SUMMARY OF PETER WILKINSON’S MILITARY SERVICE
January 1941 Joined Army under Special Entry Scheme. Initial training at Edinburgh University OCTU March 1942 Commissioned and posted to 458 Independent Light Battery RA at Newbury. April 1942 Battery joined the Airborne Division at Bulford and renamed 1st Airlanding Light Battery RA. February 1943 Battery expanded to become 1st Airlanding Light Regiment RA.
Appointed Command Post Officer of 3 Battery as Lieutenant. May 1943 Regiment travelled to North Africa (Oran). Set up base near Sousse, Tunisia. Intense period of training. September 1943 Landed at Taranto for first operational experience. Operations consisted of giving close artillery support to various divisions advancing up the central mountain spine of Italy as far as the River Sangro. October 1943 Involvement in an action with the Canadian Division before Campobasso. Granted an immediate Military Cross. January 1944 Withdrawn from the line. Travelled back to the UK. Set up new base at Boston, Lincs. September 1944 Took part in Operation Market Garden. Returned to UK. October 1944 Promoted to Captain. Given command of A Troop, 1 Battery. May 1945 Regiment travelled by air to Stavanger, Norway. Provided assistance to the Norwegians in returning to normal after occupation by the Germans.
August 1945 Returned to UK. September 1945 Regiment disbanded. November 1945 Applied and selected to join Air OP. Trained as pilot at Cambridge and Andover. June 1946 Awarded Army Flying Badge. Posted to 652 AOP Squadron RAF, Celle,Germany. October 1946 Demobilised and transferred to Class Z Reserve. July 1951 Called up for two weeks re-training with 663 Air OP Squadron RAF (TA) at Netheravon.
The award of Peter’s Military Cross was subsequently reported in the London Gazette on 9 March 1944. The citation for the award records:
“On October 1943 Lieutenant Peter William Wilkinson No. 3 Air Landing Light Battery was acting as a Forward Observation Officer with ‘B’ Company, the leading Company, 48 Highlanders of Canada, and established an observation post in the upper floor of a farm house, about 150 yards forward of the leading infantry on the road Gildone-Campobasso. At about 1500 hours enemy infantry supported by one tank, attacked the observation post with grenades, rifle and artillery fire. Although wounded in the arm and leg Lieutenant Wilkinson, with courage and determination, directed the defence of the post, refused a demand for surrender, and himself engaged with enemy with rifle fire, killing at least one and wounding others. By Lieutenant Wilikinson’s skilful direction, personal example and leadership, the observation post was held to support the continuing operation.”
In civilian life, Peter qualified as a Chartered Accountant and after serving in a number of posts became Chief Executive of a major Building Society, retiring from full time employment in 1983.
Peter passed away on 20 January 2017.
Peter Wilkinson is also author of “The Gunners at Arnhem”, Spurwing Publishing ISBN 0-9535754-0-3.