SQN LDR Peter 'Fling' Illingworth, a Second World War fighter pilot, has died at the age of 97
SQN LDR Peter 'Fling' Illingworth, a Second World War fighter pilot, has died at the age of 97.
He lived the last 40 years of his life in Shiplake.
Peter flew a total of 337 hours in Hurricanes, 193 in Spitfires and 150 in Kittihawks.
He started the war with 56 Squadron (Hurricanes), based at North Weald in Essex and was one of the pilots near the scene of the â??friendly fireâ?� incident, known as the Battle of Barking Creek, which took place two days after war was declared on September 6, 1939.
At 6.15am that day the squadron was scrambled following reports of unidentified aircraft approaching at high altitude on the Essex coast.
In addition, and unbeknown to the rest of the pilots, two pilot officers took up a pair of reserve aircraft and trailed behind the squadron. Spitfires from 54, 65, and 74 squadrons based at Hornchurch were also scrambled.
In the early months of the war positive tracking and identification of aircraft was at a primitive level and the alert turned out to be a false alarm but too late to stop a Spitfire shooting down one of the trailing Hurricanes while the other force-landed just outside Ipswich.
Peter and his shocked fellow pilots returned to base. The incident was naturally hushed up at the time so as not to dampen morale. Peter was skilful at night flying and navigation. Just before the Battle of Britain, he was secretly transferred from 56 Squadron to the photographic reconnaissance unit in Heston and then in August 1940 was sent to Wick in Scotland from where he flew unarmed, sky blue Spitfires laden with cameras to photograph German operations and activity in Norway.
On one such flight, on 29 September 1940, he recorded four hoursâ?? flying time. He returned to Heston the following month.
Peter subsequently served in various squadrons in the Middle East for short periods before joining 112 Squadron (nicknamed the Shark Squadron) in July 1943 for 10 months.
In March 1944 he was shot down by flak and managed to force land his Kittihawk on the side of a mountain near Trogir, Yugosolavia.
Knowing the Germans would be looking for him, he managed to reach a farm and beckoned for help to a little girl standing in a field of goats.
The moment she saw him she rushed back to the farmhouse, leaving him wondering what fate awaited him. Fortunately, her mother and father â??made a fussâ?� of him and pulled away the stones from one of the many stone walls in the area, hid him in there and covered it up again.
Not long afterwards he heard the Germanâ??s footsteps and voices go by. The family looked after him and put him in touch with the Resistance movement (â??Titoâ??s boysâ?�, as he put it) who helped him get back to his unit in Sicily.
In 1946 he left the RAF to manage a tea plantation in India but the experience was not for him and he rejoined the air force the following year and remained until his retirement in 1958.
During that time he flew more than 250 hours on Meteor jets with 263 Squadron and was posted to Kuala Lumpur from 1955 to 1957, working in the psychological warfare section.
He went on to run a public house in Buckinghamshire and own a restaurant in Surrey until retiring to Shiplake in 1975.
His wife Marcelle, whom he married in 1950, died in 2007. They are survived by a son and two grandchildren.