RAF Australians - Air Marshal - Sir PETER ROY MAXWELL (1894-1945)

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    ]DRUMMOND, Sir PETER ROY MAXWELL (1894-1945)K C B, D S O and Bar, O B E, M C, Twice Mentioned in Despatches,

    Air Force officer, was born on 2 June 1894 in Perth and registered as Roy Maxwell, son of John Maxwell Drummond, merchant, and his wife Caroline, née Lockhart. Educated at Scotch College, Perth, young Drummond served in the cadets and passed the senior and higher public examinations set by the University of Adelaide. On 10 September 1914 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, giving his occupation as bank clerk. His slight build was deemed to preclude active service and in November he was posted to the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital as a medical orderly. In December he embarked for the Middle East and by April 1915 was in a hospital ship off Gallipoli. He assisted surgeons who operated by candlelight in primitive conditions, and was struck by 'the ghastly sight' of the wounded. Suffering from dysentery and debility, he was evacuated to England where he was hospitalized.

    In December Drummond applied for a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. He had 'mixed feelings' when he was discharged from the A.I.F. on 14 April 1916 and appointed temporary second lieutenant. After flying-training at Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, in September he was attached as a pilot to No.1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, based in Egypt. While serving with this unit, he won the Military Cross for an action in which he was engaged against six enemy aircraft; the citation noted his 'skill and courage on all occasions'.

    Promoted temporary captain, in October 1917 Drummond joined No.111 Squadron, R.F.C., which was equipped with Nieuports and S.E.5a's. In December he and his observer engaged three German fighters over Tul Keram, Palestine, and destroyed them all. Drummond was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. His single-handed fight against six enemy scouts in March 1918 resulted in the destruction of two and the award of a Bar to his D.S.O. From July he commanded No.145 Squadron, Royal Air Force. He was promoted acting major in September and mentioned in dispatches for the attacks he made on Turkish infantry next month. His seven-and-a-half confirmed 'kills' included six of the Albatros DV type. In August 1919 he received a permanent commission in the R.A.F.

    As acting squadron leader, in 1920 Drummond commanded 'H' Unit which accompanied a punitive expedition against the Garjak Nuers in south-eastern Sudan. Following four weeks of bombing and machine-gunning, the rebels capitulated. Drummond returned to England and was appointed O.B.E. (1921). He graduated from the R.A.F. Staff College, Andover, in 1923, then worked directly to Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh (Viscount) Trenchard at the Air Ministry. Between 1925 and 1929 Drummond was on loan to the Royal Australian Air Force, and was director of operations and intelligence at Headquarters in Melbourne. He acted as aide to Air Marshal Sir John Salmond who visited Australia in 1928 to report on the R.A.A.F. On 17 July 1929 Drummond married Isabel Rachael Mary Drake-Brockman at St John's Anglican Church, Toorak; they were to have a son and two daughters.

    Back in England, in 1930 Drummond attended the Imperial Defence College, London. Next year he was promoted wing commander and given command of Tangmere, Sussex, an important fighter station in Britain's air-defence system. In 1933-36 he was again at the Air Ministry. While commanding R.A.F. Station, Northolt, Middlesex, in January 1937 he was promoted group captain.

    He returned to the Middle East in November as senior air staff officer in the R.A.F. Middle East Command. There, he built the infrastructure for a modern air force. The task was almost completed when Italy entered the war (10 June 1940) and the region became an operational theatre. Drummond had risen to air commodore and in January 1941 was promoted air vice marshal. On 1 June Air Chief Marshal (Sir) Arthur (Baron) Tedder took over as air commander-in-chief, Middle East, and Drummond was appointed his deputy, as acting (temporary June 1943) air marshal. Together they developed the concept of a mobile strike-force capable of co-operating fully with the other two services.

    In 1942 Drummond rejected the post of chief of the Air Staff, R.A.A.F. which had been offered to him in an attempt to solve the crisis in the service's higher command arrangements in the South-West Pacific Area. The Australian government raised the matter once more in April 1943, but the Air Ministry refused to release Drummond who had been selected to become air member for training on the Air Council. In Tedder's opinion, the Air Ministry's decision was wise; he later referred to Drummond's ability and support as important factors in winning the war in North Africa.

    Drummond was responsible for managing part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. He contributed to the bungling which led to a massive surplus of aircrew receiving instruction. By May 1944 he thought that only high casualty rates in the planned invasion of Europe would take up the over-supply. Appointed C.B. in 1941, he was elevated to K.C.B. in 1943. He then formally took his nickname Peter—which he had acquired at Scotch College—as an additional Christian name.

    Five ft 7¼ ins (171 cm) tall, with a fair complexion, brown eyes and brown hair, Drummond had a pleasant, unaffected manner which made him popular among all ranks. On 27 March 1945, en route to Canada, the Liberator in which he was travelling was lost near the Azores. The aircraft was never found: Drummond and its other occupants were presumed to have died that day. The Imperial War Museum holds a portrait of Sir Peter by Eric Kennington and the Air Ministry another by Cuthbert Orde.

    Select Bibliography

    Dictionary of National Biography, 1941-1950; P. Firkins, The Golden Eagles (Perth, 1980); Times (London), 17 Aug 1917, 27 Mar, 27 July, 26 Aug 1918; PRO Air 2/5943 (National Archives of the United Kingdom); Australian War Memorial records. More on the resources

    Author: John McCarthy

    Print Publication Details: John McCarthy, 'Drummond, Sir Peter Roy Maxwell (1894 - 1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, Melbourne University Press, 1996, pp 39-40.

    View attachment 3807

    View attachment 3808

    Air Vice Marshal Drummond (left) with British Minister of State of the Middle East Richard Casey (centre) and Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder (right) in May 1942
    Death Details

    26-March 1945
    45 Gp CF

    Liberator II AL504
    Between Azores and Ottawa

    This aircraft was amongst the most well known individual aircraft of the war. During its production, there was a requirement for a VIP transport version of the Liberator and this airframe was uprated to a passenger transport, although to a fairly basic standard and without pressurisation. It was then used by senior British VIPs, including the Prime Minister who flew in it to Moscow via Cairo and Tehran. The aircraft was given the name 'Commando' and was subsequently modified with an extended fuselage and a single tail fin, similar to the final versions of the Liberator. The aircraft had taken off from Northolt and is believed to have crashed off the Azores. No trace was found nor was the cause determined. However, later in the year, after another Liberator transport was lost on the Atlantic route, a comment was made about standards of workmanship at the Consolidated works and the RAF's fleet of late mark Liberators was subjected to close scrutiny.

    Wing Commander William Hugh BIDDELL QBE DFC Pilot
    Flight Sergeant Aubrey Norman BRODIE Co-Pilot Flight Lieutenant Kenneth George SHEA RAAF Navigator
    Flight Lieutenant David BUCHANAN RCAF Navigator
    Frederick William WILLIAMS Radio Officer

    Pilot Officer Douglas James SPENCE RCAF
    Victor Claude James BANNISTER Steward
    Air Marshal Sir Peter Roy Maxwell DRUMMOND 50 KCB DSO & Bar QBE MC
    Commander Rupert Arnold BRABNER 33 DSO DSC MP Under Secretary of State for Air
    Sir John Bradley ABRAHAM 61
    Squadron Leader Elisha Gladdis PLUM 47
    Herbert Albert JONES 51
    Eric ROBINSON 35
    Edward TWENTYMAN 57

    Peter Roy Maxwell (Sir) Drummond

    Rank: Air Marshal

    Unit: Air Member for Training Air Council

    Service: Royal Air Force

    Conflict: 1939-1945

    Date of death: 27 March 1945

    Cause of death: Aircraft crash

    Cemetery or memorial details: Runnymede Memorial, United Kingdom

    Notes: For further information refer to publication R940.544941 S886a held in the Research Centre's reference collection.

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