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About A Week: The Famous Peter Hinchliffe

Peter Hinchliffe introduces the rightfully famous Peter Hinchliffe.

He’s quite a man, this Peter Hinchliffe. How about this for a list of achievements?

* Navigator on Halifax bombers during the war. Bailed out after being shot down over Belgium on his 15th mission. Returned to UK and went on another 22 missions.

* Author and translator of military biographies and histories. His books are appreciated world-wide.

* Peace-time fighter controller in the RAF.

* Worked for the British Military Government in Berlin after the war.

* Diplomatic work.

* School teacher.

No wonder he was awarded the Order of the British Empire!

Allow me now to set the record straight. I am not writing about myself. I am not the Peter Hinchliffe with the distinguished military record, the author, diplomat, and teacher.

I’m Peter Hinchliffe the journalist, a chap whose achievements are all too modest when set beside those of THE Peter Hinchliffe who lives near Rye in East Sussex.

Recently I have received e-mails from people who mistook me for that Peter Hinchliffe, the author/translator of such books as Betrayed Ideals: Memories of a Luftwaffe Fighter Ace, The Other Battle: Luftwaffe Night Aces versus Bomber Command and Enemy in the Dark - The Story of a Night Fighter Pilot.

Time, I thought, for a telephone chat with the worthily well-known Peter Hinchliffe.

Peter Hinchliffe, now in his late 70s, was amused to receive an unexpected call from Peter Hinchliffe.

And would you believe, he has connections with the town where I live, Huddersfield in Yorkshire. What else would you expect of a man with a surname associated with the Holme Valley in written records dating back to 1307.

Peter’s father, James, was born in Holmfirth and was badly wounded at Gallipoli during World War One. His wife died in a flu outbreak following the war.

James re-married and Peter’s mother was from Nottingham. The family moved to Merseyside where Peter won a scholarship to Wirral Grammar School. Huddersfield’s own Harold Wilson, three-term Labour Prime Minister, was head boy at Wirral GS while Peter was a pupil.

Peter was a member of 51 Squadron based at Snaith in Yorkshire during the war. He was a navigator on Halifaxes, flying on bombing missions to Germany, France and Holland.

In November, 1944, his plane was shot down over Belgium while returning from a raid on Bochum near Essen. Five of the crew were killed but Peter and another airman managed to bail out. Fortunately they landed in a section of Belgium which had been retaken by American troops and were soon repatriated to UK.

Peter stayed on in the RAF after the war, flying airlift relief missions to Berlin during the Cold War days when the Russians were blockading the city.

He left the Air Force in 1948, studied to be a teacher, then lived and taught in Dewsbury.

He was on the staff of Thornhill Secondary Modern School. I was a pupil at that school for one year - but that was four years before Peter arrived.

A snotty-nosed 11-year-old and a teacher, both called Peter Hinchliffe, would have made for some jolly confusion.

Peter eventually re-joined the Air Force with the rank of Flight Lieutenant to be an air traffic controller in Germany.

Because of his fluency in German he was eventually offered the chance to work in the British Military Headquarters in Berlin, then later to join the Foreign Office staff and undertake diplomatic work up to his retirement.

Having been shot down by a German night fighter it would not be surprising if Peter had born a life-long resentment against the Luftwaffe. Just the opposite. He has a respect for the skill and bravery of “enemy’’ aircrew caught up in a conflict that was not of their making.

He has translated the reminiscences of Luftwaffe pilots and turned them into books, the most recent being The Lent Papers.

Peter wrote a biography of Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, the most brilliant German air ace in World War Two. In 164 sorties Schnaufer shot down 121 Allied aircraft.

In 1945 he destroyed nine RAF bombers in a single day.

Flight Lieutenant Peter Hinchliffe of East Sussex is the author/translator of highly readable books. Check them out on www.amazon.co.uk

Leading Aircraftsman (National Service) Hinchliffe P is yours truly.

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