Peter O’Byrne was born in Coventry on 7th August 1917 and joined the RAFVR on 12th June 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He did his flying training at 2 E&RFTS Ansty and when called up on the outbreak of war he went to 3 FTS South Cerney for further training. After completing the course O’Byrne went to 2 FPP Filton.
He moved to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 28th April 1940 to convert to Hurricanes. He was then posted to France on 16th May. O’Byrne went with a draft to Le Havre and finally joined 73 Squadron at Troyes on 28th May. The squadron was withdrawn to Church Fenton on 19th June to reform.
In combat with Me110’s on 27th September O’Byrne’s Hurricane, P3209, suffered engine damage and he made a wheels-up landing in Staffhurst Wood, Limpsfield, tearing his wings off.
501 Squadron – On 25th October O’Byrne was posted to 501 Squadron at Kenley. Four days later he made a crash-landing near Leatherhead whilst on a routine patrol in Hurricane V7595, unhurt.
501 Squadron at Kenley (L to R): Sgt. RJK Gent, Sgt. P O’Byrne, Sgt. PCP Farnes.
O’Byrne moved to 601 Squadron at Northolt on 21st December but the stay was short. He was drafted overseas on 29th January 1941, embarked on HMS Furious on 1st March and flew off at Takoradi on the 20th. The Hurricanes were then flown along the ferry route in stages to Egypt.
After a period in the Middle East Pool and at HQ Abu Sueir, O’Byrne was posted to 112 Squadron in Crete but after four days it was withdrawn as German paratroops advanced. He returned to the Middle East and rejoined 73 Squadron, then at Sidi Heneish.
On 4th September 1941 O’Byrne went to the Met Flight at Helipolis and on 1st October he was promoted to Warrant Officer. From 11th November 1941 he was with the Met Flight at Ramleh in Palestine and from 28th February 1942 he was in Cyprus on Met duties with 1413 and later 1565 Flights.
On 25th October 1943 O’Byrne returned to the Middle East and joined No.1 (ME) Check and Conversion Unit, Cairo. He was posted to 267 Squadron at Bari, Italy on 24th April 1944 to fly Dakotas dropping supplies to partisans in Yugoslavia.
After returning to the UK in late August 1944, O’Byrne went to HQ Transport Command. He was posted to 17 SFTS Colby Grange for a course on 6th December 1944, went to 105(T) OTU at Bramcote on 20th March 1945, moved to 11 Ferry Unit at Tall Benny on 1st August and then joined 1336 Transport Command Unit at Welford. O’Byrne flew out to India and served with 117 and 267 Squadrons in Burma.
He returned to the UK in April 1946 and was released from the RAF later in the year, as a Warrant Officer.
O’Byrne was one of four brothers who all served in the RAF. Sgt. Thomas Patrick O’Byrne was killed in action with 217 Squadron of Coastal Command on 1st February 1941.
O’Byrne joined Aer Lingus as a pilot. He later flew with Jersey Airlines as a Captain until his retirement.
He died in June 1998 in Boston, Lincs.