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[Home] [Profiles - 576 Squadron.] [G T B Clayton 576 Sqn]

AM Sir Gareth Thomas Butler Clayton KCB, DFC and bar.

 OC 576 Sqn 1943/44.

576 Squadron Clayton G T

Gareth Clayton was a pre war regular RAF Officer who served right through WW2 and well into the post war era. He was clearly a man of great experience and had a splendid RAF career. His log book must have made fascinating reading as he flew a most interesting variety of aircraft with a number of prangs and shakey dos along the way.

He was born in Llandudno, North Wales in November 1914. His father was a mining engineer for Rio Tinto and the family travelled widely. Gareth spent much of his early life abroad mainly in Argentina and Spain where he learned to speak excellent Spanish. He had a gift for languages and also became fluent in French, Portuguese and German. This factor must have been relevant to a series of prominent postings abroad post war.

He returned to the UK to complete his education at Rossal in Lancashire

Gareth joined the RAF in 1936 on a short service commission and served as a pilot with 83 Squadron and 107 Squadron. He married Marian Keates in 1938.

At the start of WW2 he held the rank of Flight Lieutenant. At this time 107 Squadron were flying Bristol Blenheim IVs and they were quickly involved in operations taking part in the first bombing raid of WW2 on the 4th Sept 1939 when four crews attacked German shipping in the port of Wilhelmshaven.

In April 1940 107 Squadron attacked German forces engaged in the Invasion of Norway. In May Gareth led an attack on a heavily defended enemy occupied airfield at Stavanger, Norway. Intercepted by a Messerschmitt Bf 110 on the return flight, he evaded into cloud and lost the fighter returning home unscathed. At this time he was awarded a DFC and his Air Gunner, Len Yeomans a DFM.

On the 12th May 1940 107 Squadron were involved in the desperate air strikes to try and stem the advancing Germans at Maastricht in Holland. Gareth led the second box of 6 aircraft. As they approached the target at 6,000ft the flak became intense but they bombed the pontoon bridges and turned away led by the Squadron CO Basil Embrey.

At this point Garth’s Blenheim was hit by flak and they were almost blown upside down. He regained control of the aircraft and was then warned by his gunner that fighters were approaching from astern. He was able to rejoin his CO and two other Blenheims joined them and together they were able to fend off the attacking fighters

Gareth’s machine sustained damage to the port wing and engine. At the point he realised his navigator Sergeant Innes-Jones was not in his seat. He was sat on the floor and was clearly wounded. The gunner, Len Yeomans, said the fighters had left and he ordered him to come forward and attend to the navigator. With some difficulty he was able to do this and reported the navigator had a painful wound in the crotch and needed urgent attention.

On arrival at Wattisham Gareth found the wheels and flaps were not working and had to make a wheels up landing. The Navigator was extricated and taken to the hospital in Ipswich were he eventually made a full recovery.

Bristol Blenheims 102 Squadron

Bristol Blenheims of the type flown by Clayton. These examples are from 102 Squadron. - WWP

In January 1941 Gareth switched to being a night fighter pilot with 25 Squadron equipped with Beaufighters. He ruefully wrote later that he managed to write off "three of His Majesty's Beaufighters" without ever even seeing a German aircraft.

Bristol Beaufighter R2081 25 Sqn

Early war Bristol Beaufighter of 25 Squadron - WWP

In 1943-44 |Gareth was assigned to heavy bombers, first with 100 Squadron, then with No 576, a new Lancaster squadron which he, now a Wing Commander, formed under his command at Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire. Gareth took part in a number of operations with these Squadrons.

He was awarded a bar to his DFC with a citation praising his inspirational leadership.

In 1945 Gareth was rewarded with an interesting posting to Cheng Tu in China in a remote at area on the Tibetan border, as part of a six-man RAF training team requested by Chiang Kai-shek.

He was then posted to the British embassy in Lisbon as air attaché. He commanded RAF Cottesmore, then RAF Honington before going to SHAPE in France to join the plans and policy division.

Gareth was director of RAF transport for overseas operations in the early 1960s, which involved among other things briefing the cabinet during the first Kuwait emergency. He commanded number 11 Group in Fighter Command, 1962-63, served as chief-of-staff in the Second Allied Tactical Air Force, Germany, and was then briefly chief-of-staff at RAF Strike Command. Between 1966 and 1969 Clayton held the appointment of director of personal services in the RAF before being made Air Secretary in 1970. He retired two years later.

Although Gareth walked with the help of a stick, his hip injury was sustained in peacetime Germany, trying to out-skate youths half his age on a frozen pond. The injury which landed him in hospital did not prevent him from flying Lightnings up to the end of his RAF career.

Gareth Clayton passed away in 1992. His wife died in 1990 and the couple were survived by their three daughters.

Memorial Service 92

Above - The great and the good pictured at Elsham Wolds in the early 1990s. Gareth Clayton is second from the right

Compiled by David Fell. This is an edited version of a Daily Telegraph obit with contributions from Norman Franks

Air Marshal Sir Gareth Clayton - Career details courtesy of Air of Authority

Gareth Thomas Butler Clayton – Born 13 November 1914. Retired 10 June 1972, Died 5 February 1992

KCB - 1 January 1970 - ( CB – 1 January 1962 ), DFC – 7 May 1940, Bar 13 October 1944, MiD – 1 January 1943, CBD ( SBK ) - 15 March 1946.

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Act P/O (P) – 6 January/9 March 1936, P/O 6 January 1937, Act F/O 20 May 1938, F/O 6 July 1938, Act F/L 2 March/2 August 1939, Act F/L August 1939/5 July 1940, F/L 6 July 1940, Act S/L June 1940 January 1941, T S/L 1 September 1941, T W/C 1 July 1943, S/L 26 March 1946 ( 1 June 1944 ), W/C 1 July 1947, G/C 1 January 1954, A/C 1 July 1959, AVM 1 January 1962, Act AM 15 March 1969, AM 1 July 1969

….......

6 January/9 March 1936 – Granted short service commission. U/T Pilot

11 October 1936 – Pilot 83 Squadron.

18 April 1937 – Attended navigation course. Imperial School of Air Navigation.

16 July 1937 – Navigation Officer, 107 Squadron.

21 November 1937 – Officer Commanding, B Flight, 107 Squadron.

2 August 1939 – Pilot 107 Squadron.

June 1940 – Chief ground instructor 17 OTU.

31 January 1941 – Flight Commander 25 Squadron.

6 January 1942 – Transferred to RAFO and re-emplyed.

11 November 1942 - Attended 30 OTU RAF Hixon.

10 May 1943 – Attended 1656 HCU RAF Lindholme.

14 June 1943 – Flight Commander - 100 Squadron.

July 1943 – Officer Commanding, Aircrew Pool, RAF Hemswell.

November 1943 – Officer commanding 576 Squadron.

23 June 1944 – Deputy OC, RAF Faldingworth.

21 July 1944 – Air Staff, HQ 1 Group.

1944 – Attended RAF Staff College.

February 1945 Staff Officer, Future Operational Plans Staff, Cabinet Office.

1945 Directing Staff, Chinese Air Force Staff College.

26 March 1946 - Appointed to a permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader ( retaining rank at current time )

March 1946 Air Attache Lisbon.

November 1948 - Wing Commander ( Flying ), RAF Upwood.

5 April 1951 – Air Staff Plans HQ, Bomber Command.

14 April 1954 – Officer Commanding, RAF Cottesmore.

October 1955 – Officer Commanding, RAF Honington.

1956 - Staff Shape.

1959 – Attended Imperial Defence College.

20 December 1959 – Director of Operations, Air Transport and Overseas Theatre.

13 January 1962 – AOC, 11 Group.

15 June 1963 – Chief of Staff 2nd ATAF.

19 March 1966 – Director-General of RAF Personnel Service.

15 March 1966 – Chief of Staff, HQ Strike Command.

27 March 1970 – Air Secretary.

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Citation for award to Distinguished Flying Cross.

Acting Flight Lieutenant Gareth Thomas Butler Clayton 37624.

In April 1940 this officer as leader of a subformation undertaking bombing operations against Stavanger aerodrome. He pressed home his attack at low altitude in the face of heavy anti aircraft fire and attacks by enemy fighters and succeeded in dropping his bombers among a number of German aircraft. On the return flight he was attacked by a Messershmitt fighter or 65 minutes and it was only by his determination, skill and courage that he managed to bring his aircraft safely to base. Flight Lieutenant Clayton has done magnificent. Work since the outbreak of the war and his leadership and courage have always been of the highest order. London Gazette 7 May 1940

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