Peter Townsend (RAF officer)

Peter Townsend (RAF officer)

Group Captain Peter Wooldridge Townsend, CVO, DSO, DFC and Bar, RAF (November 22, 1914June 19, 1995) was Equerry to King George VI 1944–1952 and held the same position for Queen Elizabeth II 1952–1953.

He was born 1914 in Rangoon, Burma and educated at Haileybury School. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1933, and trained at Cranwell. He served in Training Command, and as a flying instructor at RAF Montrose. He was stationed at RAF Tangmere in 1937. By 1940, now a Squadron Leader, he was attached to No. 43 Squadron RAF. He was a Wing Commander on Night Operations, at RAF Hunsdon from 1941, and became Commanding Officer RAF Drew and No. 611 Squadron RAF, a Spitfire unit.

On July 17, 1941 he married (Cecil) Rosemary Pawle (1921–2004) with whom he had two sons, Giles (b. 1942) and Hugo (b. 1945). They divorced in 1952 and Rosemary later married John de László (son of the painter Philip de László) and became the third wife of the 5th Marquess Camden in 1978.

Townsend was one of the notable pilots of the Battle of Britain serving through the Battle as CO of No. 85 Squadron RAF which flew Hawker Hurricanes, continuing to lead the unit even after being wounded in action.

Townsend was later leader of No. 605 Squadron RAF, a night fighter unit, and attended the staff college from October 1942. In January 1943 he was appointed Commanding Officer of RAF West Malling. He was promoted Group Captain in 1948.

In 1944 he was appointed temporary Equerry to His Majesty The King. In the same year the appointment was made permanent, and he served until 1953, when he became Extra Equerry, an honorary office he held until his death. In August 1950 he was made Deputy Master of the Household, and was moved to Comptroller to the Queen Mother in 1952. He retired from the Royal Household in the next year, and was air attaché in Brussels 1953 to 1956.

Group Captain Townsend is best known for his ill-fated romance with Princess Margaret. Despite his distinguished career, as a divorced man, there was no chance of marriage with the princess, and their relationship caused enormous controversy in the early 1950s. He later married a Belgian woman, Marie-Luce Jamagne.

He was one of several military advisors to the 1969 film "Battle of Britain".

Peter Townsend spent much of his later years writing non-fiction books. Books by Peter Townsend include "Earth My Friend" (about driving/boating around the world alone in the mid 1950s) "Duel of Eagles," (about the Battle of Britain), "The Odds Against Us (also known as "Duel in the Dark") (about fighting Luftwaffe night bombers in 1940-1941), "The Last Emperor" (A biography of King George VI), "The Girl in the White Ship" (about a young refugee from Vietnam in the late 1970s who was the sole survivor of her ship of refugees) and "The Postman of Nagasaki" (about the atomic bombing of Nagasaki), and "Time and Chance", (an autobiography). He also wrote many small articles and contributed to other books.He was a CVO (1947), DSO (1941), and DFC (1940 and bar). Townsend died 1995 in Rambouillet, France.

His son Giles Townsend is President of the "Cambridge Bomber and Fighter Society"; his son Hugo Townsend is married to Yolande, Princesse de Ligne.

External links

* [ Biography]
* [ Peter Townsend at the Internet Movie Database]

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