Nostalgia: Two of Tangmere’s few

Flight Lieutenant Peter Townsend, left, in 1940 with his 43 Squadron colleague, Caesar Hull
Flight Lieutenant Peter Townsend, left, in 1940 with his 43 Squadron colleague, Caesar Hull

This article, written by DAVID COXON, Tangmere Military Aviation Museum’s curator, is the fourth in a series of monthly articles on the people of RAF Tangmere. More information on the museum, including opening times and entry prices, can be found on its website at www.tangmere-museum.org.uk

Tom Dalton-Morgan was born in 1917 in Cardiff and joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1935.

Tom Dalton-Morgan poses in front of a No 43 Squadron Hurricane carrying the squadron's unofficial emblem.

Tom Dalton-Morgan poses in front of a No 43 Squadron Hurricane carrying the squadron's unofficial emblem.

After his pilot training, he was posted to No 22 Squadron to fly Vildebeeste torpedo-bombers and after a staff posting to the Air Ministry, he was posted in June 1940 to No 43 Squadron at RAF Tangmere as a flight commander. On August 13, during the Battle of Britain, his Hurricane was hit by crossfire from He 111s; he managed to bail out safely, but was slightly injured.

Soon back in action, he was wounded in the knee while in combat with Bf109s on September 6, but managed to crash land back at Tangmere. He was awarded the DFC, having destroyed seven enemy aircraft.

On September 8, the squadron withdrew north to rest, having suffered heavy casualties during the previous month. Eight days later, Dalton-Morgan took over command of No 43 Squadron following the earlier loss of Squadron Leader Caesar Hull and during May and June 1941 shot down a further four enemy aircraft during night operations off the Northumbria coast.

He was awarded a Bar to his DFC. However, after sharing in the destruction of a day raider on 24 July, he had 
to ditch in the sea, losing 
two front teeth against the gun sight.

Wing Commander Tom-Dalton Morgan photographed shortly after taking up the post of wing leader at Ibsley

Wing Commander Tom-Dalton Morgan photographed shortly after taking up the post of wing leader at Ibsley

He subsequently became wing leader of the Ibsley Wing of eight squadrons and on May 25, 1943 was awarded the DSO, having destroyed 14 enemy aircraft.

He was then briefly attached to the 4th Fighter Group of the US 8th Army Air Force to provide advice on long-range bomber escort missions. Promoted to Group Captain in early 1944, he then went on to serve as operations officer with the 2nd Tactical Air Force, moving to the European mainland following the Normandy invasion.

He stayed on in Germany for nine months after the end of the war, receiving the OBE in June 1945.

After returning to the UK, Dalton-Morgan attended the RAF Staff College and later returned to Germany to command the Güttersloh Vampire Wing. He was then appointed Group Captain and station commander of Wunstorf, Germany.

Group Captain Peter Townsend

Group Captain Peter Townsend

Peter Townsend was born in November 1914 and entered the RAF College, Cranwell 
in 1933.

A natural pilot, he was posted to No 1 Squadron at RAF Tangmere to fly Hawker Furies.

At the end of his tour with No 1, he was posted to No 36 Squadron in Singapore to fly the Vickers Vildebeeste. However, he was only to fly this aircraft for a few weeks before being struck down with a severe skin infection that necessitated a return to the UK.

After treatment, he returned to Tangmere to join No 43 Squadron to fly the new Hawker Hurricane and on February 3, 1940 claimed his first victory when he shared in the destruction of a He 111 bomber over Whitby, Yorkshire.

A few days later he shot down another enemy aircraft before the squadron moved to Wick to defend Scapa Flow. Here a third German bomber fell to Townsend and he was awarded the DFC. On May 23, 1940, Townsend took over command of No 85 Squadron but on July 12, was shot down by return fire from a Dornier bomber.

He managed to parachute into the sea from which he was picked up by a minesweeper. By August 30 he had claimed a further five enemy aircraft shot down.

Next day his luck ran 
out and, after shooting down two Bf 109s, was himself 
shot down.

He again parachuted to safety, but had to be hospitalised where the nose cap of a cannon shell was extracted from his foot. After being awarded a Bar to his DFC, he was soon back with his squadron and remained with it until June 1941.

On May 9, Peter Townsend was awarded the DSO and, following staff appointments became equerry to the King in 1944 with the rank of Group Captain. It was in this post he met Princess Margaret – but that is another story!