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Raw, Peter Frank (1922–1988)

by Chris Clark

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Peter Frank Raw (1922-1988), air force officer, was born on 5 June 1922 at Glenhuntly, Melbourne, elder son of Victorian-born Alfred Raw, clerk, and his English-born wife Eleanor Maida, née Carter.  Educated at Tooronga Road State and Melbourne Boys’ High schools, Peter was a keen sportsman.  In 1939 he began an apprenticeship with Carlton & United Breweries Ltd while studying electrical mechanics part time at Melbourne Technical College.  On 15 August 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force under the Empire Air Training Scheme and was posted to Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in January 1942 to undertake flying training.  He attained his pilot’s brevet and was commissioned as a pilot officer in December.

After remaining in Rhodesia as a flying instructor, Raw underwent training for conversion to Liberator bombers in the Middle East during the first half of 1944.  In July he joined No.178 Squadron, Royal Air Force, at Foggia, Italy, and flew in operations into Hungary, Yugoslavia and Romania.  During the Warsaw uprising in August, he took part in three missions to airdrop supplies to the insurgents.  Promoted to flight lieutenant in December, during 1945 he commanded the communications squadron of No.205 Group, RAF.  Raw was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Poland’s Cross of Valour in February 1945.  Arriving back in Sydney in November, he was demobilised on 17 January 1946.  Two days later at St Mary’s Church of England, Caulfield, Melbourne, he married Dorothy Claire Maggs from Rhodesia; they divorced in 1958.

Reappointed to the Interim Air Force in May 1946, Raw went to England next year for specialist navigation training.  On his return to Australia in October 1949, he was posted to the School of Air Navigation, East Sale, Victoria, as an instructor.  He was promoted to squadron leader in 1951 and filled more instructional jobs before being placed in temporary command of No.2 Operational Training Unit, Williamtown, New South Wales.  In January 1953 he took over No.2 Squadron, a bomber unit at Amberley, Queensland, but temporarily vacated the appointment to captain an Australian-built Canberra bomber in the England-to-New Zealand air race in 1953.  He came second and was awarded the Air Force Cross.

In June 1955 Raw attended the RAF Flying College, England.  Promoted to wing commander in January 1956, he undertook planning duties at RAAF headquarters, Melbourne.  Later that year he was RAAF liaison officer at the British atomic tests on the Monte Bello Islands and at Maralinga, South Australia.  On 21 June 1958 at St Margaret’s Presbyterian Church, Balaclava, Melbourne, he married Helen Dorothy Hammond, a clerke-typiste.  From December 1960 he was on the directing staff of the RAAF Staff College, Fairbairn, Australian Capital Territory.  Off duty, Raw became the inaugural president of the Canberra Astronomical Society in 1963.  That year he was appointed assistant air attaché in Washington, and as acting group captain from February 1965 (substantive in January 1966), he commanded No.82 (Bomber) Wing at Amberley.

When an Australian task force was sent to the Republic of Vietnam in May 1966, Raw went as air support commander to co-ordinate helicopter operations undertaken for Australia’s two army battalions.  In addition to his role with the task force, he commanded the entire RAAF contingent based at Vung Tau, which included a base unit and a light transport squadron; he was also deputy commander of all RAAF forces in Vietnam.  During the battle of Long Tan in August, he infuriated the task force commander, Brigadier O. D. Jackson, by hesitating to send helicopters to drop ammunition to a besieged infantry company, because of the appalling flying weather.  He was persuaded to approve the mission, and the ammunition delivered helped to ensure that the troops on the ground were not overrun.  His relations with his army colleagues continued to be 'most difficult' throughout his tour of duty.  He returned to Australia in April 1967 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in November.

Posted in 1967 to the Department of Air, Canberra, as director of operational requirements, Raw became involved in the selection of a heavy lift helicopter.  After serving (1970-72) as commandant of the RAAF Staff College, Fairbairn, he was promoted to air commodore in 1973 and appointed officer commanding the RAAF base at Butterworth, Malaysia.  Considered to be genial, exuberant, popular and efficient, he proved to be the type of officer who worked best under pressure.  He was the senior training and air staff officer (1976-77) at Headquarters, Support Command, Melbourne, before retiring on 28 February 1978.  Survived by his wife, their son and daughter and the daughter of his first marriage, he died of disseminated lymphoma on 14 July 1988 at Richmond, Melbourne, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • I. McNeill, To Long Tan, 1993
  • J. Bennett, Highest Traditions, 1995
  • C. Coulthard-Clark, The RAAF in Vietnam, 1995
  • A. Stephens, Going Solo, 1995
  • AWM65, item 4307 (Australian War Memorial)
  • A12372, item O33113 (National Archives of Australia)

Citation details

Chris Clark, 'Raw, Peter Frank (1922–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 April 2021.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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