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FLTLT Philip Herbert Watson 402267


Squadron/s457 SQN
Rank On Discharge/Death Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT)
Date of Birth09 Feb 1915
Contributing Author/sEdited by Bruce Read, Peter Brothers,
Jim Grant and Geoff Litchfield.
The Spitfire Association

Philip Herbert "Peter" (Doc) Watson was born on 9th February, 1915 in Melbourne. Educated at Hunter College in Sydney, Broughton Grammar in Newcastle, Scotch College in Melbourne and finally Shore in Sydney, his first job was in accountancy. After meeting his future wife, Betty Hyles in 1938, following the announcement of their engagement in 1940, he joined the RAAF.

Enlisting in the RAAF in early 1940, he began his flying career on No. 3 Course at Narromine, NSW. Before leaving for Canada to complete his service flying training at Camp Bordon, he became engaged to Betty Hyles who he had first met in 1938. Next came OTU training at Hawarden, UK, followed by his posting to 457 Spitfire Squadron, which was being formed up at Baginton in 1941 under the command of Squadron Leader Peter Brothers DFC and Bar. Watson rose to the position of Flight Commander in the United Kingdom before returning to Australia with the Squadron in 1942, where he was awarded the DFC.

"Peter Watson was one of the founding members of 457 Squadron and one of the first six pilots to arrive at Baginton in June, 1941. A little older than most, he exuded boundless confidence and quickly made his mark in the Squadron. Always good-humoured and cheerful, he made light of the many problems which confronted him and the Squadron in its early months of formation. As operational training progressed, it quickly became apparent that in him, we had an excellent pilot with all the qualities of leadership and responsibility that are essential if one is to become an outstanding member of a Squadron and a fighter pilot of ability.

Peter's contribution to the spirit of 457 Squadron was immense. He could be relied upon to show initiative and when we went into action, he proved to be fearless and dismissive of all the risks involved. As his CO, I considered myself lucky to have a man of his stature in my Squadron and in later years, I was honoured to count myself as one of his friends. His death is a sad blow to me and to all who knew him. He was a real man and we will miss him."

Stationed in Darwin until mid-1943, he was credited with four enemy aircraft confirmed shot down, one probable and many damaged. Peter helped defend Darwin and the North-West area against Japanese air attacks from January to September 1943 and was one of the Squadron's most successful pilots, as the following extract from No. 457 Squadron Operations Record Book attests. It is dated 23rd November, 1943 and signed by K.E. James, Squadron Leader, Officer Commanding No. 457 Squadron (RAAF).

"Flight Lieutenant P.H. Watson DFC left on southern posting, having completed his operational tour in this area (i.e. Darwin). Peter Watson earned his DFC in the United Kingdom for devotion to duty and leadership. He has earned this decoration many times with the Squadron in Australia and distinguished himself as a level-headed and fair leader of men. We will miss his drive in working hours and flow of fun off-duty."

Jim Grant's records reveal that Peter Watson was, during his N.W. area tour, credited with four enemy aircraft destroyed, one probable and several damaged. Peter also destroyed one of the four Japanese ‘Dinah' reconnaissance aircraft that flew in over Darwin on 17th August, 1943.

He chased the intruder for about ten minutes and was only able to catch up and shoot it down when it throttled back thinking it was safe after it had crossed the coast on its way home.

Peter was discharged from the RAAF on 10th April, 1945, going back to his accountancy profession until 1948, when he and his family took over the management of his father-in-law's grazing property near Queanbeyan. Here he became involved in a number of business and charitable pursuits and found time to indulge himself in his favourite pastime, racing.

In 1997, though gravely ill, he added his enthusiasm, commitment and generosity to the establishment of the Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship at the University of NSW. For a time, he was also the President of the Spitfire Association. He was a forceful character and greatly respected. He died at the age of 82 in 1998.

Peter was also for a time the President of the Spitfire Association. He was a forceful character and greatly respected. Founder member of the squadron. Native of Victoria. Succeeded H.L. North as A Flight Commander from 1 st May 1942. Replaced by L. L. Boardman on 23/11/1943.

Four confirmed victories No 457 Squadron, Europe and Darwin, 1942 – 1943. Photo Darwin, Australia`

A great photo this. It shows Peter cycling to work and the Wirraway which caught fire. This picture was taken at Yarramundi (Near the then Hawksbury Agricultural College), where A flight 457 Squadron were encamped late 1942, prior to Camden and the move to the NW Area, early 1943.

This photo was taken as they and the rest of the squadron's members were about to go abroad the fleet of ancient Harrows taking everyone to Redhill early 1942. John Newton (top right) is commonly known as JacK.

The Band of Brothers - from left: Bill Wright, Peter Brothers (Patron), Jack Newton (in specs), Peter Watson, Ian MacKenzie, Frank Coker and George Russell.

The photo is of some of the pilots in the Squadron when it was based in Livingstone in October 1943. Back row: Flying Officer Brian F. Hegarty, Flight Sergeant R.J.K. "Jim" Thompson, Warrant Officer C.R. "Roy" Briggs, Flying Officer W.J. "Jack" Halse, Pilot Officer Allan C. Beckwith, Flying Officer S.W. "Bill" Reilly, Flying Officer Ian Chandler. Second back row: Flying Officer Ian S. Mackenzie, Flying Officer H. Ken Barker, Pilot Officer W.J. "Bill" Basey, Flying Officer South Creagh, Flying Officer Larry Alderson (Defence Officer), Flight Sergeant T.F.R. "Frank" Payne, Flying Officer Neil C. Ligertwood, Squadron Leader "Pat" Egan (Dental Officer), Flying Officer L.G. "Lock" Munro, Warrant Officer C.V. "Vin" Madigan, Flying Officer P.E. "Phil" Goldin (Intelligence Officer) Second front row: Flight Lieutenant D.R. "Doug" Edwards, Flight Lieutenant Wally Aldford (Adjutant), Flight Lieutenant Peter H. Watson DFC (OC A Flight), Squadron Leader K.E. "Ken" James (Commanding Officer), Flight Lieutenant D.H. "Don" Maclean (OC B Flight), Squadron Leader D.L. "Des" Peate (Medical Officer), Flight Lieutenant John S. Newton. Front Row: Sergeant Trevor R. Russell, Pilot Officer F. "Freddie" Feuerhardt, Flight Sergeant W.S. "Bill" Hardwick, Spitty, Pilot Officer A. Evan Batchelor, Sergeant G. "Mac" Jude, Flight Sergeant Harry Whiting.

Learn more about the squadron/s in which Philip served.

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