P. V. Danckwerts's great-grandfather, Victor Adolph (sometimes called Adolph Victor) Danckwerts, came over to Britain to join the British Army as a doctor during the Crimean War but when he and several thousand other Germans arrived in England the war was over. Victor then settled in South Africa. His son, William Otto Adolph Julius Danckwerts (right), studied Mathematics at Peterhouse, Cambridge, before becoming a successful barrister. In 1885, William married Mary Caroline Lowther, who, like her father, Major General William Henry Lowther, was born in Bengal. Her mother, Amelia (née Painter), was born in the Cape of Good Hope. The two families were already connected as Amelia's sister Emily married William's father after the death of his first wife, Ida Sofia (née Wilmans). Although Mary Caroline was wont to refer to 'my uncle the Earl of Lonsdale,' her branch of the Lowther family was only distantly related to the so-called 'Yellow Earl'.
William and Mary Caroline's children included Peter's father, Victor Hilary Danckwerts, and Harold Otto Danckwerts who went on to be a Lord Justice.
Victor and Joyce's first child, Peter Victor Danckwerts, was born in 1916. Here is a photo of him taken in 1922. He grew up in Emsworth, Hampshire, close to Chichester Harbour.
After Winchester and Balliol, Peter Danckwerts went to work for the Fullers Earth Union. When war broke out he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) and found himself defusing parachute mines in London during the Blitz. For this he was awarded the George Cross (shown in the banner at the top of the page). The back of the medal is shown here. Later in the war he was awarded the MBE
After the war, the British Government asked Peter to experiment with V-2 rockets which were built from captured parts and launched over the North Sea. This is his own photograph of one of the V-2s.
In 1946 he gave a talk on the BBC entitled 'By Rocket to the Moon?' in which he discussed the practicalities and benefits of such journeys.
The text of the talk was published in the 23 May 1946 issue of the Listener, the BBC's much-admired magazine which ceased publication in 1991 after 62 years.