When I began my research into Piddlin Peter I found two sources with stated that Piddlin Peter was Lancaster
KB720. On further examination of the photo above I saw that there may have an alternative story.
Background of KB720
KB720 was completed at Victory aircraft on March 1944 and then arrived in Britain in April of that year.
After the usual RAF tests were completed on the Canadian made Lancaster it was delivered to 419 Squadron.
The previous VR-P was Halifax serial number JP201. The Squadron had converted to Canadian made
AVRO Lancasters by May 0f 1944 and KB720 was assigned the code letter "P".
On the night of May11/12 KB720 started out on its first operation. The pilot F/O R.F. Edwards began to have
problems with the port outer engine. As the overheating continued it became obvious to Edwards that he had
alternative then to jettison fuel and bombs then return to base.
It would not be until the night of May 24/25 that KB720 again shows up in the Battle Order. Over the next twenty
operations KB720 served under a variety of crews. Most of the crews only flew one or two operations. The crew piloted by
F/O A. C. Rokeby did for a time use KB720 for four operations in a row which was the longest run by any crew until July 25th.
Piddlin Peter's Bad Night
For this night the pilot was F/O Bowerman. It was Bowerman and his crew's first operational sortie and it
did not go smoothly.
The operation for the Squadron was to be a return to Stuttgart which just 24 hours ago had been their target.
That raid had cost the lives of four 419 airmen on Lancaster KB719. (Two of the crew became evaders and one
The planning for this second sortie
was late in arriving. Details of the route, tactics, the timing were described as "extremely late in arriving" .
The Navigators had not completed their duties to "set course" time before 11 o'clock that night. And in the end
it was 20 minutes after "set course" time had past that the final Lancaster became airborne and had to take a number of short
cuts to catch up with the bomber stream as it headed for Stuttgart.
In the addition to the rushed plans and delays in climbing to the set course height was the use of the
shortest runway available. All the pilots were finding that their overloaded bombers were just making it in
the short space they had.
As F/O Bowerman's turn came for takeoff he fought to get his Lancaster "Piddlin Peter" airborne. The result was one of his main wheels
hit a fence post which was located some 50 yards past the end of the runway. Bowerman masterfully kept KB720 from
crashing and then headed on to join the bomber stream to the target.
As the Bowerman crew were on their way to the target they were attacked by an Me210. The Me210 made a rare frontal
attack which did not work as Bowerman climbed to avoid the guns of the attacker.
Just eight minutes later a FW190 snuck up on KB720 from below the stern. A corkscrew to port caused a break off of
the attack. During both attacks no damage was done to the Lancaster.
Bowerman now after completing his bombing run returned to base to face a landing on one bad tyre. He brought KB720
down undamaged by the night fighter attacks or the landing.
F/O Lorne Bowerman and his crew continued on using KB720 up until mid-August. It was about this time that KB720
was semi-retired and sent to No. 1664 HCU for training new pilots.
KB786 Possibly the Real Piddlin Peter
On September 6th 1944 KB786 shows up as VR-P. And from there to September 28th the Lancaster has a series of different
crews. Then on October 4th suddenly KB744 shows up as VR-P flown almost entirely by F/L J.A. Anderson.
KB744 stays with 419 until November 30th when it is transferred to another squadron.
On December 2nd KB786 again appears as VR-P. As with the first time around there is a series of crews who flew KB786 until December 21st when
F/L J.W. Watts and his crew are assigned to VR-P for 14 operations mixed in with other pilots all with the rank of F/L or higher.
The aircraft which by now must have received the nose art and name "Piddlin Peter" continued on until the night of
March 21st 1945 when all but one of her crew piloted by F/O Robert Millar were lost over Heide while attacking the refinery there.
What the Photo of Piddlin Peter Reveals
A careful look at the photo above shows the name under the cockpit as F/L ... Watts. Also noticeable is the partial
word SERGEANT which may have looked like a rank being painted but the name of the Watts's crew Bomb Aimer was
F/O R.E. Sergeant.
So it is a good possibility that Piddlin Peter was KB786 and not KB720.
There is no information on when the nose art and name "Piddlin Peter" were added to the side of the aircraft. Leaving
only the photo with the nick name and the name of the pilot to place the dating of the photo to some time after
December 21st 1944.