Hello to all of our loyal readers.
One of the difficult tasks we set ourselves is to try and locate direct family, sons, daughters and brothers and sisters of those very special South African pilots that joined the Royal Air Force and flew in The Battle of Britain and became what Winston Churchill named as ” The Few ” We have had limited success so far but we still have a long way to go. We are calling on all possible avenues to try and track down any children, and sadly in some cases, brothers or sister of those pilots that were killed in action but were not married. Of the 25 South Africans that flew for the RAF during the BoB 9 of those were tragically killed in action and we can only hope that if they had any brothers or sisters that might be still alive, that we can track them down.
We have had a little success todate and so far we have been in contact with ” Sailor ” Malan’s son and daughter, ” Dutch ” Hugo’s three daughters, Geoffrey Haysom’s sons and Spencer Ritchie ” Teddy ” Peacock-Edwards two sons. We are exploring all possible avenues to try and locate the additional 21 families and hope we can locate these remaining 21 pilots direct decendants/families in as quick a time as possible.
An item of interest linked to one of ” The Few ” is the career of S.R ” Teddy “.Peacock-Edwards son Rick, who eventually decided to follow in his fathers footsteps and take up flying for the R.A.F. His father had an exceptionally impresive record of his service flying in the BoB and the rest of WW 11, and one which his sons can be very proud of, but I’m sure you are going to enjoy what his son Rick has achieved in his career in the RAF.
It is with great pleasure for us that Rick has given us a run down of his very interesting career in the R.A.F and given us permission to print this article for us to share with you all. I’m sure you are going to enjoy it and perhaps be a little enveous of his flying career.
Thank you Rick
MY CAREER IN THE RAF – A LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
Prior to joining the RAF in 1965 I had been educated at Michaelhouse and the Univer65sity of the Witwatersrand. I applied to join the RAF as a pilot whilst still living in Johannesburg. I did my aptitude tests at Wits University, my medical tests with the SAAF and my final interviews at the Headquarters of the British Defence Liaison Staff in Pretoria. I will never forget being told in Pretoria, at the conclusion of my interviews : congratulations, you are off to the RAF to become a pilot, when would you like to start? what would you like to drink? a perfect start to a fabulous career. You could say that flying was in my blood because my father Teddy Peacock-Edwards was a BoB pilot, one of only 25 of ” The Few ” who came from South Africa.
In January 1965, together with two other South Africans, I sailed from Cape Town to the UK aboard the Capetown Castle, a Union Castle liner. We has a magnificent two weeks on board, had great fun and made many friends. Our particular trip was more memorable than most because Winston Churchill died whilst we were at sea and when we arrived at Southampton on 3rd February 1965 it was discovered thatthere had been a gold bullion robbery during the trip. I also celebrated my 20th birthday whilst we were at sea. On arrival in the UK I spent the next 4 months doing my officer training at RAF South Cerney in Gloucestershire. This was a very challenging and demanding course and those of us that graduated certainly knew that we had earned our commissions. Once commissioned, my flying training could commence.
I did my basic flying training at RAF Acklington in Northumberland. When I looked at the map I thought Acklington was on the other side of the world but my year of basic flying training on the Jet Provost, leading, to the award of the coveted RAF Wings, was one of the happiest and most memorable years in my life. I absolutely loved the flying and took to the air like a duck to water. It wasn’t all flying though, there were many new subjects to learn and study. Principles of Flight,Aerodynamics, Technical Airmanship, Meteorology, Aviation Medicine, Aviation Law, History of the RAF to name but some of the subjects. It was like a University Course of The Air. There were 27 on my flying course, all great chaps and the camaraderie between us played an important part of our training. In June 2016 we had a reunion to celebrate 50 years since graduation and that too was a memorable occasion, everyone had achieved much in their respective careers. At the conclusion of our Basic Flying Training we were streamed on to our future aircraft specialisations : Fast Jets, Helicopters or Multi-Engine aircraft. This would play a key influence on our future careers. Initially the powers that be were keen to stream me on to helicopters where they needed officers/pilots with strong leadership potential. However I wanted to be a fighter pilot like my father, and I made this known with passion. Because I came at the top of the course I got what I wanted!
With RAF Wings now on my chest, I still had a long way to go before I would join my first squadron. My next training course was Advansed Flying Training on the Gnat at RAF Valley on the Island of Anglesey in North Wales. This was a 6 month course flying a swept wing aircraft with a supersonic capability, a quantum leap forward from the much slower Jet Provost. I again loved the flying, as I have done throughout my career, and won the flying prize. At the end of the course we were posted to our future front-line aircraft. Ever since signing up in South Africa to join the RAF i had set my sights on becoming a Lightning pilot. It was not only the first supersonic fighjter in the RAF but I had seen an advert which said ” Join the RAF and the World is your Oyster ” The accompanying photograph showed a line up of Lightnings with the pilots walking back in their flying kit after a sortie. I took one look at the photograph and single-mindedly said to myself ” that is me ” I never looked back. At the end of my advanced flying training I got what I wanted and was posted to the Lightning but I first had to go on another pre-Lightning training course. This course was effectively a 5 month fighter lead-in tactical weapons training course flying the Hunter at RAF Chivenor in Devon. I loved flying the Hunter, a bigger aircraft than I had thus far flown and I was now introduced to such things as air to ground and air to air gun firing, battle formation, air intercepts and fighter combat, truly a sport for kings ! As for Chivenor and Devon, a beautiful part of England. I was there from May until September 1967 throughout a glorious summer. Boy, did we have fun both at work and play ! I again came top of my course as, actually I have done throughout my flying career.
In September 1967 I moved onto my next training course, this time, and at last, on the LIGHTNING at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk, close to the popular Norfolk Broads. I will never forget standing next to my dream aircraft, the Lightning, for the first time, it just seemed huge. With two very powerful engines the Lightning weighed close to 20 tons and was far bigger than anything else that I had flown. The aircraft more than lived up to my expectations. It was big, it was powerful, it went fast and events hpaaened very quickly but, most importantly, it was a dream aircraft to fly, and it was a single seat fighter. My Lightning course lasted from September 1967 through to the end of January 1968 when I was posted to my first operational flying squadron, the famous No. 92 Squadron which was based at RAF Gutersloh in Germany, the closest RAF bas to ” the other side ” 92 Squadron was famous not only for being the top scoring RAF Squadron in The Battle of Britain but also because it had been the home of a world famous formation aerobatic team, the Blue Diamonds. It took 6 months of further training on the squadron before I became operational, or ” combat ready ” as it was known. I remained on 92 Squadron for 3 years during which time I took part in many exercises, the squadron travelled throughout Europe and I notched up many operational scrambles. The Cold War was at its height and at Gutersloh we had 2 Lightnings at 5 minute readiness 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. Day and night, we were often scrambled, sometimes in reactionto activities on the other side of the border but often also to intercept light aircraft that were straying too close to the border. We were always airborne within 5 minutes of the scramble siren sounding, sometimes from a light sleep lying in bed in our flying kit. The Cold War was very real. On 92 Squadron we had a circa 12 aircraft and 15 pilots, we were like a band of brothers and still are to this day. You had to know each other and trust each other to be effective in your job.
In January 1971 I returned to the UK, back to RAF Coltishall, to become a weapons flying instructor at the Lightning Operational Conversion Unit, on 65 Squadron, another very famous squadron. I was not only delighted to still be flying the Lightning but also to be back at Coltishall, a very happy fighter station. I was mainly reponsible for training pilots bound for the 2 RAF Germany Lightning squadrons ( Nos 19 & 92 Squadrons ) It was at this time that I met my future wife, herself an Air Traffic Controller. My tour to Coltishall came to an end in 1973 which coincided with a change in operational role at the base ( the lightnings departed and the Jaguar moved in ) By that time, I had a fantastic six years flying the Lightning, I had amassed over 1500 flying hours on the aircraft and I enjoyed my last trip in the Lightning as much as I did my first. To this day I have a special place in my memories, and heart for the Lightning. I am a true WIWOL Lightning pilots are known as WIWOLs because you can never speak with ex Lightning without the subject very quickly getting around to ” When I Was On Lightnings “. The Lightning was a dream aircraft, it could go supersonic in the climb, it had a max speed of circa Mach 2 ( 1500mph ), it had a max height ceiling of 56000 ft but I do not know a Lightning pilot who has not flown well above that height, it was a manned rocket. Every take-off was like getting a kick up the backside, it had so much power.
The next phase of my flying career was a 6 month course at the RAF Central Flying School ( CFS ) at RAF Little Rissington in Gloucestershire to become a qualified Flying Instructor ( QF ). In my case, I did all my flying on the Gnat at RAF Kemble since I was destined to return as a GNAT QFI at the Advanced Flying School at RAF Valley. I was based at Vally from February 1974 until February 1977 during which time I got married. I bought my first house ( one quarter of a mile on the extended approach to the main runway – I should have known better ) I amassed over a thousand hours on the Gnat, I quickly became a flight commander, I was promoted squadron leader and thereafter filled, at different times, both squadron commander and deputy chief instructor posts. I loved my time at Valley, I enjoyed being an instructor and commander and, most importantly, I loved both the Gnat and Hunter aircraft that I flew. Valley itself was surrounded by nice countryside and beaches and had the backdrop of an imposing Mount Snowden not far away. It was fun and very rewarding years. In February 1977 I was posted back to the front line as a squadron executive, to fly the mighty Phantom and join yet another very famous squadron, No 111 Squadron, affectionately known as the ” Tremblers “. 111 Squadron has been the top scoring RAF squadron in World War 2 and also been the home of another famous Hunter aerobatic team, the ” Black Arrows ” who to this day still hold the world record for the number of aircraft in a formation loop, 22 aircraft. I first went through a Phantom conversion course at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire before I joined 111Squadron from August 1977 until November 1980 and during this tour I notched up 1000 flying hours on the Phantom ( mainly Phantom F4M ). i intercepted many Russian bombers ( Bears and Badgers ) mainly in an area known as the Iceland/Faeroes Gap, and became a member of the 10 Bears Club. We went on detachments to Europe, Malta, Cyprus, Sardinia and many other places. The Phantom was a real war machine and from an operational perspective was a lot more capable than the Lightning. It had more capable radar , better avionics and could carry a lot more missiles. During my time on 111 Squadron we also re-equipped with the ex Royal Navy Phantoms ( Phantom F4K ) which were handed over to the RAF on the de-commissioning of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. My tour on 111 was yet another enjoyable tour, marred though by a number of flying accidents and the sad loss of 4 aircrew, one of whom was a perticularly close friend and like me a ex Lightning pilot. Also worthy of mention, RAF Leuchars is next door to the home of golf, St Andrews, and I was a member there for a cost of ” not very much “.
At the end of my tour on 111 Squadron I was posted for the first time to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in London. I spent 2 years at the MOD and then I attended a one year course at the RAF Staff College at RAF Bracknell. There were 90 of us on this course from all branches of the RAF and also including about 40 students from other countries. It was a truly international course and prepared you for higher rank. At the conclusion of this course I was promoted Wing Commander and given what was the best posting, to introduce into the RAF, and command, the first flying unit of the new fighter version of the Tornado (Tornado F2 and F3). The Tornado was the new RAF fighter and was to replace the Phantom and the few remaining Lightnings in the Air Defence role. In January 1984 I did a flying refresher course on the Hawk followed by a Phantom refresher course so that I could keep my hand in in preparation for the eventual arrival of the Tornado. In May 1984 I took command of No 229 Operational Conversion Unit, which also included the numberplate of one of my old squadrons, No 65 Squadron (my choice!). On 5 November 1984 I flew in one of the first two Tornado F2s to be delivered to the RAF. Together with a small team from my unit, I was formally converted to the Tornado F2 by British Aerospace at their airfield at Warton in Lancashire between January and March 1985. This started a long association with the Tornado. The Tornado itself had overall performance similar to both the Lightning and Phantom although with a speed limit of 800 knots at low level it was the fastest of the three aircraft at this height. At high level it was capable of Mach 2/1500 mph. The engines did not perform as well at high level as the Lightning but the overall capability, once teething problems had been eliminated, was significantly better than its predecessors. It had a track-while-scan radar, data link, superb avionics, the wings could be swept between 23 and 67 degrees to meet requirements, it was equipped with modern missiles and much more. The cockpit environment was the best that I had experienced.
My time as a squadron commander was hugely satisfying and rewarding but also immensely challenging. I welcomed the challenge. I was squadron commander of No 229 Operational Conversion Unit/Number 65 Squadron from May 1984 until June 1987. During this time I built up a unit of over 20 Tornados with a staff of over 60 aircrew supported by in excess of 300 engineers, all under my command. We built up the instructional staff in time to meet the first training course, at the same time all flying crews were successfully worked up to combat ready status to meet our operational declaration to NATO on 31 December 1986. During this tour I also led a UK Tornado flying sales mission to Jordan, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrein. I led a Tornado detachment to a major exercise in Oman which involved a flight of ten and a half hours, six of which were at night. I took my squadron to Cyprus on an Armament Practice Camp (Air to Air Gun Firing) and we immediately won the Seed Trophy for the top scoring fighter squadron. I carried out the first Skyflash missile firing from an RAF Tornado. I led the Queens 60th Birthday Flypast in June 1986 with a formation of 9 Tornado F2s (we only had 10 aircraft delivered at the time so this was a special challenge). I led the flypast for the opening of the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. In 1985 I flew the Tornado as part of an acclaimed Tornado/Spitfire synchronised flying display. There were also many other achievements, too numerous to name them all here. At the conclusion of this tour I was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC) and also won a major prize, the Arthur Barrett Memorial Prize.
My next two tours, both short, were back in London at the Ministry of Defence. From November 1987 to December 1988 I ran the Tornado F3 role office and then, on promotion to Group Captain, I was appointed Deputy Director for Air Defence at the MOD from January 1989 until January 1990. I was then posted to be Station Commander of the largest Tornado fighter base at RAF Leeming in Yorkshire. In preparation for this appointment I did another short Hawk Refresher Course followed by an even shorter Tornado Refresher Course. I also had to attend many briefings and minor courses prior to taking up my command appointment.
I was Station Commander at RAF Leeming from June 1990 to June 1992. I have always regarded this tour as probably my most satisfying of many satisfying tours. I commanded over 2000 personnel with a responsibility for over 5000. I commanded a station with 3 Tornado squadrons, a University Air Squadron, an Air Experience Flight, an RAF Regiment squadron and a Mountain Rescue Team. I flew the Tornado and the Bulldog. In August 1990 the first Gulf Crisis arose when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. I was chosen to be the first commander into theatre and had one hour’s notice to leave for the Gulf via a VIP aircraft that transported me from Leeming to Northolt, I then went to Headquarters Strike Command where I met intelligence staffs and my security clearance was hastily upgraded from Top Secret to Gama/Cosmic levels. I then had a briefing from the Commander-in-Chief of RAF Strike Command when he returned from a Government Cabinet Meeting. From there I headed to RAF Lyneham where I briefed the 120 specialists who would be accompanying me on this sudden deployment. That night we flew to Cyprus where I briefed the two Tornado Squadron Commanders who would be joining me with Tornados a day after my arrival at our final destination, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. I was in Saudi Arabia from August until October 1990, a hugely challenging but immensely rewarding and satisfying time. I returned to Leeming in October and the rest of my tour as a Station Commander was very active in many different ways. At the end of this tour I was appointed a Commander of the British Empire (CBE).
From Leeming my travels took me to Washington, USA, to become the Assistant Air Attache and Deputy Commander of RAF Staff at the British Embassy. I also had responsibility for all RAF officers on exchange in the USA or involved with projects. I travelled widely and visited no less than 31 States in the 16 months in which I was in America. I also flew many US aircraft during my travels. My time in America was foreshortened because I was promoted to Air Commodore. I returned to the UK in March 1994 to become the RAF’s Inspector of Flight Safety.
My job as Inspector of Flight Safety was a fantastic job for an Air Commodore and took me right back into the heart of flying. I stayed fully current on the Tornado, Tucano, Bulldog and Hercules and I flew everything and travelled all over the world. I also completed a helicopter course and flew all types of helicopter in RAF Service, from the Falkland Islands to Northern Ireland. I had my eyes opened wide by some of the flying in which I became involved. It was a tremendously interesting and satisfying three and a half years and to this day I retain a deep interest and involvement in matters relating to aviation safety.
My final short tour in the RAF was as Director of Eurofighter Typhoon at the Ministry of Defence, responsible for overseeing all aspects relating to the introduction of the Eurofighter Typhoon into RAF Service. I was a natural choice for this job having introduced the Tornado into RAF Service. I retired from the RAF at the end of 1999.
In my post RAF Career I have done and seen much. I have been a Director of a major aerospace company, I was the Managing Director of a consortium of companies bidding for a multi-billion pound aviation contract, and in 2008/9 I was Master of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots, a City of London Livery Company. This honour I regarded as the pinnacle of a long career in aviation. The appointment took me around the world and I also hosted a memorable dinner in Capetown, in January 2009, at Ysterplaat Air Force Base. I continued to fly until 2010 giving air experience to air cadets. To this day I continue to hold many appointments. I am President of the Historic Aircraft Association and also Air Search UK, I am Chairman of the General Aviation Safety Council, I am Chairman of the International Air Cadets Training Organisation, I am Chairman of the Imperial War Museum Duxford Flying Control Committee, I am Vice Chairman of the prestigious RAF Club in Piccadilly, London, and there are a few more appointments as well. Oh, and finally, together with a business partner, we run a small entrepreneurial company, In Command Ltd (www.incommand.co.uk). I continue to be a busy person!!
In closing, I just want to say that I have had the most fabulous and interesting flying career and I have had a fantastic life. I have travelled the world, I have flown many magnificent aircraft, I have seen much and I have met some wonderful people. I am a lucky person to have had such experiences and I would change nothing were I to start again
Air Commodore Rick Peacock-Edwards CBE AFC FRAeS FCIM July 2016
Again on behalf of The Spitfire Society Trust S.A. a very big thank you for your very interesting career in the RAF, and the activities you are now involved in since yout retirement. I’m sure everyone that reads this is going to be very impressed with your achievments.