PETER Potter made it one of his life’s missions to keep the memory of the Second World War alive.

Awarded France’s highest accolade, the Legion D’Honneur, two years ago for his part in liberating France, Peter was just 17 when he lied about how old he was and signed up to the RAF as a warrant officer in 1943.

He miraculously survived 33 missions, only being injured once despite being in one of the most vulnerable position as a rear gunner and went on to live a full and varied life - most importantly giving back to the communities he risked his life for.

Now tributes have been paid by his family and many friends following Peter’s death aged 94.

His wife Janet, and close friend Ron Tickner, explain Peter attended services and events up and down the country including returning to RAF Wickenby in Lincolnshire on numerous occasions to pay his respects and taking a number of flights in war planes.

Ron says Peter was born and bred in Essex, in Stanford-le-Hope in 1925 and then moving to Fingringhoe where his father was a farmer.

He was 14 when war broke out in 1939 but a short time later he and his father were recruited to Churchill’s Secret Army, set up to defend the country if the Nazis invaded.

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Ron says Peter loved to tell stories about his life, and he had many, and would often talk about how they were given explosives as part of being in the secret army.

“They once blew up a section of old railway line and used a bit too much explosive and a large section of railway ended up landing in a nearby house, “ reveals Ron.

It wasn’t quite enough for Peter who joined the RAF, and would later rise to the higher rank of warrant officer, before he legally should have and became part of 626 Squadron.

Having been on a year long course he flew his first mission aged just 19 in May 1944.

Ron says he mainly flew in Lancaster bombers and it was whilst in one he was involved in an accident which resulted in a smashed jaw.

“Those planes would go into a sort of corkscrew and one day it veered so violently he hit his jaw on the controls.

Janet adds : “It was so bad bits of bone would come out of his mouth years later.”

Having survived a number of near misses which were equally memorable for him, Peter flew his last mission before the end of that year and returned home.

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He went back to the RAF but would not fly another mission, instead being given the job of closing down the airfields no longer needed, in particular the US airfields including Boxted, beginning an affiliation which continued for the rest of his life.

Janet, who was married to Peter for 34 years, says he became a nurse - which he explained was in a bid to “do a little good” because he was haunted by the prospect of having killed people during his missions.

By this time Peter was married to Peggy and the couple had three daughters.

With nursing sadly not earning enough money, Peter became a fireman, serving the community well into the 1960s until he was injured when roof tiles fell on him during a serious fire in Wivenhoe, says Ron.

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Having been widowed Peter met Janet at a dance and the couple “clicked” and were inseparable afterwards, she explains.

After retiring from the fire service, he became involved in pigeon racing and breeding winning a huge number of awards and prizes as a result.

“People would come from all over the world to buy them. it was very successful.

“He was very clever and working things out and soon got the hand of the genealogy of the pigeons and was then able to breed these champions,” says Janet.

Ron fondly describes Peter, from Elmstead Market as “all round good guy” who never had a bad word to say about anybody.

“He could always find good in people,” says Janet.

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Three years ago he awarded the Legion D’Honneur whilst at the RAF Benevolent Fund run Princess Marina House, in Sussex which went a long way to help with the guilt he felt at the potential loss of lives of those he was trying to help through bombing raids.

In 2016 Peter unveiled the Lancaster Bomber silhouette installed at Lancaster Approach in memory of the crew of the bomber which crashed on the outskirts of the town in 1944 and continued to attend the annual commemorations despite his ailing health.

Janet says she has been hugely comforted by messages of love and support following his death earlier this month.

“Nothing got him down and he always said he had had a very happy life.”

Peter’s funeral will be held at Colchester Crematorium on November 15.