Peter Woollard was born and raised in Chelmsford and after leaving school worked at the town's Crompton-Parkinson factory. He joined the Air Training Corps and when aged 18 enlisted into the R.A.F. He completed one full tour of duty with Bomber Command, serving as an air gunner. He was killed during his second tour of duty on a raid on Homberg when his aircraft was in collison with another Lancaster over the Netherlands. His home was in Burgess Well Road.
Peter WOOLLARD, Flight Sergeant (Air Gunner), 15 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Killed in an aircraft collison over The Netherlands. Aged 20
In 1944 Peter began his second tour of duty. On 2nd November 1944 he was on board a Lancaster I aircraft HK612 (markings LS-L) that took off at 11.03 a.m. from R.A.F. Mildenhall in Suffolk for a precision daylight bombing raid on the oil plant at Homberg.
Peter's crew mates were Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) 134761 Bernard Earley, Distinguished Flying Medal (aged 24), Pilot Officer (Flight Engineer) 187079 Alfred Abraham Markovitch (aged 21), Flying Officer (Navigator) 145182 James Easdale Campbell, Distinguished Flying Cross (aged 23), Pilot Officer (Air Bomber) 186658 Geoffrey William Lilley (aged 23), Flying Officer (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) 156827 Frederick John Frearson (aged 22), and Warrant Officer (Air Gunner) 1384599 George William Morris (aged 23). George is pictured below left.
At 2.17 p.m. their aircraft was in collision at an altitude if 20,000 feet with a Lancaster III aircraft PB115 (markings LS-W) also from 15 Squadron. Both aircraft fell to the ground at Erp in The Netherlands. All on board Peter's aircraft were killed, as were five of the seven men in PB115. Of the 184 Lancaster aircraft that took part in the raid five were lost. At Homberg the raid resulted in large fires and a thick column of smoke.
Peter, along with his crew mates was buried at the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Erp (grave 3) on at 7 a.m. on 4th November 1944. The service was attended by a large number of officers and airmen from the local Royal Air Force unit.
There were also many civilians and a Church of England chaplin present. Wing Commander W. D. C. Watkins D.S.O., D.D.C., D.F.M. wrote to Peter’s parents:
“The aircraft on which your son was travelling crashed as a result of enemy action after carrying out an important bombing mission over enemy territory. Your son was killed instantaneously and I know that he have died as he would have wished, carrying out an operational flight against the enemy, giving his life for his country. He had already done very valuable work in his First Tour of Operations, and though he had so recently joined this squadron to complete his Second Tour he had already gained the fullest confidence and respect of those with whom he served. I fear that such tragedies are inseparable from war, but the knowledge that he died in this way must be a source of pride and comfort to you.”
At the time of his death Peter's brother George was serving with the Royal Navy; his brother John with the Royal Army Service Corps in Belgium, while their parents were resident at 25 Burgess Well Road in Chelmsford. The last remaining houses in the street, which ran between Coval Lane and Viaduct Road partly on the line of Parkway, were demolished in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
Thanks to Ron Morris, brother of George William Morris who was one of the men killed along with Peter
Peter was born in Chelmsford in 1924, the son of Harry Woollard (1890-1964) and Dora Woollard (nee Cook) (c1888-1946). His parents had married at Chelmsford Cathedral on 11th July 1916. At that time Peter’s father was a 26 year-old grinder living at 25 Railway Street in Chelmsford. His mother was aged 27 and lived at the same address.
Peter’s siblings included John Harry Woollard (1917-1983), George Frederick Woollard (1920-1995), Joan S. Woollard (1922-2007), and Roy Woollard (1928-1956). Peter is featured (left) in the wartime photo above, with his sister Joan (centre) and George (right).
After leaving school Peter worked for the Chelmsford-based electrical engineers Crompton-Parkinson Ltd. He was a member of the Air Training Corps and subsequently joined the Royal Air Force when aged 18. He was was finally posted to the Bomber Command unit 15 Squadron where he served as Flight Sergeant (Air Gunner) 1863504.