Serial Number: NZ402453
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: July 1940
Date of Demob: 1945
Rank Achieved: Flying Officer
Date of Birth: 30th of April 1920, at Frankton Junction
Personal Details: Known to all as Peter, he was the only son of Mrs and the late James D.M. Cornwall of Pukekura, Cambridge. Though born in Frankton Junction, Peter spent most of his childhood in the Cambridge district. He attended Leamington School, then Cambridge District High School, and in 1935 he went up to Auckland to attend Mount Albert Grammar. Upon leaving school, Peter became a public servant in the Hamilton branch of State Advances, which is where he worked till joining the RNZAF in 1940. He is the brother of WAAF Margaret Cornwall (now Margaret Soanes)
Service Details: Upon joining the RNZAF in approximately July 1940, Peter was sent initially to,RNZAF Station Whenuapai as ground staff, simply because a flying training course was not yet available for him to be on. He says that he did basic servicing on the Blackburn Baffins that were based there, from the New Zealand General Reconnaissance Squadron.
In about December 1940 he was sent to RNZAF Station Levin to begin his initial training, and from there he moved onto RNZAF Station Bell Block at New Plymouth for his elementary flying training at No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School.
Upon completing this level of training, Peter was sent to RCAF Dunnville in Canada, where he commenced intermediate and advanced flying training on North American Yale and Harvard trainers.
On passing his wings course, Peter was then went on to Britain. He boarded an Armed Merchantman that took him as far as Iceland, where he spent four days before boarding a troopship that took him all the way to Glasgow in Scotland.
On arrival in Britain, Peter and his fellow pilots made their way down to the RAF Manning Centre at Bournemouth to be assigned to their new unit. Peter was transferred to Training Command, and travelled back to Scotland, this time RAF Wigton near Stranraer. He spent over a year here, flying Avro Ansons in which navigators and air gunners were being trained.
He then moved to Northern Ireland where he was based at H Block, Armagh Airport. Here he joined an Operational Training Unit flying Bristol Beauforts. The RAF converted the OTU to an Air-Sea Rescue unit, flying Vickers Warwicks. Once they were operational, they moved to the Mediterranean theatre of war, via Morocco, Algeria and finally Italy. Peter returned to New Zealand in July 1945.