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Obituary: Gp Capt Peter Vaughan-Fowler

Lewis Hodges
Friday 03 June 1994 23:02 BST

Peter Erskine Vaughan-Fowler, air force officer: born Lahore 18 January 1923; DFC and Bar 1943; DSO 1945; AFC 1954; CVO 1967; married (four sons, four daughters); died Oxford 24 April 1994.

WHEN I first joined No 161 Special Duties Squadron at RAF Tempsford in November 1942 Peter Vaughan-Fowler had already been with the squadron for six months, flying Lysanders carrying out clandestine landings in German occupied France, ferrying agents and members of the French Resistance to and from the Continent. One of his early passengers was Jean Moulin, General de Gaulle's special representative responsible for co-ordinating resistance activities.

Vaughan-Fowler proved himself exceptionally skilled at this job and carried out more successful 'pick-up' operations in France than any other pilot. For this work he was awarded the DFC and Bar.

Born in India, he came from a family of aviators; he said that as a young boy his father had taken him up on his first flight in an Avro 504 biplane. On the outbreak of war he was still at school at Imperial Service College, but a year later he enlisted in the RAFVR and volunteered for pilot training. He was an outstanding pilot and when only 19 was selected for Special Duties work which called for very accurate flying and the ability to navigate and map-read by night deep into enemy territory, and to land in small fields aided only by moonlight conditions and torches laid out by French agents to indicate the landing-strip.

Early in 1944, after a short spell with No 21 Mosquito Squadron, he was called back to Special Operations Executive work, this time in the Mediterranean theatre, flying Lysanders from bases in Italy and Corsica and carrying out operations in southern France before the Allied landings.

After the liberation of France he commanded a Mustang ground-attack squadron in the Balkan Air Force, and his fine leadership was recognised by the award of the DSO. For his outstanding contribution to the liberation of France the French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre with Palm and later appointed him a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur.

When peace came, Vaughan- Fowler decided to make a career in the Royal Air Force, and in 1945 he was awarded a Permanent Commission. Flying appointments followed, including the command of 247 Fighter Squadron and work with the Central Fighter Establishment. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in the 1954 New Year's Honours.

After a spell in Germany as Wing Commander at RAF Wildenrath, he was promoted to Group Captain and posted to the Queen's Flight as Deputy Captain. Next he had a staff job at Air Support Command, where he served as my Senior Personnel Staff Officer. His final appointment before retiring in 1975 was with the Ministry of Defence Public Relations Branch, a job for which he was well qualified with his wide experience of Service aviation.

In retirement he took up charitable work, fund-raising for medical research and hospitals. He was also a great supporter of our Squadron Association, and he always maintained close links with our French friends who had worked with us in the war years, carrying out the dangerous task of organising landing fields throughout the length and breadth of France and without whose courage and help we could not have carried out our mission.

(Photograph omitted)

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