“Arthur “Peter” Howard Piper (b.1916) was nicknamed Peter after his family’s pet Bull Terrier. He enjoyed sports, fast cars and like many other boys of his generation obsessed with speed and modernity, he wanted to fly. He trained to be a pilot while studying law in London, but his training was incomplete when war broke out, so he qualified as an air gunner instead.
Peter first saw operations in a Bristol Blenheim Mk.I squadron, No.236, based at North Coates. In March 1940, the squadron was transferred to RAF Fight Command for patrols over the south coast shipping lanes. However, he did not see real action until the beginning of August of that year when, after escorting No.59 Squadron in an attack on Querqueville aerodrome near Cherbourg, permission was granted to Peter’s squadron to attack targets of opportunity. The Blenheim’s pilot, Sergeant Smith, made a low-level attack on two machine gun posts on the airfield and a coastal gun battery. In an attempt to get back to the safety of the channel. However, the aircraft was attacked by two Me109s on its way back to the Channel. Peter fired over 450 rounds until low cloud and sea mist enabled the Blenheim to shake off the fighters.
In further action when on Escort Convoy Duty on August 21 the squadron attacked five JU88s, which were bombing St Ival airfield, and after a series of operations and lucky escapes Peter was eventually posted to 7 Squadron of Stirlings based at RAF Oakington in March 1941. There were raids on targets including Essen and Bremen until he was then posted to 26 flight RAF Waterbeach from which Peter joined, on August 9 1943, 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron based at RAF Downham Market.
In November 1943 he was involved in the operation that earned him his DFC. He was the rear gunner in an aircraft on a mine-laying mission. When nearing the target area, the aircraft was attacked by a fighter: “At the, outset, Flight Lieutenant Piper’s turret was hit by the enemy’s bullets and his guns were put out of action. Nevertheless, Flight Lieutenant Piper so skilfully directed his captain’s combat manoeuvres that, although eight attacks were endured, the attacker was completely frustrated. On several other occasions in fights with enemy aircraft, Flight Lieutenant Piper’s gunnery skill has played a good part in driving off the attackers,” went the report.
In 1944 operations included against railway stations an V1 rocket sites and by September the Squadron had converted to the Avro Lancaster. Subsequent targets included Cologne, Neuss and the German garrison at Calais.
After the war ended, the ever-active Peter decided to stay in the RAF rather than complete his law exams and commanded his own squadron during the Suez Crisis.” (Frank Millard)