Peter Ayerst

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Peter Vigne Ayerst
Royal Air Force- France, 1939-1940. C173.jpg
Ayerst (bottom left) in France
Born(1920-11-04)4 November 1920
Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex
Died15 May 2014(2014-05-15) (aged 93)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Air Force
RankWing Commander
UnitNo. 73 Squadron RAF
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsDistinguished Flying Cross

Peter Vigne Ayerst, DFC (4 November 1920 – 15 May 2014)[1] was a Royal Air force officer and flying ace of the Second World War.[2] He was the last surviving No. 73 Squadron pilot and test pilot from Castle Bromwich Aerodrome.[1]

Early life[edit]

Ayerst was born on 4 November 1920 in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, England. He was educated at Westcliff High School for Boys, a state grammar school in his home town.[3]

Military career[edit]

Ayerst was commissioned into the Royal Air Force on 14 December 1938 as an acting pilot officer on probation.[4] In August 1939, he was posted to No. 73 Squadron RAF to fly Hurricanes.[5] He was regraded to pilot officer on probation on 3 September 1939 and his commission was confirmed on 6 October 1939.[6]

He was sent to France with the squadron and scored his first victory in April 1940. After a spell instructing, when he shared in the destruction of a He 111 with two other instructors, he had postings with both 145 and 243 Squadrons.

In July 1942 he went to North Africa with 33 Squadron,[5][7] before being promoted to flight commander with 238 Squadron, both postings with further combat success. After a period in South Africa, he returned to the UK, joining 124 Squadron flying Spitfire MkVIIs in defence of the invasion ports, where he scored his final victory; then flew Spitfire MkIXs on bomber escorts to Germany. He later became a Spitfire test pilot at Castle Bromwich with the instruction of Alex Henshaw.[1] After the war, he became one of the most highly regarded wartime instructors in the RAF.[8] His final victory tally stood at 5 destroyed, 1 probable, 3 damaged and 2 further destroyed on the ground.[citation needed] In September 1944, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[5]

Later life[edit]

Ayerst's grave at Canterbury City Cemetery in 2017

Ayerst was involved in a biography about his military experience tilted Spirit of the Blue: A Fighter Pilot's Story. It was published 2004.[7] He died on 15 May 2014 at the age of 93, and is buried in Canterbury, Kent.[9]


  1. ^ a b c "UK Commemorates Battle of Britain Commander". 4 November 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Pilot is reunited with his WWII Spitfire in London". 30 April 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Wing Commander Peter Ayerst". The Times. 30 June 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  4. ^ "No. 34583". The London Gazette. 27 December 1938. p. 8249.
  5. ^ a b c "Two generations join in the air". Evening Standard. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  6. ^ "No. 34705". The London Gazette. 10 October 1939. p. 6796.
  7. ^ a b Thomas, Hugh; Henshaw, Alex (1 October 2005). Spirit of the Blue: Peter Ayerst: A Fighter Pilot's Story. ISBN 9780750942539. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  8. ^ Berg, Sanchia (21 August 2010). "Battle of Britain survival 'a question of luck'". Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  9. ^ AYERST

External links[edit]