Flight Sergeant Peter Henry Thomas

1384747 111 OTU Royal Air Force

Died on Monday, 24th April 1944 aged 27

Personal Information:
Peter Henry Thomas was born 22 July 1916 in St. Pancras, the only child of Charles Henry Thomas (1865-1946) and his partner Amy Reffell (1877-1966). Amy was the fifth daughter of Henry Reffell (1837-1901) & Sarah Morton (1841-1924). Peter was a great-grandson of Henry Hatch Reffell.

In 1939 he is living at 48 Sheen Park Richmond Surrey working as a Stock Brokers Clerk and was in the Richmond (Surrey) Branch of the AFS. He was single and living with his parents Charles and Amy. Although they are shown as married, they were in fact not, and Amy’s surname is listed as Reffell on Charles’ probate.

Peter was the first pilot of Liberator BZ759 ‘LP’ when it took off at 07:53 on 24 April 1944 at Windsor Field in Nassau for a navigation training flight called the ‘Kingsley Exercise’. At that time Peter had achieved 150 hours flying solo, 20 of which had been on a Liberator. As a second pilot he had 480 hours flying, 146 at night. It was last reported at 13:13 by HMS Dominica, after which there was no contact. The weather in the area was good. The aircraft could have stayed airborne for up to twelve hours and was due to return by 17:05. Despite a two day search effort, no wreckage was ever found. It was thought extremely unlikely that the loss would have been due to enemy action.

Liberator GR MkV BZ759 ‘LP’ by courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

Liberator GR MkV BZ759 ‘LP’ 111 (C) OTU (Operational Training Unit) Bahamas.

The aircraft was delivered to the USAAF on 2 April 1943 as USAAF B-24D-75-CO s/n 42-40590. On the 25 May it was handed over to the Royal Air Force Coastal Command for navigational training. The aircraft had accumulated just over 600 flying hours and was still equipped with the original Pratt & Whitney engines.

Flying on BZ759 and also lost that day were:
Flight Lieutenant Philip Raymond AITKEN (123092) – Navigation Tutor
Sergeant Kenneth John CAMERON (1569890) – Flight Engineer
Sergeant Denis William FUSSELL (1580360) – WOM/Air Gunner
Flight Sergeant Frederick Archibald PEARCE (1561521) – Navigator
Sergeant Kenneth POWELL (1398357) – Wireless op/Air Gunner
Sergeant Stanley Henry SEAFORTH (1395491) – Wireless op/Air Gunner
Flying Officer William Francis SMITH (J/36238) – 2nd Pilot
Sergeant John William James SPILLER (1586438 – Wireless op/Air Gunner

Panel 3 Column 2 Ottawa Memorial, Green Island, Ottawa, Canada.
The Ottawa Memorial commemorates almost 800 men and women of the Air Forces of the Commonwealth who lost their lives while serving in units operating from bases in Canada, the British West Indies and the United States of America, or while training in Canada and the U.S.A. and who have no known graves. It should be noted that this is not the National War Memorial which is located in central Ottawa.