Rye Personality of the Twentieth Century
Percy Lawrence Mitchell – Seaman & Youth Leader
Percy Lawrence Mitchell, known universally in Rye by the young people of the fifties and sixties as Peter Mitchell was another outstanding Rye character who left his mark on this town.
Sylvia Sperring in her article mentions him fondly as do all the teenagers who used the old Youth Club at the Further Education Centre in Lion Street. Peter ran the club with a quiet authority that was never questioned and many youngsters of that period owe a debt of gratitude for his wise guidance.
Peter Mitchell, who was a P.T. Instructor at the Grammar School, also Commanded 2274 Squadron of the Air Training Corps.
Joining the Navy at 15, the young Peter Mitchell went to sea on the Battleship HMS Iron Duke, Lord Jellicoe’s flagship at the Battle of Jutland. During 25 years service with the Royal Navy he served on every type of naval vessel including a submarine.
He was a very versatile man with an avid interest in music and was part of the Royal Blue Jackets Band when he served on H.M.S. Argus, an Aircraft Carrier.
Peter Mitchell came to Rye in 1930. He married Lottie Stonham, a Rye girl who’s father was Second Coxswain of the Rye Lifeboat ‘Mary Stanford’ which was so tragically lost with all hands on November 15th. 1928.
Peter served on three ships during the Second World War and was on H.M.S. King George V at the sinking of the Bismark. He retired to Rye at Wars end after being awarded a Long Service Medal.
He made a fine P.T. Instructor, having competed for the Navy in many sports including Boxing, Fencing and Cross Country Running.
His activities on behalf of young people and ex-servicemen knew no bounds. Besides his school, Youth Club and A.T.C. activities he was Chairman of the Royal Naval Association (Rye Branch), on the Committee of the Bonfire Boys and made regular appearances in Rye Player productions.
Peter Mitchell was a leader, both in military service and civilian life. He was looked up to with respect by all those he taught or came in contact with. His work with the young people is legendary among those of us who were privileged to know him. He set an example that many have followed and the results of his efforts are still appreciated all these years after.
Peter Mitchell can truly be said to be one of the top Ryers of the 20th. Century.
“Rye’s Own” September 2001
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