K.C.V.O. London Gazette 12.12.1961. For services as Flag Officer Royal Yachts during the Royal Tour of Ghana.
C.B. London Gazette 1.1.1958.
M.V.O. London Gazette 22.6.1939. For services as Flag Lieutenant to the Vice-Admiral Commanding the Royal Squadron during the Royal Tour of Canada and the U.S.A.
D.S.C. London Gazette 7.3.1944. Recommendation states 'Commander Peter Dawnay, M.V.O., R.N., served as Fleet Wireless Officer. The very high standard of W.T. efficiency which he maintained throughout the action, and upon which communications entirely depended, reflects the greatest credit upon his untiring efforts during the whole operation'.
American Legion of Merit London Gazette 28.5.1946.
Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Dawnay, K.C.V.O., C.B., D.S.C., was born in 1904, the son of Major the Hon. Hugh and Lady Susan Dawnay, and was educated at Osborne and Dartmouth. Entering the Royal Navy in 1922, he served in H.M.S. Centurion as a Midshipman, and on promotion to Sub-Lieutenant was appointed to the Renown. Specialising in signals, he completed the Portsmouth Signals School course in 1930 to be posted Officer-in-Charge, R.N. Wireless Station, Aden. The following year he was selected as Flag Lieutenant to the C.-in-C. Africa Station and Fleet Wireless Officer in the Cardiff. In 1933 he became a Flag Lieutenant to Rear-Admiral J.K. Thurn, under whom he had served in the Queen Elizabeth as a newly promoted Lieutenant in 1927. Advanced to Lieutenant-Commander in 1936, Dawnay was next temporarily appointed to the Victoria and Albert as a member of the Royal Entourage for the King and Queen's visit to Canada. For services during the Royal Tour he was made M.V.O. in 1939.
On the outbreak of hostilities he was serving at the Portsmouth Signals School, and in January 1941 was appointed to the Signals Division of the Admiralty. Then on returning from the United States as Communications Officer of the British Admiralty Delegation in 1942, he was appointed Fleet Wireless Officer in the Duke of York, carrying the Flag of the C.-in-C. Home Fleet Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser. In December 1943 Dawnay was thus placed to play a vital role in the sinking of the Scharnhorst during its attempt to ravage North Russian Convoy JW55. The whole affair, in the words of Dawnay's colleague, Lieutenant-Commander "Dickie" Courage, the Fleet Signals Officer, 'was a communicator's party', for 'all the events surrounding the passage of the JW55 Convoy, including the actions against Scharnhorst, turned on communications'.
At 2 a.m. on the 26th Admiral Fraser received intelligence that Scharnhorst had sailed from Altenfiord seven hours earlier to attack JW55, and, accepting the risk that Scharnhorst would turn away if the Duke of York broke wireless silence, ordered the convoy to steer northwards away from the enemy. Next morning the 8-inch Cruiser Norfolk, a unit of the close covering force, Force 1, under Vice-Admiral Burnett, located Scharnhorst on radar at 33,000 yards, and with her consorts Belfast and Sheffield opened fire at the maximum limit of her range, causing Scharnhorst to break away at 30 knots. At 8.44 the Communications Staff in Duke of York intercepted Burnett's first 'Jig' radar report on one of the three 'Broadcast' which they monitored round the clock. This and subsequent enemy reports, Burnett addressed to Scapa W.T. at full power. 'But Scapa W.T. was not heard to answer and Commander Peter Dawnay soon realised that the reports were not being received'. Consequently he ordered the reports to be retransmitted to Whitehall by 'ship-shore' frequency, but before doing so consulted the C.-in-C. on this point, but by Dawnay's own account, 'found that he was so engrossed in the tactical situation that this was the only time I did so, and thereafter I took all decisions of this nature myself'. John Winton's Death of the Scharnhorst continues:
'Because of Dawnay's initiative, Duke of York's signals were soon being broadcast worldwide by the Admiralty, sometimes within two minutes of being originated. Dawnay and Courage both had mental visions of Staff Officers and interested parties all over the world getting their maps and following the progress of the battle, as it actually took place. Bey and Hintze [of the Scharnhorst] might at one time have begun to feel themselves alone and beleaguered. Beleaguered they may have been, but they were certainly not alone; in fact they never had a bigger audience in all their lives'.
Then, as Dawnay said, "... as the minutes went by and the contact was not regained it was realised that the situation had taken a bad turn for the worse". A period of acute apprehension ensued, Admiral Fraser fearing that Scharnhorst might head out into the Atlantic. There were practical problems for Dawnay too, 'who had been having a somewhat harassing day, a great deal due to the inconvenient position of his Radio Control Office'. 'For to get to the Plot from the R.C.O., to talk to the Admiral, I had to go out on the bitter and dark wings of the bridge, where I was of course blinded, and then in through the Admiral's bridge to the Plot, going through five doors in all. A wicked experience when in a hurry and doing it frequently. Afterwards I had the trap hatch between the R.C.O. and Plot enlarged so that I could just climb through it, rather than risk a repetition of that obstacle race'.
At 12.20 Belfast triumphantly signalled that the German Battle Cruiser was once more in sight, and battle was re-joined but this time the British Cruisers suffered significant damage before Scharnhorst again broke away unscathed, and, convinced of a trap, ran for home. Duke of York raced to cut Scharnhorst's southward track, and at 18.17 was able to open fire with her 14-inch guns and straddle the target. Scharnhorst at full speed first turned north, then east and outran the British Cruisers and Destroyers. Only Duke of York's guns were within range when an 11-inch shell from Scharnhorst passed right through Duke of York's foremast causing Courage to call down the voice-pipe to Dawnay that he thought some of his aerials had been shot away. Dawnay replied cheerfully, "Maybe: but we are still on the blower to the Admiralty and everyone else!" To the amazement of most of the Officers and nearly all of the Ship's Company the radar echo of Scharnhorst was soon restored though the Admiral was sure victory had been snatched from him, but just before Scharnhorst's shell had hit the foremast she herself received a shell from the Flagship in her No. 1 Boiler Room, cutting her speed to a mere eight knots, allowing three of Fraser's Destroyers to close and unleash 28 torpedoes. Finally, however, after three hours of concentrated gun and torpedo attacks on the stricken Cruiser, there was what Dawnay called 'a sharp altercation' between Plot and the Admiral's bridge when the target suddenly disappeared off the P.P.I. The Admiral was frantic and Dawnay was ordered to re-locate the target in double quick time, though this was now quite impossible as Scharnhorst, far from escaping, was on her way to the bottom.
Awarded the D.S.C. for his part in the sinking, he subsequently served in Furious and Rodney and ended the War in the Liverpool. In March 1948 he was made Deputy Director Signals Divison at the Admiralty with the rank of Captain, and two years later he was appointed Captain Third Destroyer Flotilla with the command of the Saintes. When in Saintes he let it be known he wanted the ship 'put on the map' in the media. His Squadron Communicator, Lieutenant-Commander Gunn, was duly despatched to obtain a mascot and returned with a skunk called Alphonse. In the Mediterranean Alphonse lived under the duckboards on the open bridge, but when Saintes and Third Flotilla were deployed to the Gulf off Abadan, during the troubles there following Persian nationalisation and the seizure of Anglo-Iranian Oil's refinery in September 1951, the skunk was put ashore at Malta and disgraced himself by eating the C.-in-C.'s favourite cat. In May 1952 Dawnay was appointed to the command of Signals Station Mercury at East Meon, Hampshire, where Alphonse, after constantly escaping from a hutch behind the wardroom tennis court, took to the wild and frequently astonished local farmers.
During Dawnay's command of Glasgow and appointment as Chief of Staff and Flag Captain to Flag Officer Flotillas (Home) between 1954 and 1956, he made a rare R.N. visit behind the Iron Curtain going to Poland. Promoted Rear-Admiral in the latter year, he served as Controller of the Navy until 1958, when he became Flag Officer Royal Yachts with the command of Britannia. Advanced Vice-Admiral in 1959, he was made K.C.V.O. in 1961 and retired in the following year, subsequently becoming High Sheriff of Hampshire and D.L. The Admiral died in 1989.