Peter Curtin

An Interest in Aviation From An Early Age

By David Taft

Photo:Peter Curtin in the RAF in 1946

Peter Curtin in the RAF in 1946

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Peter Today (May 2008)

Peter Today (May 2008)

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Early Memories

Peter was born in 1926 in a nursing home in Farnborough Kent. One of his earliest memories is of seeing the R101 airship passing overhead and this was also probably his first recollection of a life long interest in aviation.
After a while he moved to Mill Hill and used to attend the Hendon Air Pageant each year as a school boy as all schools in the area were invited to attend on the Friday which was dress rehearsal day. He also recollects seeing the King's Silver Jubilee celebrations in the Mall in London.

Outbreak Of War

In 1938 he moved to a Tadworth  and went to a Banstead School moving latter to a Ewell school. At the outbreak of war he heard the Declaration of War on the radio and remembers going to Wallington with a friend the following day and seeing a squadron of Hawker Hurricanes coming in to land.

School Exams In An Air Raid Shelter

In 1940 Peter took his school exams in an air raid shelter and joined 323 Squadron Air Training Corps. At the time of the raid on Dieppe he was at training camp and saw first hand the extensive air support fly over. The following week he was examined for joining as an Aircraft Apprentice but was unfortunately rejected on grounds of "defective vision" and was returned home.

Joining Thr Post Office

His Air Training Corps Adjutant  knew of his interest in radio and recommended him to attend the Post Office Engineering department and Peter was duly accepted in November 1942 as a Trainee Telecommunication Engineer; and became subsequently in 1944 a qualified Telecommunications Engineer working in the South Western Area of London. His work was varied carrying out maintenance and installations in Civilian and Military Exchanges including 1st Canadian Army HQ, South Eastern Command HQ and Kenley Airfield and operations rooms.

Reigate / S.E. Command

Following the Battle of Britain and the increase in the strength of troops and support services there was a requirement for an Operational/ Administration HQ in the area. As a result S.E. Command was formed in Reigate and based in a complex of tunnels constructed in the chalk escarpment of Reigate Hill.
In view of the possibility of an attack by German Airborne forces the complex included a battle room with air locks etc. Periodically the facility was exercised by practice evacuations from the main tunnels.

Montgomery "Filthy"

During one of these practises the G.O.C walked down a tunnel to the battle room. The Post Office Telephone Engineers moved ahead of him to transfer the "secure" telephone equipment and ensure it was connected and working correctly. On one occasion the duty engineer in placing the telephone on a polished table left a dusty chalk hand print on the surface.
Montgomery walked in and pointed to the imprint uttered one word "filthy" as he looked at his aid with disdain. The red faced aide took a handkerchief from a pocket and dusted the table removing the hand print. "WHAT A WAR!" (Peter Curtin)

In The Air with An Ace

Peter also recollects the time that he was flown in a Tiger Moth aeroplane by the legendary air ace Douglas Barder. He also saw General Eisenhower address both British and Canadian troops in the run up to D day. He also speaks of witnessing first hand the tremendous work done bravely and with devotion of the women working in extreme conditions in the vital exchanges. This exhibited the basic steadfastness of the British and Commonwealth people wherever they served; in a civilian or military capacity.

Peter Joins The RAF

In 1946 following cadet and instructor duties in the Air Training Corps he joined the RAF at Padgate, he served at Ruislip, refurbishing radar and communication equipment, something that probably many were thankful for as it allowed the demobilisation of commonwealth troops serving in the United Kingdom.
Peter was released to the reserves in 1949, being recalled several times including the Egyptian invasion. He continued his life long interest in electrical engineering being employed from 1952 to 1986 as an Air Traffic Engineer when he retired. In 1952 Peter returned home to help his mother as his father had been gassed in World War One.

Peter And Barbara

Peter married his wife Barbara in 1979 joining a large and happy extended family. They enjoyed many trips abroad to places as diverse as Canada, Dubai, Crete, Malta, Portugal, Orlando, Majorca as well as travelling extensively in the Home Counties.
Unfortunately Barbra succumbed to Breast Cancer in July 2007 after a fight which had started some 12 years before. Peter says " the whole family have done so much to keep her memory and continue to visit and look after me as I enter my eighty third year"

This page was added by David Taft on 02/06/2008.

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