We have hardly any information on Peter, except that we know that he was in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) and ended up in 54 Squadron RAF flying Spitfires. He probabbly was posted directly to 54 squadron when he had completed his traing in the RAFVR.
The RAFVR was formed in 1936 to provide individuals to supplement the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, which had been formed in 1925. Initially the RAFVR was composed of civilians recruited from the neighbourhoods of Reserve Flying Schools, which were run by civilian contractors who largely employed as instructors members of the Reserve of Air Force Officers (RAFO), who had previously completed a four year short service commission as pilots in the RAF. Recruits were confined to men of between 18 and 25 years of age who had been accepted for part-time training as Pilots, Observers and Wireless Operators. The object was to provide a reserve of aircrew for use in the event of war. When war broke out, the Air Ministry employed the RAFVR as the principal means for aircrew entry to serve with the RAF.
Equipped with Spitfires, 54 Squadron spent the early days of the War patrolling the Kent coast until, in May 1940, the unit provided air cover for the evacuation of Dunkirk. From July, the Squadron was heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain. The fighting was intense, and losses were heavy, with the Squadron being withdrawn to regroup on the 2nd September 1940. The Squadron returned to operational duty in February 1941, flying fighter sweeps and bomber escort missions over Northern France until November 1941, when it moved north to RAF Castletown in Scotland, undertaking coastal patrols.
Then the Squadron was planned to be part of a fighter wing tasked with the defence of Northern Australia against Japanese attacks. However, it was January 1943, before the Squadron had disembarkrd in Melbourne and was ready to begin operations. It was initially based in Darwin in January 1943 and it flew its first patrol of the Darwin area on the 5th February, and although uneventful, the day would end on a tragic note. Upon landing, Sergeant Cooper and Sergeant Peter McCarthy collided. Sergeant Cooper was unhurt but Peter received serious injuries and died enroute to hospital.
Peter Frederick McCarthy, from Gravesend, Kent, was 20 years old. He was the Squadron’s first casualty since arriving in Australia. Peter is remembered at the Adelaide River War Cemetery.
The Squadron photo was taken in Richmond, near Sydney, in December 1942. Back Row: S. Studert, S. Eldred, N.P. Mahoney, Mike Miller, H. Varney, Unknown, Unknown, Les Wellshan, Unknown, Unknown, Peter McCarthy, Sid Horkin, Unknown, Unknown, Les Monger.
Middle Row: Flying Officer Jerry Wall, Flying Officer McIntyre, Flight Lieutenant Cecil Beatch, Flying Officer Wetherhead, Flight Lieutenant Bob Foster, Squadron Leader Eric Gibbs, Flight Lieutenant Robin Norwood, Medical Officer “Doc” Jarman, Flying Offficer Jimmy Courcer, R/C Tony Books, George Farries.
Front Row: Unknown.
Thanks to Pacific Victory Roll
David Hamilton and Ron Rigg
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association