Sidmouth lost one of its few remaining WWII veterans on November 21. Reverend Peter Leverton, well known to local Church of England worshippers, died a few days before his 97th birthday. 

Peter was born in south London in 1925. His father was an army officer, and when he was young the family lived in various parts of the country. When war came, the family were back in London, and he had had an exciting time running messages for the local ARP unit before joining the Royal Navy just after turning 18 in 1943. 

He went into the Fleet Air Arm to train as an observer/navigator in the famous Fairey Swordfish aircraft at HMS Condor, Arbroath, flying in an open aircraft in a Scottish winter. After officer training at Greenwich Royal Naval College, Peter was sent to the USA to train on Grumman Avengers. 

In spring 1945, with war in Europe over, Peter was sent to Ceylon - now Sri Lanka - to join 756 Naval Air Squadron. The Japanese surrendered before he saw action, and he was then posted to Australia to support the Pacific Fleet. Before leaving the service in 1947, his last post was back in Britain with 771 NAS, where he worked with a De Havilland Mosquito unit testing new radar technology. 

Post-war, as the concept of supermarkets was introduced to the British people, Peter went into the food industry, and became a very successful salesman. He married his first wife Eileen, but she was sadly taken by tuberculosis in 1950. In the early 1950s, re-married to Gwyneth, he began his association with the church in his local choir in Woolwich. Deciding that a career in the ministry would be rewarding, he began theological training at Lichfield in 1958 and was fully ordained in 1961. 

In 1964, as a priest with a RN background, the Mission to Seamen (now Mission to Seafarers) came calling, and Peter was asked to take his young family to Townsville, Queensland, Australia, to give spiritual succour to members of both merchant seamen and military navies. On his return six years later he trained in adult education, whilst continuing with the Seaman’s Mission at Immingham, Humberside. 

In the mid 1970s, Peter became a parish priest in Bristol, though his time was marred by the premature death of Gwyneth in 1976. In 1977, he married Margaret and looked after parishes in Brislington and Avonmouth, Bristol. 

In 1991, he retired and moved to Sidford, but continued to take services at various local churches, and became chaplain to a number of groups, including the Sidmouth Lifeboat, the Merchant Navy Association and the Donkey Sanctuary. Peter had a very active life in East Devon, and when Margaret died in 2012, he had many friends and associates for cheer and comfort. He moved into Abbeyfield, where he ran occasional prayer groups and was wise counsel to fellow residents. 

Peter had joined the Royal Naval Old Comrades Association in 1992 and was a member for 30 years. He served on the committee until 2012, when he stood down at the age of 87. In 2004 he became the RNOCA’s chaplain, leading prayers at Trafalgar Night dinners, Remembrance Day and VJ Day parades and others. Peter also led prayers for the British Legion. He last delivered prayers to Association members in June 2022 at the 40th anniversary commemoration of the Falklands Conflict. 

Peter is survived by two children - a third had pre-deceased him - eight grand-children and nine great-grand-children. 

On 15th December, Peter’s funeral service - as planned by him - was conducted by his friend Canon Christopher Vallins at St Peter’s Church in Sidford. Peter’s funeral was attended by a full colours party, and his coffin was dressed in a Union Flag. The church was full, despite the cold weather. 

Reverend Peter Leverton: 29th November 1925 - 21st November 2022. A full life, rest in peace.