn.

xx Sep 1942:           Officer Commanding, No 23 Sqn.

28 Apr 1943:           Injured and invalided to the UK.

xx Jun 1943:             Sector Commander, RAF Kenley.

xx Feb 1944:           Officer Commanding, No 140 Wing.

14 Dec 1944:           Air Staff, HQ No 2 Group.

xx Sep 1945:            ?

xx xxx 1946:            Air Staff, Air Ministry.

xx xxx 1948:            Chief Test Pilot, A & AEE.

xx Aug 1950 - xx Aug 1950:            Attached, HQ US 5th Air Force - Korea.

xx xxx 1951:            Officer Commanding, RAF North Weald

xx xxx 1952:            Officer Commanding, RAF Wattisham.

28 Sep 1953:           Assistant Chief of Staff (Operations) HQ AAFCE.

 9 Jul 1956:              Air Staff (Operations), HQ Fighter Command.

26 May 1958:          Director of Fighter & Theatre Air Force Operations.

1959                Act Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations)

 1 Jan 1960:             AOC, No 38 Group.

 1 Aug 1962:            Director, Joint Warfare Staff.

10 Jun 1964:            Commander, Far East Air Force.

30 Jan 1967:            Deputy Chief of the Air Staff.

Peter Wykeham-Barnes joined the RAF as an Apprentice in 193?. On completion of his course, he was awarded a cadetship to the RAF College at Cranwell.  Graduating in 1937, he was posted to the Middle East  to fly Gladiators with No 80 Sqn.   At that time one of his fellow pilots was the South African Pat Pattle, who would, before his death in 1941 become the Allies highest scoring fighter pilot.  When the first Hurricane arrived in Egypt it was decided to restrict it to being flown by the most experienced pilots, one of whom was Peter Wykeham-Barnes.

On 4 August 1940, he and Pat Pattle were shot down behind enemy lines in the desert and although they landed some distance from each other, they both managed to get picked up the following day by an armoured patrol.  Michael Shekleton, who served as Bob Bateson's navigator in Blenheims with 113 Squadron in the Western Desert in 1940 and was still alive at 103 in 2011 recounted the following anecdote regarding this incident: - "one day a pilot strolled barefoot into their camp with his flying boots slung round his neck. "I'm Pete Wykeham-Barnes," he said, "for God's sake gimme a drink!". It turns out he had crash landed his aircraft some fifteen miles away and had calculated that if he walked due north he was bound to encounter the RAF somewhere. When he was asked why he carrying his boots instead of wearing them he remarked "I've only just had them specially made in Bond Street. They cost me a packet and I don't want to ruin them."  Another anecdote recited by Michael is when Peter Wykeham-Barnes later flew into their base again at (probably) Maaten Bagush in his Hurricane.  He parked on the airfield's perimeter. (All aircraft were parked around the perimeter to reduce damage in case of a bombing raid by the Italians.).  A short while later a low-loader arrived and delivered his Alvis, which he used in order to get from the mess tent to and from his aircraft.

Having spent most of his career flying single seat fighters, he moved into a new field in 1942 when he took over command of No 23 Sqn flying Mosquito's on Interdiction missions over occupied Europe, until the end of 1942 when he took the squadron to Malta in order to undertake similar missions over Sicily  and Italy.   Returning to the UK in 1943 he took command of No 140 Wing equipped with Mosquito's in No 2 Group, which had been transferred to 2nd TAF in readiness for Overlord. He led a number of highly successful low-level daylight raids against Gestapo HQ buildings which caused great damage to the HQ's whilst inflicting little or no damage to surrounding areas.  By the end of the war he had amassed a total of 14 destroyed with two shared, one probable and two damaged and a share in another two.

In 1950 with the outbreak of the Korean War, it became obvious that many of the lessons learned in WW2 had already been forgotten.  So it was that the USAF asked the RAF if it could loan them an officer with experience of night intruder operations.  The officer supplied was Peter Wykeham-Barnes, then serving as a test pilot at the A & AEE at Boscombe Down.  He spent a month in Korea during which time he flew a number of night intruder operations in B26 Intruders having established the feasibility of the aircraft for the role and having sown the seeds which the USAF could develop into a successful night intruder campaign.  For this work, he received the US Air Medal from Lt-General George Stratemeyer in Tokyo on 10 September 1950.  

During his time at Boscombe Down, he helped develop the principle of swept wings on such aircraft as the Hawker P1052 (developed into the Hunter), Supermarine 510 (developed into the Swift) and Avro 707 (Vulcan development aircraft).

In 1962 he was selected as the first officer to fill the post of Director of the new tri-service staff to co-ordinate joint operations, thereby replacing the Land/Air Warfare Committee and the Amphibious Warfare HQ.

In 1955 his family changed it's name by Deed Poll to just Wykeham.  He was a Fellow of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators.

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Flight Lieutenant Peter Guy WYKEHAM-BARNES (33211), No.274 Squadron.

This officer was the first pilot of his squadron to engage the enemy.  In a combat with 12 enemy fighters he shot down two and has since destroyed at least five, and shared in the destruction of one other.  On one occasion he was himself shot down and forced to return on foot to his base.  Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes has displayed dauntless leadership and the finest fighting spirit.”

 (London Gazette – 29 November 1940)

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Acting Squadron Leader Peter Guy WYKEHAM-BARNES, D.F.C.(33211), No.73 Squadron.

This officer has been almost continuously engaged on active operations in the Western Desert since the war with Italy began.  Since assuming command of the squadron he has displayed outstanding leadership and determination and has contributed in a large measure to its high standard of efficiency and fighting spirit.”

(London Gazette – 8 August 1941)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

"WYKEHAM-BARNES, Peter Guy, W/C, DFC (33211, Royal Air Force) - No.23 Squadron.

Within the past six months this officer has completed a large number of operational missions.  On one occasion in February 1943, Wing Commander Wykeham-Barnes attacked and damaged a medium-sized merchant vessel.  During attacks on lines of communication in Italy and Sicily, he has destroyed three locomotives and damaged many more.  In combat, Wing Commander Wykeham-Barnes has destroyed 15 enemy aircraft, two of them at night over the same airfield within recent weeks.  He is a courageous leader, whose outstanding skill and tireless efforts have been reflected in the many successes he has obtained."

(Source - London Gazette dated 4 May 1943)

Citation for the award of the Bar to Distinguished Service Order.

“Acting Group Captain Peter Guy WYKEHAM-BARNES, D.S.O., D.F.C., R.A.F.

This officer has displayed the highest qualities of skill, gallantry and 'devotion to duty.  He is a masterly leader whose good judgment and undoubted tactical ability have been reflected in the operational efficiency of the squadrons he commands.  Since the landing in Northern France the squadrons have completed very many sorties and have /achieved much success.  Group Captain Wykeham-Barnes has participated in many of these missions, especially the more difficult of the assignments, and throughout his example has inspired all.”

 (London Gazette – 20 October 1944)

Recommendation for the award of the Air Force Cross

(Source - Air 2/10106 drafted when he had flown 2,783 hours, 161 on current duties, 41 in previous six months)

"WYKEHAM-BARNES, Peter Guy, W/C, DSO, OBE, DFC (33211, Royal Air Force)  - Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down (Ministry of Supply)

Wing Commander Wykeham-Barnes has commanded “A” Squadron of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment for one and a half years, and by his courage and enthusiasm has raised the morale and efficiency of the squadron to a very high level.  No tasks have been too hard for him and no hours too long.  Despite the hazardous nature of many of the tests, Wing Commander Wykeham-Barnes has never been deterred by any thought of personal danger, and has always led the way by assigning the most difficult and arduous tasks to himself.  It is considered that his untiring work and outstanding example deserve high recognition."

Air 2/10073, has an earlier recommendation for AFC, June 1950, when he had flown 2,470 hours, 102 on current duties, 56 in previous six months.

"Wing Commander Wykeham-Barnes has commanded “A” Squadron of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment for the past twelve months.  During this time his Squadron one has worked at high pressure, testing new types of fighter and training aircraft.  In view of the many features embodied in these aircraft and the very high speeds and high altitudes involved, much of the test flying has been arduous and hazardous in the extreme.  Wing Commander Wykeham-Barnes has consistently allocated the most difficult and dangerous tasks to himself and, by his personal courage, cool judgement and devotion to duty, has displayed not only leadership of a high order, but has enabled much new and valuable data to be recorded."

This page was last updated on 17/09/23©

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