The Airmen's Stories - P/O W P H Rafter
William Pearce Haughton Rafter was born in 1921 at Elmley Lodge, Harborne, a son of Sir Charles Rafter, Chief Constable of Birmingham, 1899-1935, a pioneer of the employment of women police officers. WPH Rafter was at Shrewsbury School from 1932 and was Novice Boxing Champion in 1933.
He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial training course on 26th June 1939 at 6 E&RFTS Sywell. He moved on to 10 FTS Ternhill for No. 14 Course, which ran from 9th September 1939 to 27th January 1940.
From 1st February Rafter carried out twin-engine training at No. 2 School of Army Co-operation at Andover. He went to No. 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum on 17th March and returned to Andover on 26th April. With his training completed Rafter joined 225 Squadron at Odiham on 9th May 1940, flying Lysanders.
In August he volunteered to serve in Fighter Command and on the 22nd he was posted to 7 OTU Hawarden. After converting to Spitfires he joined 603 Squadron at Hornchurch on the 31st.
During an action over the Biggin Hill area on 5th September Rafter is believed to have been shot down by Me109 and to have crashed in Marden in Spitfire X4264. He was admitted to West Kent Hospital, Maidstone with head injuries. He did not fly operationally again with the squadron until 26th November.
On 29th November 1940 Rafter was killed when he crashed at East Sutton, near Broomfield, in Spitfire P7449. His aircraft was seen to drop out of formation and crash into the ground. His family were convinced that he had returned to duty too early, at his own request, and that he had blacked out from his unhealed head injuries.
Rafter is buried in St Peter's churchyard, Harborne, Birmingham.
His brother, Charles, was killed in a flying accident at Stradishall on 11th October 1940, serving as a pilot with 214 Squadron.
Wellington IC L7840 crashed into a hanger at Stradishall on take off. He is buried in Bradford (Scholemoor) Cemetery.
Also killed were:
Sgt. RS Eastment
Sgt. CA Hellewell
Sgt. GW Hunt RNZAF