Peter Hairs: An RAF instructor’s tale

Peter Raymond Hairs was born in 1915 in Thornton Heath, Surrey. He married Eileen Hill in 1939. For many years they lived in Lower Radley opposite the old village hall.

Peter joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) in January 1938 as an Airman ut Pilot (Pilot under training) and carried out his early flying training at No. 19 Elementary & Reserve Flight Training School (E&RFTS) at Gatwick.

Peter was called up when World War Two began. In October 1939 he was sent to No. 6 Flying Training School (FTS) at Little Rissington in Gloucestershire to complete his training, after which he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer.

On 28 December 1939 Peter was posted to No. 11 Group Pool at St Athan in south Wales, where he started to fly Hurricanes. He then joined No. 501 Squadron of the RAFVR at RAF Tangmere in Sussex on 25 January 1940.

The squadron flew to France on 10 May and on 14 May Peter damaged a German Dornier Do 17 bomber and had a share in destroying another on 15 May.

He claimed a Messerschmitt Me109 destroyed on 5 September.

On 13 October 1940 he was posted to No. 15 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) at Kidlington in Oxfordshire as a flying instructor.

Peter went to No. 2 Central Flying School at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire for an instructor’s course on 23 February 1941 after which he moved to No. 11 FTS at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire on 14 April to instruct.

For a short period in May 1941 he was at No. 10 EFTS at Weston-Super-Mare before being posted to Canada on 13 June as an assistant Chief Flying Instructor (CFI). His wife Eileen went with him.

In mid-December 1943 Peter returned to the UK and joined No. 276 Air Sea Rescue (ASR) Squadron at RAF Harrowbeer in Devon. He was posted away on 5 May 1944 to No. 19 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at RAF Kinloss in north-east Scotland as Officer-in-Command Bomber Defence Training Flight.

His final posting was to India on 18 July 1945 on administrative duties. He was released from the RAF on 30 October 1945 as a flight lieutenant.

Peter received a Mention in Despatches (gazetted 14 June 1945) and was made an MBE (gazetted 1 January 1946).

In later life he was a bank manager and a magistrate. Peter died, aged 99, in 2014.

Peter Hairs in RAF uniform
Peter Hairs in RAF uniform