Lionel Peter Twiss DSO. DSC and bar
(23 July 1921 – 31 August 2011)
Faster than the Sun.
Lionel Peter Twiss (born 23 July 1921) OBE DSC and bar is a British pilot, who held the World Air Speed Record.
He was born in Lindfield, Sussex and lived with his grandmother while his parents were in India and Burma. He was the grandson of an admiral and the son of an army officer. Twiss went to school at Haywards Heath and later at Sherborne School. In 1938 he was employed as an apprentice tea-taster by Brooke Bond in London, before returning to the family farm near Salisbury
He had been rejected by the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot but when the Second World War broke out, he was accepted as a Naval Airman Second Class. He served initially on catapult ships flying Hawker Hurricanes. During the Malta convoys in 1942 he flew with 807 Squadron, firstly on Fairey Fulmars, and then Supermarine Seafires from the carrier HMS Furious.
For these operations he received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). During Operation Torch (the Allied landings in Algeria and Morocco, he added a bar to his DSC. He then flew long range intruder operations over Germany from Ford Naval Air Station. During the war Twiss began to get opportunities to fly new aircraft and began test flying in 1944 in the United States. By the end of the war he was a Lieutenant-Commander. In 1946, Twiss joined Fairey Aviation as a test pilot and flew many of the company's aircraft, including the Fairey Primer, Fairey Gannet, Fairey Firefly, and the Fairey Rotodyne compound-helicopter. He worked two years on the Fairey Delta 2, a supersonic delta-winged research plane.
On 10 March 1956, he flew the FD2 to a world speed record of 1820kph (1,132mph). In 1959 Fairey Aviation was sold to Westland Aircraft which is a helicopter manufacturer, which was not Twiss's area. Twiss joined Fairey Marine in 1960 and was responsible for development and sales of day-cruisers. He appeared in "From Russia with Love" driving one of the the company's speedboats. He also appeared in the film "Sink the Bismark" in which he flew a Fairey Swordfish. Today Twiss is a member of Lasham Gliding Society.
Twiss's first three marriages to Constance Tomkinson, Vera Maguire and Cherry Huggins ended in divorce. His fourth wife, Heather Danby, died in 1988. He was survived by his fifth wife, Jane de Lucey. He had a son, three daughters and several stepchildren.
His Memorial service was held on June 14th 2012 at 2.00pm. Boscombe Down MOD.
This website was honoured to be in touch with Peter and he penned these words for the website.
I was born in Lindfield, Sussex on July 23rd 1921 and lived with my grandmother while my parents were in India and Burma.
School was at Haywards Heath and later Sherborne once at 16years of age. My first work took me onto a farm at Winterslow near Salisbury, which later became my home. My duties were various but mainly helping with the Guernsey herd, milking etc. This meant early starts every day and then out delivering milk as far as Southampton.
War came along so I joined the Fleet Air Arm, starting at HMS Vincent in Gosport, I was 17 and an Able Seaman, we had to learn all about the Navy signals, morse code and knots etc, after the fiirst 3 months we were sent to flying school at Elmdon near Birmingham flying Tiger Moths.
After this initial course we went on to fly Fairey Battles and Hawker Harts, by this time I was a midshipman. We went onto operational training at Naval Air Station Yeovilton flying Roc's, Skuas and Gladiators, formation flying was practised over and over again.
Bristol Blenheim of 107 Squadron
Then onto The School of Army Co-operation at Andover flying Blenheims as a twin conversion, from here I was posted to 771 Squadron in the Orkney Islands, this meant flying a variety of naval 19/c Swordfish, Skuas and Roc's.
Each day we had to do a Met flight climbing to 12000ft over the islands in Fairey Swordfish, open cockpit and very cold in the winter months.!
My total flying hours to date were 262 hours on 12 types, then onto my first operational squadron, 804 based in Belfast with Hurricane's on various Merchant Ships, perched on the bow! Our normal run was on convoys to and from Belfast - Gibraltar. If you were launched in the event of an enemy attack the flight ended with a return to Belfast or Gibraltar, or if in between the two, it was BALE OUT near the ship, I was lucky and fortunate never having to bale out!!
Hawker Hurricane of 3 Squadron
Being now based at Gibraltar we were available for escort duties on the carriers looking after ships on convoy to Malta, the aircraft carriers and most of the escort ships turned round 150 miles from Malta and returned to Gibraltar. They dare not risk the escort ships to the very strong German/Italian Air Fleets on Sicily and North Africa.
After the invasion of North Africa for which we provided air support we returned to Gibraltar and after the North African Invasion we returned to UK Yeovilton to reform for other operations.
For these operations I received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). During Operation Torch, the Allied landings in Algeria and Morocco, I added a bar to my DSC. We then flew long range intruder operations over Germany from Ford Naval Air Station. and had opportunities to fly new aircraft and began test flying in 1944 in the United States. By the end of the war I was a lieutenant-commander.