WWII pilot given guard of honour on his 100th birthday at Manchester Airport

Peter, his daughters and a member of 653 Sqn Air Army Corps with his birthday cake. Credit: Manchester AirportPeter, his daughters and a member of 653 Sqn Air Army Corps with his birthday cake. Credit: Manchester Airport
Peter, his daughters and a member of 653 Sqn Air Army Corps with his birthday cake. Credit: Manchester Airport
World War II pilot Peter Davies took part in the largest airborne assault in history, Operation Varsity, which helped Allied Forces gain foothold into Germany in 1945

A World War II glider pilot celebrated his 100th birthday this week with a surprise party at Manchester Airport – the site where the same gliders were first trialled in 1940.

Peter Davies had a notable military career, having taken part in the largest airborne assault in history, Operation Varsity, in 1945.

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To mark the former pilot’s milestone birthday and achievements, Peter was given the guard of honour in the airport’s Memorial Garden on August 23, attended by dozens of veterans from the North West and members of the 653 Sqn Air Army Corps based at Middle Wallop, Hampshire, who had travelled up especially.

A contingent from 653 Sqn Air Army Corps gave Peter a guard of honour. Credit: Manchester AirportA contingent from 653 Sqn Air Army Corps gave Peter a guard of honour. Credit: Manchester Airport
A contingent from 653 Sqn Air Army Corps gave Peter a guard of honour. Credit: Manchester Airport

Peter, from Bollington in Cheshire, also had the opportunity to pay his respects to friends lost during the war with a wreath laying and short service conducted by Airport Chaplain George Lane.

This was followed by a surprise party at the Runway Visitor Park.

The WW2 veteran said: “It’s an unbelievable surprise, this must have been the best kept secret going. It has been wonderful to see so many faces here to wish me a happy birthday.”

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During the war, Peter was based at RAF Chilbolton in Hampshire, where he flew Hamilcar Gliders – the largest aircraft of the time, designed for carrying tanks and other heavy cargo across enemy lines.

While serving in the war, Peter also survived a crash-landing after being shot at several times.

Peter at his birthday service. Credit: Manchester AirportPeter at his birthday service. Credit: Manchester Airport
Peter at his birthday service. Credit: Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport, which was known as RAF Ringway during the war and used for training Airborne Forces, also has a special meaning for Peter. As the treasurer of the Glider Pilots’ Association in 1997, he helped raise funds for a dedicated memorial to his regiment in the Memorial Garden.

It was here that he met his friend of eight years Kevin Hainey, a decorated veteran and Head of Motor Transport at Manchester Airport, who helped organise the celebrations.

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He said:  “With the momentous occasion of his 100th birthday approaching, we knew we needed to do something special for him, to celebrate a man who put his life on the line for his country all those years ago and to ensure that we gave him the chance to honour the friends he lost, which is very important to him.

Peter chatting with members of 653 Sqn Air Army Corps. Credit: Manchester AirportPeter chatting with members of 653 Sqn Air Army Corps. Credit: Manchester Airport
Peter chatting with members of 653 Sqn Air Army Corps. Credit: Manchester Airport

“Their regimental motto was ‘Nothing Is Impossible’ and they proved that time and time again, but they paid a heavy price.”

Also in attendance was Chris Woodroofe, Manchester Airport’s managing director, who said: “The Glider Pilot Regiment, which traces its roots to RAF Ringway, made an indelible contribution during the war and sadly, the number of people who can personally remember their sacrifices is diminishing.

“However, thanks to Peter’s efforts in establishing a memorial here, they will never be forgotten.”

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