Obituary: Peter Howdle

Published: 23 July 2007

One of the founding staff members of MCN died last Sunday. Peter Howdle was one of the first members of staff at MCN, and later went on to become editor, and worked with the paper until his retirement.

Known as Monsieur to friends and colleagues - he spoke a number of languages including French - he had previously worked with the British motorcycle manufacturer James, as well as fighting in World War Two as a Lancaster bomber tail gunner.  He was 83.

Malcolm Gough, the last editor Peter served under, remembered one of motorcycling's real characters...

"My abiding memory of Peter is of a gentle soul, nearly always smiling, and who always had a fag in his mouth. He once answered the phone in the office when the editorial team were having a discussion group. It went on for ages. He was speaking in German to the caller. Unbeknown to him, his fag end dropped off and set fire to the waste paper basket which had to be doused by the guys in the office. Monsieur was completely unaware of what was going on. His phone call went on for ages. The team, on picking themselves up off the floor with laughter, asked - "who was the call from Monsieur?". "Oh, wrong number," he said...
 
"He would talk about the time he brought back VW Beetles in the bomb bay of his  Lancaster. Someone tipped them off that the CO had found out they were illegally importing the Beetles and they had to drop them in the Channel on the way back.
 
"He was of course most famous for his wartime exploits especially a full tour of duty as a rear gunner - only a handful of guys survived this. When we took him to see the Battle of Britain memorial flight just before he retired, he was all over the Lancaster telling them the original routing of wires and other little mods they'd got wrong on the refurbished plane. They loved him for it because there were so few Lancs crew still living.
 
"His most famous acheivement at MCN was his photo capturing Gordon Jackson losing his only mark of the whole week at the top of Grey Mare's Ridge on his way to recording a remarkable victory in the 1961 Scottish Six Days Trial. It was the most famous dab in trials history and Peter was there to catch it."

His funeral is to be held this Friday (July 27) at Rothwell Parish Church in Northants, at 11am. Flowers are to be from family only, donations to the RAF Benevolent Fund care of undertakers J.Stamp and sons (call 01858 462524.)

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