The Street Brother: Flying Officer Peter Robert DFM and Sergeant Richard
For two brothers to lose their lives in WW2 is not particularly unusual but for those two brothers to be buried in the same cemetery in the UK must be fairly rare.
The brothers were the only children of Robert William Street and Anita May nee Rolls. Their father Robert had signed up in the first war but was not considered fit for foreign service due to poor vision. He served in the UK from 1915 to October 1919. His actual trade, like his father, was in banking. Their mother was born in Dorset but by 1917 was living in St Giles, Oxfordshire. This is where their parents married in September 1917. Robert gave his age as 31 but by this time he would have been more like 33 and Anita was 18. Peter Robert was born in St Giles, Oxford in 1919 and Richard was born in Berkhamsted on 15th March 1922. In May 1928 their father died, he was buried in Rectory Lane cemetery on 3rd May. At the time the family were living at 109 Gossoms End.
Peter, the eldest of the two brothers was educated at Berkhamsted School and Christ’s Hospital School in Horsham. He was at Christ’s Hospital from 1929 to 1936. After leaving school he served for two years in the Merchant Navy. From there he was engaged in special electrical work at St Albans while he continued his studies (1).
He joined the RAF as a non-commissioned officer at Cardington, Bedford in 1940, once he had qualified as a pilot he went to the Middle East. He joined the 148 squadron on 30th June 1942. In February 1943, when he was recommended for a Distinguished Flying Medal, he had completed 38 sorties and totalled 236 flying hours. His commanding officer said of him “During his tour, he has shown skill and determination when attacking the target and, through his skill as a pilot, has successfully brought his aircraft back to base where others would possibly have failed. On 11th November 1942 he was detailed to attached motor transport on the Derna to Cirene Road and having completed this, he was just leaving the target when his starboard engine cut. However, he succeeded in bringing the aircraft back to base, LG 237 (Libya) and landed the aircraft without injury to his crew. On 23rd November 1942, this NCO was detailed to attack “Marble Arch” aerodrome and, on taking off from El Adem aerodrome, the port tyre burst. However, he succeeded in making his aircraft airborne, proceeded to the target and then returned to base, LG09, and carried out a successful landing on one wheel without further damage to the aircraft.
After completing 43 operations he returned to England to become an instructor. While back in the UK he took an active part in Berkhamsted’s “Wings for Victory Week”. The gazette mentions how he was on parade one week as a sergeant and then after the weekend was commissioned and spoke as a pilot officer from the Civic Centre. He also attended various works meetings in connection with the Week’s campaign; notably that at Messrs East’s saw mills where he was afterwards shown over the works.
His untimely death came on 30th December 1943, whilst on a training exercise with Sgt J M Holmes. They took off from Bircotes, in Martinet I JN429, at 1600hrs for a fighter affiliation sortie. They lost control at 1620hrs while making a dummy attack and spun in from 500ft about a mile west of Worksop Nottinghamshire. He was 24 years old. Cllr S H Smith chairman of the Berkhamsted Urban District council and the town as a whole expressing sympathy to his mother writing “We remember with pride and thankfulness how he helped the town by his manly speech and bearing in Wings for Victory Week. Those of us who have known him since he was a boy, always held him in the highest regard and esteem which was enhanced when he was decorated for his conspicuous service with the RAF. Berkhamsted deeply mourns the supreme sacrifice of another of her heroic sons”.
Richard, the younger of the two brothers, was only 6 years old when his father died. Like his brother, he was educated at Christ’s hospital from 1932 to 1939. He was then employed as a ledger clerk and at the beginning of the war was living with his mother and grandmother at 28 Cowper Road (a house called Nithsdale). In October 1941 he joined the RAF at Cardington, Bedfordshire. He was killed in a training exercise in Stirling III EH933, while serving with the 1660 Heavy Conversion Unit. The plane took off on 26th January 1944 from Swinderby for a night cross-country. While flying at high altitude just inland from the south coast of Devon, a sudden and terrible disaster overtook the crew and their aircraft dropped from the sky, breaking apart as it fell. At 0004 hrs the fuselage and most of the mainplane crashed onto a hillside at Coppleham Cross, north of Exton and a mere six miles SSE from the city of Exeter. Debris was recovered from along a path stretching three and a half miles eastwards from the main impact point and A.I.B specialists later determined that the rear fuselage had detached at around 14,000 ft followed circa 10,000 to 11,000 ft by the elevators and rear turret. Richard was 21 years old and his role at the time was air gunner. Exactly 28 days after the loss of her son, Peter, Anita lost her only surviving child. In May 1950 she lost her mother and in July of that year she married Arthur Meacher in Berkhamsted, he died six years later. Anita lived in Berkhamsted until her death in 1965.
- The Hemel Hempstead Gazette and West Herts Advertiser Friday 7th January 1944 – Airman Hero Killed.