Search for relatives of wartime flying hero

PUBLISHED: 13:41 29 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:12 06 May 2010

Peter Dunham

Peter Dunham

A SEARCH for a wartime flying hero s surviving relatives has led a retired RAF serviceman to St Albans. Squadron historian Steve Smith has spent three years on the trail of Peter Dunham, a pilot who started the war as a humble aircraftsman, rose through t

A SEARCH for a wartime flying hero's surviving relatives has led a retired RAF serviceman to St Albans.

Squadron historian Steve Smith has spent three years on the trail of Peter Dunham, a pilot who started the war as a humble aircraftsman, rose through the ranks to acting wing commander and who was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

Mr Smith, who is compiling a history of No 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron from 1918 until its disbandment in 1945, is anxious to trace relatives of Peter Francis Dunham.

He said: "Peter probably epitomised the courage of his generation. He was a member of the ground crew in 1940 with a rank of leading aircraftman. However, his determination to fly soon found him undertaking his first of three operational tours with RAF Bomber Command."

His first tours were flown as an air gunner/observer and he was awarded a DFC in December 1941 when he had already reached the wartime rank of Flight Lieutenant.

In late 1944 he returned to operations as a pilot having carried out his pilot training in early 1944. His return to operations resulted in him once again being promoted - this time to squadron leader. In 1945 he was again promoted to acting Wing Commander and given command of one of Bomber Command's premier squadrons, No 90 (B) Squadron based at RAF Tuddenham in Suffolk.

But soon after his arrival on the squadron, he was killed on operations over Wessel, Germany, on February 19, 1945.

Mr Smith discovered that Peter lived or was born in St Albans and was the son of Captain Walter Ralph Dunham and Gertie Dunham. His wife's Christian names were Edna Mary, and she also lived in St Albans.

Mr Smith added: "Peter's determination and courage deserve to be recognised and we at the association are keen to see this is done."

After the years of research, it was only last Friday that he discovered the first photograph of Peter Dunham by chance he was researching another squadron member.

He said: "While digging in an obscure document I chanced upon a number of photographs and was overjoyed to discover one of them was Peter."

Anyone who might be able to help with the family's whereabouts or any information is asked to contact Mr Smith at 18 Cleaver Road, South Ham, Basingstoke, Hants RG22 6SD, or e-mail him on threegroupraf@yahoo.co.uk

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