On October 12th Group Captain Peter Bedford, son of Hawker Chief Test Pilot Bill Bedford, came to Kingston to talk about his life in aviation. When Peter was a young boy Hawker’s Chief Test pilot had the use of Primemeads Farm cottage so Peter grew up living on Dunsfold Aerodrome, where he used to shoot rabbits to sell to the nightshift. The Dunsfold pilots were part of his family.
Peter was 14 years old as he watched his father make the first vertical takeoff in the P.1127 prototype. At 17, with a Combined Cadet Force (CCF) flying scholarship he learned to fly at Fairoaks Aerodrome flying Piper Colts and Tiger Moths. In thirty hours of free flying he gained his private Pilots Licence.At 18 he enlisted in the RAF and went to Cranwell for 2 years where he joined the Jet Provost course. The course pattern was 6 months academics and officer training, 6 months flying, a further year of studies and then the final flying phase. His father flew up to see him at Cranwell in the last Hurricane, PZ865, and was not permitted to perform a display!
Peter’s first operational posting was to No 30 Squadron at Fairford
on Hercules transports learning to fly at low level making air drops.
In 1969 he, together with a small force of Police, was sent to the West
Indies where Anguilla had staged a rebellion for independence from St
Kitts-Nevis. He had six weeks in command of the airstrip on a tropical
island with no tourists and beautiful beaches. Back at Fairford he
observed Concorde 002’s flight testing with which 30 Sqn shared the
Then to the Central Flying School at Little Rissington for six months to train as a flying instructor (and also observe the Red Arrows Gnat operations). He was awarded the Top Hat Trophy for coming bottom of ground school, thus winning the honour of giving a speech at the final guest night. During low flying a rather bluff Australian instructor told him how to judge height; “250 ft you can see the sheep but you can’t count their legs”. At Cranwell again he instructed for 18 months on the much improved Jet Provost JP 5. He was lucky enough to get a loan appointment to Singapore to teach students on the delightful piston engined SIAI-Marchetti SF 260 on which Peter became a solo aerobatic pilot.
Back in UK he applied for fast jets and posted to Coningsby got fly…the simulator. He then volunteered for the Hercules force and joined No 47 Squadron at Lyneham - back to low flying and air drops. Notable tasks were taking a gorilla to Gerald Durrell’s wildlife conservation trust in Jersey, flying the Bishop of Salisbury around his diocese and supporting the Red Arrow’s last Gnat display.On an exchange posting to the French Air Force he learned to fly the Transall transport and to cope with French hospitality which included a very liberal approach to alcohol consumption, even away from base. The Transall squadron flew low-level to Quimper en masse, were royally entertained then flew home at 1,500 ft. Peter spent some time with the Special Forces Flight of 47 Squadron and then moved to command the organisation that taught all low level flying and airdrop techniques.