“Tradition does not die in the ashes but is carried forward in the flames”

Royal Auxiliary Air Force Foundation

 Patron:  HRH  The  Duke  of  Gloucester

BIOGRAPHY

Flight Lieutenant Terry Clark DFM AE

11 April 1919 - 7 May 2020









William Terence Clark was born in Croydon on 11 April 1919. He joined 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force, at Kenley in March 1938 as an Aircrafthand/Air Gunner. He trained and flew in Hawker Hectors on Army co-operation duties. Called to full-time service on 24 August 1939, Clark remustered as a trainee Air Gunner. He completed his training and joined 219 Squadron at RAF Catterick on 12 July 1940, flying in the twin-engined Bristol Blenheim IF, the fighter version of the Blenheim light bomber*.


During the Battle of Britain 219 Squadron also operated out of RAF Leeming, carrying out day-time convoy escorts and coastal patrols despite the aircraft being unsuitable for the task. Enemy aircraft were seldom encountered along the north-east coast, but on 15 August 1940 219 were ordered to intercept a large German raid from Scandinavia, which split up to attack the Firth of Forth, the North-East and East Yorkshire, especially Hull, and were met by aircraft from Drem, Usworth, Acklington, Catterick and Leconfield. Unfortunately this ended in frustration for the Blenheim fighter crews as in most cases they weren’t fast enough and the enemy aircraft just flew away from them; it was said that the rear gunner in a Junkers was waving a fond farewell as they disappeared into the distance!

In the late summer of 1940 219 Sqn re-equipped with the Bristol Beaufighter and airborne radar, at which point some of the air gunners were trained on radar with the squadron as Radio Observers/Operators. Clark qualified in this category. The Beaufighter was a huge step-up in terms of power, speed and armament and in conjunction with the AI radar gave the RAF night-fighter Squadrons a superb weapons system with which to hit back at the Luftwaffe’s night blitz. On the night of 16-17 April 1941 Clark flew with 219's OC, Wg Cdr Pike, when his own navigator was taken ill. They intercepted and destroyed a Junkers Ju88 and a Heinkel He111 in the Guildford area. During the night of 27-28 April, flying with Fg Off Dudley Hobbis, his regular pilot, Clark assisted in the destruction of another enemy aircraft, and on 1-2 June and 13-14 June they shot down two more Heinkel He111s.

Clark was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal, gazetted on 8 July 1941.


In July 1941 he was posted to 1455 Flight, then forming at Tangmere with Turbinlite Havocs. In May 1942 he went to 1451 Flight at Hunsdon on the same duties, locating enemy aircraft by radar in the Havoc, for accompanying fighters to attack and destroy. The scheme was not a success and was eventually abandoned. He was commissioned in May 1942 from Warrant Officer and moved to 60 Operational Training Unit in October 1942 as a Navigation and Radar Instructor, a job he hated! But in May 1943 he was back flying, being posted to 488 (New Zealand) Squadron at Ayr, now flying the De Havilland Mosquito, as Navigator to the newly-arrived 'A' Flight Commander, Sqn Ldr D Hobbis, his original pilot from 219 Squadron and 1455 and 1451 Flights. On 20 December 1943 Clark was flying with Plt Off Robinson when they destroyed a Me410 over Sussex.


At the end of his tour in March 1944 Clark went to North Weald Sector Operations, where he trained as a Controller. Whilst there he was given leave to visit 488, then at Colerne. He went to dispersal to see Robinson, now a Flying Officer. His navigator was unfit to fly and Clark offered to take his place. On this sortie, a beach-head patrol on the night of 28-29 July, they destroyed a Ju188. Clark returned to North Weald next day. He rejoined 488 in August 1944 but two months later went to RAF Honiley Ground Approach School, after which he took No.1 GCA Unit to Prestwick, as second-in-command.

Clark was released from the RAF in November 1945 as a Flight Lieutenant.



THE BRISTOL BLENHEIM












The Blenheim was first developed by Bristol in 1934-35 as the Type 135 cabin monoplane twin-engined commercial transport. It had high performance and with a top speed of 307mph could outpace any RAF fighter of the time, so it was ordered into production for the RAF in early 1936 as a light bomber and by the outbreak of war equipped 16 Squadrons. As a light bomber it provided sterling service during the early years of the war. The fighter version equipped a further seven Squadrons, but as a day fighter it was a failure – underpowered for its role, inadequately armed and easy prey for enemy single-engined fighters. It was best suited as a night fighter.


Jeff Metcalfe


See also Daily Telegraph obituary at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2020/05/08/flight-lieutenant-terry-clark-one-last-obituary/