Peter – One of the Forgotten Few: The Life of Flying Officer Peter Carter
Author: Brian Gates
Publisher: Ramillies Design Press, 2021
Naturally we are offered much to read on the aces of the Battle of Britain. For this reviewer, there is considerable pleasure when a book appears by or about one of the less celebrated of the Few. The list is growing long. Aircrew covered over the years include, “Shippy” Shipman, Dennis Noble, Dick Hogg, Peter St John, Ian Walker, Raimund Puda and Ian Hallam. Standards of writing and presentation vary, but they all play their part in remembrance of the Few.
A recent and welcome addition is this splendidly muddled volume on Peter Carter, with considerable material also on various people with whom he was associated.
Carter flew Hurricanes in the Battle of France and Battle of Britain with No 73 Squadron. He moved, as a section leader, to No 302 Squadron and was killed after a patrol became lost in fog on October 18 1940. His aircraft crashed while attempting to land on Kempton Park racecourse, Surrey. There is a suggestion that the tragedy may have been precipitated by a collision between two Hurricanes, Flying Officer Carter’s and that of Flying Officer Jan Borowski, who was also killed.
Brian Gates found a star witness in the shape of Brenda Telander who, aged 10, saw Peter Carter die. She was on an errand for her mother at the time.
Gates quotes her as recalling: “….. there was a tremendous roar and a very large explosion. The first plane came down very fast and blew up on impact setting the fence and trees alight.
“Then a second plane came and was breaking up, bits seemed to fall in the field nearby and as I stood there a pilot [Carter] fell from the sky landing about 25-30 feet in front of me.
- - - - - -
“Then the bullets started to explode and were firing in all directions. A Warden then picked me up to remove me from the danger.”
So this is certainly a book with its fair share of drama and tragedy and also plenty on the more mundane aspects of life many years ago, which are just as worthy of being recorded.
I congratulate the author on the amount of research he has done and the passion he demonstrates for his subject.
Room for improvement? Assiduous checking and proof reading would have achieved much. Perhaps the multiple use of “Marshall” in RAF ranks and “Fairy Battle” could be corrected in any future edition. Church Fenton is not, by any conceivable stretching of the term, in the Midlands. It is in today’s North Yorkshire. English grammar is clearly not the author’s long suit. The inventory could be rather longer of items that should have been picked up by a competent proof reader with some RAF knowledge.
Expressions such as “It could be argued” and “It must be assumed” abound. They should be rarities in a work of history.
I would also suggest that another title be found next time. The word “forgotten” has become a cliché on military history book covers.
In what sense is Peter Carter forgotten? His name appears on the RAF list of the Few, on the London Monument and on the memorial wall at Capel-le-Ferne. He has significant entries in Men of the Battle of Britain, the Database of the Few at the National Memorial and the London Monument website. There is a crash site memorial. His name occurs in many books in my collection.
He was certainly remembered when, after family permission was obtained in each case, stonemasons from Co-operative Funeral Services renovated his and other non-CWGC Battle of Britain graves in the Croydon area, so that they were pristine for the 50th anniversary commemorations. I happen to have been able to observe the pride which the stonemasons and their managers took in the project.
Nonetheless, I congratulate Brian Gates on recording the brief life of one of the lesser known pilots of the Battle of Britain.