Flight Sergeant Peter Raeburn Jenkinson DFM - life story



Flight Sergeant Peter Raeburn Jenkinson DFM - life story


Covers medical problems in childhood, starting work with Bristol aircraft company in 1937, medically unfit for RAF aircrew, he was sent to work on Beaufighter at RAF Predannack where he was awarded a white feather by a young lady at a social event. Eventually through improving his lung capacity he was able to pass medical for aircrew. Trained as flight engineer on Lancaster and complete 13 operations on 166 Squadron before being transferred to 153 Squadron where he completes another 16 operations and was awarded DFM. His aircraft was shot down on 28 January 1945 during operation to Stuttgart. Continues with story of memorial to his crew built by Germany community of Michelbach and eventual visit to the area by his brother. Gives description of memorial.




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“The tale of a WHITE FEATHER”

Peter Jenkinson’s story has to commence from the age of 13 when he arrived home from school during the day and collapsed when his mother opened the door to him. From this, he ended up in hospital with double pneumonia and had to have an empyema, This meant he had to have 5 inches of rib removed from the back of his chest to drain off the fluid from his lungs. No Penicillin in those days. so what was known the crisis time, when the lines had reached its peak and he would either live or die.

The usual medication in those days was to feed the patient on champayne. [sic] The cheerful feeling gave them a better chance to live. A terrible few days for mother and so a tremendous relief for her when she returned from visiting him and said “he will live, he has come through the crisis”.

We are not sure what his age was when he had his next illness (this was in his teens). He had an appendicitis with an absess [sic] which caused peritonitis, all his intestines became septic. Again he nearly died. Only to have a year or so later yet another serious illness. This time it was bovine TB. Mother said it was due to milk from one of our neighbour’s cows. This was when mother bought a cow, being the only way to enable her to give him all the milk he had to drink. She used to milk the cow just outside the garden in front of the garage at “Penforder”. the cottage where we lived at St Breward, in North Cornwall.

This was why each time Peter was ill he went to hospital at Bodmin. No National Health in those days, so all the fees to be paid for hospital treatment came from the 1p a week hospital fund!

In about 1937 Peter joined the Bristol aircraft Company as an apprentice engineer but with the outbreak of war he immediately volunteered for RAF aircrew. Much to his disappointment he was declared medically unfit, obviously as a result of his previous serious illness. He continued to work as an aircraft engineer with the Bristol Aircraft Company but he was determined to serve as aircrew and volunteered twice more but both times was found to be medically unfit.

Following his failure to pass a medical to join the RAF as Aircrew for the third time Peter continued working for the Bristol Aircraft Company as an Engineer.

Sometime in 1942 he was sent down to RAF Predannack in Cornwall to carry out a modification to the tail planes of Beaufighters, whilst there he went to a local dance one evening, we are not sure where this was, it could have been at the RAF Station or in Helston. At the end of the evening he was approached by a young lady who gave him an envelope which he thought might contain her address or telephone number but it came as a great shock to find it was a white feather! indicating that he was a coward for not being a member of the fighting services.

On his return to Bristol he found a sports shop and bought a football bladder. His idea was to use the bladder as a means of improving his lung capacity in the hope that he might be able to volunteer once more for Aircrew duties and pass the necessary medical by blowing up the column of mercury to the required height and hold it there for the necessary 30 seconds!. This he was able to do and he was at last accepted for training to become a Flight Engineer. Following Initial Training he went

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to RAF St Athen where he finally passed out as a Flight Engineer on Lancaster Aircraft and joined No 166 Squadron at RAF Kirmington in Lincolnshire for Operations. During August and September he took part in thirteen raids on enemy territory. Early in October 1944 he was one of twenty seven crews to transfer to join 153 Squadron at RAF Scampton. From October 44 until January 45 Peter took part in a further sixteen attacks deep into the heart of German territory. It is now know that he had a very tough time but he never discussed any of his operational experiences with his family. On the 2 [number obscured] of January 1945 he was the first Flight Engineer of 153 Squadron to be awarded the DFM for heroic deeds. In his last letter to his parents he said he had something special to tell them but he did not say what it was.

The [deleted] following [/deleted] night [inserted] of [/inserted] the 28th of January Peter and his crew took off for an attack on Stuttgart. They failed to return and it was subsequently learned that their aircraft had been shot down by an enemy fighter and his whole crew had lost their lives.

The story of Peter does not finish here. Nearly 20 years later in October 1974, the family received the news that the seven members of Peter’s crew were to be honoured by the German community of Michelback a small village south of Heidelberg. A local sculptor and locksmith had erected a large sand stone memorial at a place where their aircraft had crashed.

Unfortunately the family received the news too late to enable them to attend the unveiling ceremony on the 13th of October 1974. They learned that the ceremony had been attended by Air Commodore L.G.P. Martin, British Air Attache German Air Force and many of the local dignitaries and inhabitants.

It was not until 1983 that Peter’s brother and sister were able to visit the memorial. It has to be said that they were amazed by the friendliness and hospitality of the local people. They were met by the Bergomaster [sic] and the sculptor together with a contingent of local dignitaries.

The Memorial is a large block of red sandstone weighing 3 tons or more. On it is a large metal plaque which has the words (in German) “On January 28 1945 a Four-engined English bombing plane crashed at this place; seven airmen were killed; Also, fixed to the stone is what was described as the Airmans sign, an emblem depicting the earth, the water and the sun, and, in the middle of the stone is a large fragment of one of the jettisoned bombs (thought by the sculptor to be a piece of the aircraft). The stone is encompassed by a wrought iron fence which incorporates two eternal flames, a cross for each member of the crew. The crew were initially buried in the local churchyard and given a large granite headstone with the crews names embossed on it. We were told that they were buried with full military honours on the insistance [sic] of the Bergomaster [sic] who had served as a pilot in WW1.

The crew now rest in the war graves cemetary [sic] at Bad Tolz, south of Munich, but their original head-stone remains in the churchyard at Michalbach.

Peter’s DFM was subsequently awarded to his brother, Philip Jenkinson, at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 1946.


“Flight Sergeant Peter Raeburn Jenkinson DFM - life story,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 26, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/30644.

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