Peter Hopcraft 28 October 1918

Peter Hopcraft was a New House boy from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, born in January 1899. He came up to Oundle aged 16 in January 1915 and stayed for the calendar year. In December 1916, he joined the RFC and was specially detailed to fly Handley Page machines in France in the autumn and winter of 1917. In the spring of 1918 he returned to England to act as an instructor. In August of that year he was attached to the recently created Independent Air Force near Nancy, close to the German border and became Acting Captain. The Independent Air Force was a group of strategic bombers, affiliated to the RAF and designed to carry out strategic bombing missions on German targets. 

During the last five months of the war, this group under Commander Hugh Trenchard, engaged in a series of bombing raids, mostly at night, most often over Germany itself. One of its more famous pilots was WE Johns, the creator of the Biggles stories. He was stationed with Hopcraft, so the two would probably have known each other. 

Peter Hopcraft was killed while returning from a successful bombing mission on 28th October 1918. His Commanding Officer wrote: “He was a skilful and reliable pilot.” He attained a record in night bombing over the enemy’s positions, carrying out 30 night missions in 30 nights. 

He was 19 years old at the time of his death and was buried at Charmes Military Cemetery, south of Nancy. On his headstone, his mother inscribed the simple tribute to her son, “Rest after Toil”.

C Pendrill
Yarrow Fellow