Author of local military airfields book, Peter Walker, dies aged 85
- Credit: Picture: SUPPLIED BY RICHARD BON
A former RAF airman and insurance salesman who became an expert in Norfolk military airfields has died at the age of 85.
Peter Walker of Brundall published an operational record of all 52 of the county’s military airfields, from Attlebridge to West Raynham, covering the period 1913-97.
His interest in the military was stimulated at an early age.
His father served in the Strumpshaw Home Guard. They trained with a machine gun in a local quarry, now Strumpshaw Recycling Centre, and the gun was stored in his father’s garden shed, which Peter was forbidden to enter.
As a boy, he watched military aircraft passing over Strumpshaw Hill and witnessed huge quantities of gravel being extracted from the aforementioned quarry to build military bases across East Anglia.
At 18 he entered National Service and signed up to do five years rather than two.
He mostly served at RAF Marham as an engine mechanic with 214 Squadron, working on Valiant bombers. A highlight of his time at Marham was the visit of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, during a brief thaw in the Cold War.
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On leaving the RAF, Mr Walker worked for agricultural firms in the Great Yarmouth area before becoming an on-the-road insurance salesman. He offered a unique service, such as the time when a customer mentioned in passing that his apple trees needed pruning and was amazed to see Mr Walker climb up into the branches in his suit and carry out the task on the spot.
Mr Walker was a frugal man and always carried a saw in the boot of his company car. Whenever he saw a fallen branch on a country lane he cut it up and took it home, so he did not need to buy fuel for his domestic fire.
He retired in his early 60s.
At a reunion of the 214 Squadron Association, Mr Walker was asked by marshal of the RAF, Sir Michael Beetham, to be its secretary. He did this job with great pride for many years, organising reunion dinners at the Hare Arms, Stow Bardolph, close to Sir Michael’s home.
In retirement, Mr Walker published “Norfolk Military Airfields” which gives a complete account of the service record of every base, and it is widely used as a research source by military historians.
Last year, he also published “Return to Lutzkendorf”, an account of the life of Wing Commander John Wynne, a bomber commander he met at Marham while servicing his Valiant.
Mr Walker died at home in Brundall, a few yards from the house he was born in. He leaves Sally Ann, his wife of 55 years, and three sons.