Bio / Text:
George William 'John' PETRE DFC AFC
19 Squadron Pilot
According to the official Air Ministry file into the incident (File AIR 81/938): "Spitfire L1032 lost in air operations, 19 June 1940. Flying Officer G W Petre: injured"
According to published reports: "Raiders were reported in the Mildenhall and Honington areas, a salvo exploding a mile from the latter airfield, and, at 01:20, AAA guns at RAF Wattisham opened fire while searchlights at Honington illuminated one Heinkel, whose gunner fired down the beams.
At about the same time Flg Off John Petre, flying Spitfire L1032 of 19 Squadron, located a bomber near Newmarket. This was 5J+AM of 4./KG4, which then turned and headed towards RAF Honington. Petre opened fire, seeing smoke issue from a damaged engine, but had to sheer off hard to one side to avoid colliding with another aircraft that appeared alongside – a Blenheim – also firing at the Heinkel. At that moment, searchlights illuminated Petre’s Spitfire, allowing the Heinkel’s gunners to return accurate fire. The Spitfire, hit in the fuel tank, burst into flames. Petre was able to bale out but his face and hands were badly burned. On landing he was rushed to hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Meanwhile, his burning Spitfire hit the roof of Thurston House before crashing in its garden."
'PETRE, George William, A/W/C, DFC (33353, Royal Air Force) - No.59 Operational Training Unit - Air Force Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 7 September 1945. Public Record Office Air 2/9117, courtesy of Steve Brew, has citation drafted when he had flown 1,366 hours, 1,143 on instructional duties, 104 in previous six months.
This officer holds the appointment of Wing Commander, Training at his unit in which capacity he has shown outstanding initiative and enthusiasm. He has instilled such a spirit of keenness and responsibility in his instructors that the unit has performed 2,162 hours flying without a single avoidable accident. He combined efficiency with great charm of manner and it is doubtless through this officer’s example that the unit has been so successful.'
Group Captain G.W. (John) Petre. DFC AFC RAF Ret'd aged 95 years of Ramsey. Dearly loved husband of Patricia (Hare). Cremation was held on Friday, October 19, 2012.