To the memory of Peter Geoffrey Rackliff, FRMetS

This site is a tribute to Peter Geoffrey Rackliff. Much loved husband of Pamela, and much loved father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Peter's early life and education, like so many of his generation, was disrupted by the 2nd World War. Joining the RAF aged 18, he was soon posted to Tiree, the most westerly isle of the Inner Hebrides. Unable to be a pilot due to a training accident, Peter settled into the role of Met Air Observer, 518 Squadron. The squadron flew Halifax aircraft on Met Reconnaissance Flights, making regular flights out towards, and sometimes within, the Arctic Circle.

The conditions were often trecherous but they carried on flying, taking meteorogical observations and gathering data, when 'even the birds were walking'. Sadly, many of his comrades did not survive and brave aircrew and planes were lost.

The contribution to the war effort made by the Met Squadrons during the war is fairly unknown and unsung, so it was with great pleasure and surprise when, many years later in 2011, Peter was contacted by the programme makers of BBC Coast.

Peter, accompanied by his wife Pamela, was flown to Tiree by the BBC, where Peter was interviewed about the work done by himself and fellow crew members of 518. This formed part of the 2012 Coast episode, entitled 'Peril From the Seas'. Until then, many people were unaware of the strategic importance of the work and the bravery of the crew of the Met flights. The knowledge they gathered about the weather was vital for so many actions of the Armed Forces throughout the war, even in the selection of the eventual date for the D-Day Landings. 

On leaving the RAF, Peter joined the Met Office and, as his scientific experience, knowledge and reputation grew, he became a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. His job took him and his family to several countries where he performed specialist scientific roles, all associated with the weather.

From Singapore, where he married Pamela after a whirlwind romance; to working at Nadi Airport in Fiji; to being advisor to the Foreign Office; to working with and staying with the United States Navy on Midway Island, forecasting and tracking fallout from French atomic tests, and so on. Peter was also commissioned Squadron Leader in the Mobile Meterological Unit in 1961 for Operation VANTAGE in Kuwait.

In retirement, Peter, now a Freeman of the City of London, did a great deal of research to help others piece together information about the wartime service of their loved ones in the RAF. He also co-authored a book about Wartime Meteorological Reconnaissance, for which he had been collecting information for many years. His dream of getting all the information together as a book was finally realised when, in 2000, Tempus Publishers published 'Even the Birds Were Walking'.

Peter enjoyed good health throughout much of his life, although he suffered greatly from tinnitus, caused by an RAF instructor accidentally firing a gun near Peter's head. (Amazingly, the instructor hadn't checked if the gun was loaded before pulling the trigger.) Peter also had Degenerative Kyphoscoliosis, whereby his spine was deforming on 2 plains: forming an 'S' shape in the vertical, and curving forward on the horizontal. In recent years, the kyphoscoliosis severely limited his mobility but he never gave up trying to walk, no matter how slow or how painful. Notably, and so typical of Peter, he never mentioned the pain he was in, although it occasionally showed.

He was admitted to the QA hospital in the summer of 2017, where he had a partial foot amputation. This was caused by an ulcer on his foot which wouldn't heal. It was during this prolonged stay in hospital that he was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, sometimes referred to as DLB (dementia with Lewy bodies). When he left hospital in early 2018, he went to live in a nearby Care Home and, as his needs became greater, he transferred to a Nursing Home in Alverstoke. Throughout all this time, he remained the polite, caring and Christian gentleman he always was.

On 12 May 2019, Peter developed an infection which was not responding to antibiotics, and he was taken to the QA Hospital for observation. His condition stabilised, and the hospital staff were optimistic about his full recovery. The following morning he was eating his breakfast when he unexpectedly, but peacefully, passed away from heart failure.

 

Fly high and free Peter!

We love and miss you beyond words and will cherish your memory for ever.

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