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Air Marshal Sir Beresford Peter Torrington Horsley KCB, CBE, LVO, AFC (26 March, 192120 December, 2001) was a senior Royal Air Force commander.

Early life

Horsley was the youngest of seven children of a West Hartlepool merchant, who shot himself in 1922 after the collapse of the family business. He was educated at the Dragon Schoolmarker, Oxford, and Wellington Collegemarker.

Military career

In 1939, he became a deck boy on the TSS Cyclops, a Blue Funnel steamer sailing to Malaya. He transferred to the homeward-bound TSS Menelaus when the Second World War was declared, but then deserted ship. As a member of the Merchant Navy Horsley would not have been able to join the RAF, which was his ambition.

Horsley served briefly in the Home Guard before joining the RAF, initially as an air gunner, as this was the only vacancy then available. However, he managed to get a transfer to pilot training, and was soon himself an instructor at RAF Cranwellmarker.

He was transferred to the Flying Training School at Penfold, Albertamarker in 1942, and then to the Mosquito Conversion Unit at Greenwood, New Brunswickmarker, 1943-1944. He then joined 21 Squadron of 140 Wing, RAF Hunsdonmarker, flying Mosquitoes on night fighter intruder missions over Nazi Germanymarker. After D-Day he was shot down over the English Channelmarker near Cherbourgmarker and was picked up by an Air-Sea Rescue launch after three days. His navigator was killed, and he spent time in hospital and the RAF rehabilitation centre at Loughboroughmarker.

Horsley then was attached to the communications squadron of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Francemarker, and was personal pilot to Major-General Sir Miles Graham during the Normandy invasionmarker. He returned to the United Kingdommarker in 1947 and joined the staff of the Central Flying School, 23 Training Group. He received a permanent commission and was appointed adjutant to the Oxford University Air Squadron in 1948.

He joined the Royal Household in July 1949, as a Squadron Leader, as Equerry to Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. He was also concurrently Officer Commanding 29 Squadron, RAF Tangmeremarker, Sussex, flying Meteor IX fighters. In 1952 he became a Wing Commander and Equerry to Her Majesty The Queen, and in 1953 he became full-time as Equerry to the Duke of Edinburgh, relinquishing the second appointment in command of his squadron. He remained the Duke’s Equerry until 1956.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was successively senior instructor at the RAF Flying College, Manbymarker, Lincolnshiremarker; Commanding Officer, fighter station RAF Wattishammarker, Suffolk; and in Cyprusmarker as Group Captain Near East Air Force (NEAF) operations.

Horsley attended the Imperial Defence Collegemarker, and was then appointed to the Joint Warfare Establishment, Old Sarummarker, Wiltshiremarker.

He became an Air Vice Marshal and was made Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations), then Commanding Officer 1 Group 1971–1973. His last post in the RAF was as Deputy Commander-in-Chief RAF Strike Command 1973–1975.

Later life

Sir Peter wrote an autobiography, Sounds From Another Room (1997), which described his interest in UFOs, which began when Equerry to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, and a close encounter with an "alien" in Londonmarker in 1954. He died in 2001.

Honours

Horsley received the French Croix de Guerre in 1944, and the Air Force Cross in 1945. He was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in 1956, and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1964. In 1974 he was knighted and made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.

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