John Peters was born in London in 1961 to Brian and Carol Peters. Attending Churcher’s College in Petersfield, it was here that John really began to foster a passion for flying. Taking full advantage of the opportunities offered through the Combined Cadet Force, he joined the RAF section, rising through the ranks to become the senior Cadet Officer of all three Service cadet forces. By the time he was 17 he held a Private Pilot’s Licence, a Gliding Licence and had obtained a University Cadetship from the RAF sponsoring him at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. In fact, he was able to fly a plane many years before he could drive a car, not passing his driving test until 20 years old! At university, he studied Building Technology as his other career choice would have been architecture. Most significantly, however, was that whilst at Manchester he met his future wife, Helen.
Studying hard during the week left him plenty of time to follow his passion at the weekends and you would often find John flying upside down doing aerobatics above the English countryside in a Bulldog aircraft on the Manchester University Air Squadron. Upon graduating, John attended RAF Cranwell completing Initial Officer Training and flying training to receive his wings. Following further conversion courses and a short period as an Instructor Pilot at the Air Navigation School, he arrived at RAF Laarbruch in Germany and achieved his dream; pilot of the Tornado GR1 Bomber on XV Tornado Strike/Attack Squadron.
The Gulf War 1991
On 2nd August 1990, Iraq invaded the oil rich sovereign state of Kuwait. By 17th January 1991 the UN’s call for a full withdrawal by Iraqi forces had not been met and Operation Desert Storm went into full effect with XV Squadron placed firmly at the vanguard of the initial assault. Whilst carrying out a dangerous, low-level, daylight raid on Al Rumaylah South West airbase, John’s Tornado was hit by a Surface to Air Missile or SAM for short, forcing him and his Navigator, John Nichol, to eject over enemy territory. Shortly after safely parachuting to the ground, the two men were captured by Saddam Hussein’s forces. What ensued was seven weeks of physical and psychological brutality and torture. John’s severe mistreatment was thrust into the living room of every household across the globe as that now iconic image of his bruised and battered face was paraded on Iraqi state television. However, as a phoenix rises from the ashes, John emerged from his experience a stronger, more resilient and more confident individual. And whilst one would not ever welcome such an ordeal, he realises that it was probably the making of him. It is this attitude that has made John so sought after as a speaker.
Upon his release on 4th March 1991, John resumed his flying career. In 2000, he retired from the RAF as a Squadron Leader and set up his own management consultancy firm focusing on helping senior teams and Boards, principally of blue-chip organisations, by providing business critical development, consulting and coaching – through a leadership lens. Concurrently, he was appointed a Board member and Chair of the Association of MBAs. In addition, he has held roles as the Director of Performance for the Executive MBA at Aston Business School, he is a Fellow at both Kingston and Henley Business School and a Governor of the Royal Grammar School Worcester. He is Patron to the charities, KidsOut and The Battle of Worcester Society, and is Honorary President of Throckmorton Airshow and a Worcester Ambassador. John has written two best-selling books and a documentary; ‘Tornado Down’, which was Independent Documentary of the Year and a BAFTA Award Nominee. Currently, he is writing a new book that focuses on leadership in uncertainty.
John continues to live in Worcester with his wife Helen and two dogs, Matrix and Spartacus. He is occasionally visited by his now adult children, Guy and Toni.
What People say….
“Your address was truly excellent. The sustained applause for you was almost unstoppable.”
“One minute I wanted to cry my eyes out and the next minute you had me laughing out loud. The feedback has been incredible. Twitter has gone mad. Thought provoking, empowering and inspirational are just a few of the words people have used to describe yesterday’s event. ”
Centre for Leadership Performance
“John was great. Probably the most powerful story the audience has ever heard. Quite controversial, but we wanted to stir up the audience and get them really talking and thinking about the messages he delivered in his presentation.”
“The response to your talk has been outstanding. The delegates were deeply moved by your experiences and they have been left with a lasting impression of your bravery and determination. ”
The Royal Bank of Scotland
“There was no-one in the room that wasn’t one minute moved to tears, the next gasping or laughing. I know I was riveted throughout your presentation. You have a great sense of humour as well as a real humility. It was truly a memorable experience for each of us at the event.”
“Hearing your story helped to re-align things in which I had, quite frankly, been overly worrying about. On top of that, what a fantastic delivery. I can’t remember the last time I have heard someone speak so captivatingly for well over an hour. A true inspiration. ”
“It was one of the most extraordinary talks I’ve been to, and has given me lots to think about…. I know everyone else in the audience found it just as interesting and spellbinding. ”
“Your presentation was one of the most moving and poignant I have ever heard. ”
Institute of Directors (IOD)