Peter Banister was the eldest son of Charles and Phyllis Banister. He was born on 3 September 1917. He attended West Downs Preparatory School in Winchester and in 1931 joined the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth as a 13-year-old Cadet. The family moved to the village in 1932, initially into Armstrong Farm House, and later in 1956 built and moved into Armstrong Farm Cottage.
His younger brother Robert remembers him at this earlier time as a dashing handsome man; good company, an excellent all round sportsman who was clearly an extremely competent and highly regarded young Naval officer and submariner.
He came to Brockenhurst when he was 15 years old and was quickly a central part of the lively pre-war active social scene whenever he was not away at sea. This included tennis and dancing at “the (Morant) Club”.
He passed out from Dartmouth in 1934 and joined the battleship BARHAM in the Mediterranean as a Midshipman. Five years later, having passed his submariner’s course, he was appointed to SALMON, which later became the first submarine to sink a U-boat.
In December 1939 he became engaged to a Brockenhurst girl, Rosemary Whittow, whom he married in March 1940 in St Nicholas Church.
In April 1940 he went as Liaison Officer to the French submarine ORPHEE, which also sank a U-boat whilst he was aboard. For this he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He then went, briefly, as Third Hand to Clyde. This submarine hit the German pocket battleship SCHARNHORST with torpedoes.
Peter then served in CACHALOT as Third Hand from July to November during which time she sank two U-Boats. For this he was Mentioned in Despatches.
In November he joined H 32 as First Lieutenant and then attended the First Lieutenants’ course at Rothesay. On completion he was appointed in January 1941 as First Lieutenant of the new submarine UMPIRE then building at Chatham. As soon as she was completed in July UMPIRE sailed for trials and training to the Clyde. Four days before the submarine set sail, Peter received the Distinguished Service Cross
“For good services in HM submarines in recent successful patrols and operations against the enemy”
from the hand of King George VI at Buckingham Palace.
UMPIRE joined a northbound convoy on the 19 July 1941. That night the submarine was accidentally rammed and sunk by a Dutch escort of a southbound convoy.
As the senior officer remaining in the sunken submarine, his Captain having been washed off the conning tower, Peter took charge of the escape drill enabling nearly all who had survived thus far, including Peter himself, to reach the surface. Sadly he was not among those rescued. His story is told in “One of our Submarines” by Edward Young.
After Peter’s death Rosemary gave birth to their daughter, Carol, who now lives in Washington DC with three grown children of her own. Rosemary herself subsequently joined the Air Transport Auxiliary as a pilot towards the end of 1943 and ferried about 300 aircraft, nearly half of which were Spitfires and Seafires, from factories to squadrons across the UK.
Lieutenant Peter Banister is recorded on the Memorial to all lost from the College, at the RN College, Dartmouth as well as in their Book of Remembrance. His name also appears on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Panel 5, Column 1.
He is also commemorated on his brother’s gravestone in Brockenhurst Churchyard.
“IF I TAKE THE WINGS OF THE MORNING AND REMAIN IN THE UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE SEA THERE ALSO SHALL THY HAND LEAD ME AND THY RIGHT HAND SHALL HOLD ME.”
The above article was taken from the Brockenhurst Royal British Legion's Millennium Memorial Book, and is copyright Brockenhurst Royal British Legion 2000, 2001.