Peter Haldane Wyatt, A37512, was born in Kent in England on the 26th of March 1930. After WWII he migrated with his parents and they settled in Perth, Western Australia. His father was a medical doctor and there was another son in the family.
After one year at UWA he joined the RAN and was selected to be a trainee pilot on 4 course. After gaining his wings he was promoted to Sub Lieutenant and sent to Lossiemouth in Scotland to fly Seafires with the RN.
In mid-1951 he went to Culdrose in Cornwall to convert to Sea Furies. Following the conversion, weapons training for ground attack and qualifying deck landings, he was appointed in November 1951 on loan to 804 squadron, with the 14th CAG.
HMS Glory with the 14th CAG took over from Sydney in Korea at the end of January 1952. In late May 1952 HMS Ocean relieved Glory and Wyatt returned to Australia joining 808 squadron at Albatross. He was the CO’s wing man during the landing on the Sydney at anchor in Gage Roads in October 1952. In mid-1954 he was appointed to 723 Squadron and undertook a short instructors’ course, after which he was the instrument flight examiner giving the regular instrument flying test that pilots were required to complete.
Towards the end of 1954, with his short service commission coming to an end, he volunteered to extend his commission. As a result, he was told his future for the next two years, part of which was to become a founding member of the recommissioned 808 with Sea Venoms. The RAN had decided to acquire these all-weather fighter aircraft fitted with intercept radar to operate off the Navy’s new light fleet aircraft carrier HMAS MELBOURNE, then in the last stages of completion at Barrow-in-Furness.
Experienced aircrew from FAA Squadrons were therefore selected to train on all weather fighters, and Wyatt was amongst those chosen. He joined three other RAN pilots to train in England in 1955, first on Meteor aircraft at Brawdy in Wales with the RAF and then on Meteor NF 11s at Leeming in Yorkshire, which were fitted with the air intercept radar. It was here that the RAN pilots teamed up with their observers who had finished their training on the air intercept radar in RAF Colerne near Bath on WW2 Brigand aircraft. Wyatt’s observer was LEUT Barry Eccleston.
The Leeming AWF course was 3-4 months long and involved night flying just about every week night. The course was conducted over the summer period so flying was delayed to start about 2300, finishing after two serials at 0400 in the morning.
On completion of the Course, Wyatt and his course-mates joined the nucleus of what would become RAN’s 808 Squadron, then assembling at RNAS Yeovilton. Ex RN Sea Venom Mk 20s were borrowed to get the Squadron underway. In September 1955 Wyatt was married to Judith Wilks from Australia in the parish church at Yeovilton, and the happy couple moved into a comfortable cottage locally.
In the new year the Squadron was visited by CMDR George Brown, an RAN officer from Navy HQ staff. After visiting 808 Squadron, CMDR Brown was to fly down to Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall to visit the two RAN Gannet Squadrons working up there. Wyatt was to fly him down in one of the Venoms on 5th January 1956.
On the day the weather was overcast with a low cloud base and conditions must have been close to minimum allowable for flying. However Wyatt was by then well practised in instrument flying and was in fact the Squadron’s Instrument Flying Examiner. On take-off from Yeovilton he did not enter a steep enough climb from the end of the runway to clear obstacles and the aircraft clipped a tree. It gradually lost height before striking a chimney of a house in Ilchester, scattering bricks across the major Ilchester to Shepton Mallet road. The aircraft then crashed into a caravan park being used as married quarters for men at the nearby RNAS Yeovilton.
Mrs Grace Beard and her small son Geoffrey were killed on the ground in one of the caravans. Leading Airman Vic Beard was away on course at the time and was therefore not home in the caravan. Leading Airman Terry McMurtie, his wife Mary and six month old son Gerald managed to escape from a second caravan that was almost completely destroyed by the aircraft. Three others on the ground were also injured. Peter Wyatt was killed, as was his passenger, Commander Brown.
Both Peter Wyatt and George Brown were married accompanied, and their widows and families returned to Australia. The bodies of the two officers were cremated in the UK, and their ashes repatriated. George Brown’s ashes were interred in Victoria.
Peter’s widow, Judy, later married his younger brother Iain and they had twins in 1966. The boy was named Peter, after his uncle, and the girl Alexa.
Alexa advised us in 2023 that the ashes of Peter Haldane Wyatt had been scattered off Jervis Bay.