The Battle of Britain - The Few
This page contains a brief history of Peter Hartas and a collection of autographs and photographs of surviving members of "The Few" whom I had to honour of meeting at RAF Duxford on 10th July 2004.

Peter McDonnell Hartas No. 41407 British.

Peter Hartas joined the RAF on a short service commission as an Acting Pilot Officer in October 1938. He was promoted to a Pilot Officer on the 3rd September 1939. P/O Hartas was with 4 Ferry Pilot Pool in early 1940 and was posted to 7 Operation Training Unit, Hawarden on the 3rd September 1940. The same day Peter was promoted to a Flying Officer. After converting to Spitfires, Peter was posted to No. 616 Squadron on the 16th September and then moved to No. 603 Squadron at Hornchurch on the 24th. He claimed a Messerschmitt Bf 109E destroyed on the 2nd October 1940. Peter joined 421 Flight when it formed at RAF Gravesend on the 8th October 1940. The Flight moved to RAF West Malling on the 31st October 1940, and onto RAF Biggin Hill on the 6th November 1940. On the 9th November the Flight was re-equipped with nine Spitfire Mk. IIa's. On the 15th November the Flight moved to RAF Hawkinge, so they were in a better location to carry out 'Jim Crows' and Coastal Reconnaissance. On the 1st December 1940, Peter destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 (Werke No. 0885) of 6/Jagdgeschwader 53. The aircraft crashed into the sea off Dymchurch at 12.40pm and its pilot, Oberfw. B. Seufert remains missing to this day.

On the 18th December, Peter shared in the probable destruction of a Dornier Do 17, with Sgt. Dudley H. Forrest. Peter and Dudley Forrest always flew together and evolved their own system of signals. Using their system of signalling, Peter cut off the Dornier Do 17's escape, whilst Sgt. Forrest attacked it. After several alternate attacks on the engines, the Dornier Do 17 spiralled down into the sea.

On the 11th January 1941 421 Flight was expanded to full Squadron strength and was re-numbered No. 91 (Nigeria) Squadron. Peter was killed on the 10th February 1941, when his Spitfire P7888 flew into the ground at Capel-Le-Ferne, near Folkestone. The exact circumstances are uncertain.

He was 21 years old and is buried in the Folkestone New Cemetery, Hawkinge.

At the Duxford Flying Legends air show in July of 2004 many of the surviving members of "The Few" were gathered under one roof to meet the public and sign autographs. The signatures below are from books that these gentlemen signed for me.
They sat at three tables.

Fighter Pilots - click for a larger version

Left to right, the five at the table above are:

Ben BentAutograph of Ben Bent
Ken WilkinsonAutograph of Ken Wilkinson
Keith LawrenceAutograph of Keith Lawrence
Jack ToombsAutograph of Jack Toombs
Des FoppAutograph of Des Fopp

Fighter Pilots - click for a larger version

Left to right, the three at the above table are:

Joce MillardAutograph of Joce Millard
Tom NeilAutograph of Tom Neil
Billy DrakeAutograph of Billy Drake

Fighter Pilots - click for a larger version

The final two at right-hand end of the centre table are:

Roger MorewoodAutograph of Roger Morewood
Terence KaneAutograph of Terence Kane

Fighter Pilots - click for a larger version

At the third table, the first four are:

Albert GregoryAutograph of Albert Gregory
Terry ClarkAutograph of Terry Clark
John KeatingAutograph of John Keating
Basil Stapleton
Autograph of Basil Stapleton

Fighter Pilots - click for a larger version

The final two on the third table, to the right of 'Stapme' are:

Tony PickeringAutograph of Tony Pickering
Ken MacKenzieAutograph of Ken MacKenzie