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RAF Vereeniging, SA in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

The Wartime Memories Project

- RAF Vereeniging, SA during the Second World War -

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RAF Vereeniging, SA

If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have served at

RAF Vereeniging, SA

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Walker Peter Bannister. P/O. (d.3rd July 1941)

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P/O. Peter Bannister Walker 73 Squadron (d.3rd July 1941)

These notes were complied in January through April 2007-Peter Bannister Walker the son of Reuben Walker and Jessie Bannister. Peter was a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force (RAF) # 39953 serving in the Second World War. In May 1940 Peter married Valerie A. Harper while a member of the 73 Squadron RAF.

In 1941 the Squadron was moved to France and flew Hawker Hurricanes protecting the British withdrawal from air attack by the German Luftwaffe when the 330,000 British Soldiers were evacuated at Dunkirk. Peter joined the Royal Air Force in England some years before the outbreak of the 2nd World War. The legendary Cobbler Kane, the most proficient British pilot to whom Peter was compared, at that time served there also and was killed the very day before he was due home

Reports indicate that during his South Africa assignment Peter flew Trainer Hawker Hind Bi-Planes which was a popular fighter aircraft in Britain during the period 1936-37 and later the Hurricane in 1939-43. He would probably would have served under G/C Elliot-Smith in Africa (who lived to the remarkable age of 105). A mechanic who served the South African 22nd Air Training School reported in an historical address on BBC that the Kestrel 12 Cylinder Rolls Royce Engines used on many of those planes had a "rubber gasket" failure problem. One does not have to have a very technical understanding to realize that heat and rubber do not make a good combination.

The Hawker Hind coolant system was in fact adapted and pressured which raised the boiling point (to 150 degree F) all designed to assist engine cooling especially at higher altitudes giving pilots the advantage of diving from greater heights on enemy aircraft. Sometimes the gasket leaked coolant into the cylinders causing a major miss-fire (loss of power). It is quite probable this would contribute to an engine stall and then a crash. One engineer reports that the problem became so acute that at one time all the planes were grounded and Pilots refused to trust them. A report on the internet by an engineer at that time stated that until he had himself flown in one of the planes using an engine which he had both serviced and modified the gasket himself, the pilots considered them unsafe.

Listed in the Operations Record Book for No 22 Air School Vereeniging, Gauteng, South Africa, kept at The Public Records Office at Kew in London, England, are the following lines:

7th July 1941. Arrival of course -7 Pupil Pilots-11 from 23 AS (Air Squadron) 24 from 2 AS and then an entry dated 1st August 1941 Fatal Air Crash Hawker Hind 172- F/Lt Peter Walker killed F/Lt Birks seriously injured.

The Air School was located 30 Miles South of Johannesburg. and established 11th November 1940. Disbanded 27th February 1946. A book written by Freddie Clark who did his Air Training at that school is published by Independent Books in 1993 and called "Peter Five" and details the types of planes used and refers to Peter Walker somewhat as a risk taker perhaps an essential quality for a good fighter pilot. Others reports state that Sgt John Routledge and David Malpas, a Navigator from 218 Squadron, may have been also on the plane that crashed or perhaps on a Blenheim at that time

Further research shows that among the Commonwealth War Dead listed is a Peter P.Walker Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Service No 39953 who died 3/7/1941 or 31/07/1941 Gen. Sec. Grave 1149-AT Vereeniging Old Town Cemetery, Gauteng in South Africa, evidently they got the second initial incorrect by stating P. instead of B. The Historical Information states that during the Second World War No 22 Air Training School and a Military Hospital was established at Vereeniging in South Africa.

It was previously known by members of the Walker family that Peter was killed while (training a pilot somewhere) in Africa. As stated earlier, an engineer who actually worked at the Air Training Base at Vereeniging indicated that the Kestrel Rolls Royce Engines suffered water leakage through the gasket into the cylinders causing engine failure.

Christopher W.Walker

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