Peter Horsley

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Sir Peter Horsley
Born(1921-03-25)25 March 1921
Died20 December 2001(2001-12-20) (aged 80)
Salisbury, WIltshire
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Air Force
Years of service1941–75
RankAir Marshal
Commands heldNo. 1 Group (1971–73)
RAF Akrotiri (1962–66)
RAF Wattisham (1959–62)
No. 9 Squadron RAF (1957–58)
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order
Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Croix de guerre (France)

Air Marshal Sir Beresford Peter Torrington Horsley, KCB, CBE, LVO, AFC (25 March 1921 – 20 December 2001) was a senior Royal Air Force commander.

Early life[edit]

Horsley was the youngest of seven children of a West Hartlepool merchant, who shot himself in 1922 after the collapse of the family business. He was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, and Wellington College.

Military career[edit]

In 1939, he became a deck boy on the TSS Cyclops, a Blue Funnel Line steamer sailing to Malaya. He transferred to the homeward-bound TSS Menelaus when the Second World War was declared, but then deserted ship. As a member of the Merchant Navy Horsley would not have been able to join the RAF, which was his ambition.

Horsley served briefly in the Home Guard before joining the RAF, initially as an air gunner, as this was the only vacancy then available. However, he managed to get a transfer to pilot training, and was soon himself an instructor at RAF Cranwell.

He was transferred to the Flying Training School at Penfold, Alberta in 1942, and then to the Mosquito Conversion Unit at Greenwood, Nova Scotia, 1943–1944. He then joined 21 Squadron[1] of 140 Wing, RAF Hunsdon, flying Mosquitoes on night fighter intruder missions over Nazi Germany. After D-Day he was shot down over the English Channel near Cherbourg and was picked up by an Air-Sea Rescue launch after three days. His navigator was killed, and he spent time in hospital and the RAF rehabilitation centre at Loughborough.

Horsley then was attached to the communications squadron of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in France, and was personal pilot to Major-General Sir Miles Graham during the Normandy invasion. He returned to the United Kingdom in 1947 and joined the staff of the Central Flying School, 23 Training Group. He received a permanent commission and was appointed adjutant to the Oxford University Air Squadron in 1948.[1]

He joined the Royal Household in July 1949, as a Squadron Leader, as Extra Equerry to Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.[1] He was also concurrently Officer Commanding 29 Squadron, RAF Tangmere, Sussex, flying Meteor IX fighters. In 1952 he became a Wing Commander and Temporary Equerry to Her Majesty The Queen,[1] and in 1953 he became full-time as Equerry to the Duke of Edinburgh,[1] relinquishing the second appointment in command of his squadron. He remained the Duke's Equerry until 1956.

In the late 1950s he became senior instructor at the RAF Flying College, Manby in Lincolnshire and was then made Station Commander at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk in 1959.[1] He went on to be Group Captain Near East Air Force (NEAF) operations based in Cyprus on 1962.[1]

Horsley attended the Imperial Defence College, and was then appointed Deputy Commandant at the Joint Warfare Establishment at Old Sarum in Wiltshire in 1966.[1]

He became an Air Vice Marshal and was made Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) in 1968, then Commanding Officer No. 1 Group in 1971.[1] His last appointment in the RAF was as Deputy Commander-in-Chief RAF Strike Command in 1973 before he retired in 1975.[1]

Later life[edit]

Sir Peter wrote an autobiography, Sounds From Another Room (1997), which described his interest in UFOs, which began when Equerry to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, and a close encounter with an "alien" in London in 1954. He died in 2001.


Horsley received the French Croix de Guerre in 1944, and the Air Force Cross in 1945. He was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in 1956, and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1964. In 1974 he was knighted and made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.[1]


Further reading[edit]

  • Horsley, (Sir) Peter (1998). Sounds from Another Room. Pen and Sword. ISBN 0-85052-581-0.
Military offices
Preceded by
Ruthven Wade
Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Group
Succeeded by
David Evans
Preceded by
Sir Nigel Maynard
Deputy Commander-in-Chief Strike Command
Succeeded by
Sir Michael Beetham