Fl/Lt. Jeff (Alexander Jeffery) Clarson D.F.C. A tribute by his daughters Susan Clarson-Griffin and Jane Dean
Fl/Lt. Jeff Clarson D.F.C. Right: The Certificate placed in the Bomber Command Time Capsule 2012
Honours and Awards:
Distinguished Flying Cross.
1939 - 1945 Star.
1939 - 1945 War Medal.
and German Star.
Australia Service Medal.
Bomber Command Clasp
P/O. 8th November 1944,
F/O. 8th May 1945
Acting Fl/Lt. 5th March 1945.
On May 25th 1942 Jeff enlisted with the R.A.A.F. aged 19 years and 37 days. January 18th 1943 Jeff joined as a cadet with the 5 EFTS and on June 28th 1943 gained his wings.
1942 - Australia 1943 - Banff ScotlandService Record:
Unit : 5 E.F.T.S. (Elementary Flying Training School)
Location: Narromine, New South Wales, Australia.
Aircraft Type: DH82 de Havilland Tiger Moth, C.A.C. Wirraway.
(June 28th 1943 gained his Wings)
Jeff photographed at 5 E.F.S. Narromine, with C.A.C. Wirraway aircraft.
Transfer to England to train as Bomber Pilot.
Unit: 11 P.D.R.C. (Personnel Dispatch and Receiving Centre)
Unit: 14 (P) A.F.U. (Pilots Advanced Flying Unit.)
Location: Banff, (Satellite, Dallachy) Scotland.
Aircraft Type: Airspeed Oxford Mk I, and II.
Photo taken at Banff, 14 (P) A.F.U.(Nov 1943)
Date: 16.12.43 - 16.03.44.
Unit: 1542 B.A.T. (Beam Approach Training)
Location: Dallachy, Scotland.
Aircraft Type: Airspeed Oxford Mk I, and II.
This photo was taken in a studio in Elgin, Scotland, most likely while Jeff was stationed at Dallachy, which is just north of Elgin. Jeff is seen here first on the right, front row, with fellow pilots on his course, top second left a fellow Australian, and five New Zealanders. (If you are able to identify any of the pilots in this photo, please contact us)
Date: 15.04.44 - 02.06.44.
Unit: 12 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit)
Location: Chipping Warden.
Aircraft Type: Vickers Wellington Mk III, and X.
Unit: 1651 H.C.U. (Heavy Conversion Unit)
Location: Wratting Common.
Aircraft Type: Short Stirling Mk III.
Date: 21.10.44 - 24.10.44
Unit 3 L.F.S. ( Lancaster Finishing School) (59 Course)
Aircraft Type: Avro Lancaster Mk I.
Unit: 186 Squadron (reformed) (Bomber Command)
Location: Tuddenham and Stradishall.
Aircraft Type: Avro Lancaster Mk III. (Most trips flown in Lancaster I NG354 XY-M)
Date of discharge was September 13th 1945.
'Clarson's Mob' 186 Squadron Bomber Command Britain WWII
This article is a tribute to the courage and bravery of the Reformed 186th Squadron which flew numerous missions in Lancaster's from two locations in Britain between 1944 and 1945.The 186th Bomber Command Website contains specific details of the original 186th formed in Drem, East Lothian on April 27th 1943 and the fact that the 186th was then reformed in October 1944 at Tuddenham in Suffolk.To the best of our knowledge there is no record of the names of the crews of the reformed 186th and our intent is that this tribute pays respect to Flt. Lt. Jeff Clarson and these brave men of the reformed 186th.
His crew flew 'Mike' their lucky Lancaster for approximately half the missions however on a number of occasions 'XYM' as the aircraft was officially known, was not available due to required servicing and repairs following damage incurred during missions over Germany.
Our father's log books record all the missions with details of destination, bomb load and type of aircraft that attacked them on occasions when that occurred.
It is noted that they were amongst the thousands ordered to take part in the mass Bombing of Dresden in World War II and which occurred between the 13th and 15th February 1945 and entry in the logbook reads, Incendiaries Aircraft Factory and they were amongst the fortunate ones who returned to base.
They flew a total of 39 missions between October 28th 1944 and April 9th 1945 and after they returned from their last mission to Kiel they learned that the number of missions had been reduced from 40 to 35 just hours prior to take off. Surprisingly however and due to a communication error they had been left on the night's battle orders and so 'one for the road'.
It is noted that on the 186th Bomber Command Website the last operational mission in WWII is dated April 24th 1945 when 13 Lancaster's bombed marshalling yards in Bad Oldesloe in Germany. There is no reference to this mission in our father's log book and the final mission has been confirmed by a living crew member as having been flown on April 9th 1945 to Kiel in Germany. It is also noted that the last mission before VE Day was May 7th 1945 when 15 Lancaster's dropped supplies to Dutch nationals at The Hague. Again, there is no reference to this mission in our father's log book.
This group of men was known as 'Clarson's Mob' according to a short story 'If Only My Mother Could See Me Now' published in the A.O.P.A .Magazine in August 2001 and written by crew member Jim Mallinson.
Over The Target.
Early in 1944 at 17 O.T.U. Silverstone, where we were learning what was to be our trade for the ensuing eighteen months, one of the old Wimpeys fell into the North Sea, and our recently chosen Wireless Operator, a young Englishman, became one of the 8000 Bomber Command aircrew to be killed in training accidents.
Charlie's death put the rest of us in a bit of a dilemma, as no unscrewed W/Op was immediately available to replace him. However, the R.A.F. did a lot of things in duplicate, and within 24 hours, two Aussie Flight Sergeants, both W/Ops, turned up out of nowhere and were sniffing around for the W/Op - less aircrew which both had been sent to contact.
They introduced themselves as Bob Evans and 'Snow' Perry.
We had a good look at them, and after a bit of cross-examination (our navigator had been studying to be a lawyer before he joined up) we found that Bob was the sole survivor of a crew shot down over Belgium. We figured he'd had his share of luck and, likeable bloke though he was, we decided we'd rather not test it any further in case he had some hex on all his crews. By such a masterful piece of elimination, one Wilbert John Perry, got to be elected to replace Charlie.
It wasn't long before 'Snow' was to reveal himself as being one of those unforgettable blokes with a homespun philosophy all of his own, into which he would often weave his most memorable gem. 'If only my mother could see me now' He had graduated to Flight sergeant with the effluxion of time, having been hospitalised with a broken ankle, suffered when he fell down the hold of the ship on his way across the Atlantic. We hoped he was no longer accident prone.
He was 22 when we met him, whereas the rest of us were either 19 or 20, and all sergeants. He had snowy hair, considered himself ruggedly handsome, and he measured at least two pick across the backside. Depending on prevailing circumstances we called him 'Grandad, 'Willie' or 'Fat Arse'.
Though Grandad saw things in reverse, we nursed the old fellow through O.T.U., the Stirling Conversion Unit at Shepherd's Grove, the Lancaster Finishing School at Feltwell in Norfolk, on to 15 Squadron at Mildenhall (where our Kiwi skipper was tragically killed), another Con Unit at Wratting Common, where we met up with our new skipper Jeff Clarson (another Aussie), Feltwell again, then Mildenhall again, where they pissed us off to Tuddenham, where 186 Squadron was forming.
By then with an Aussie pilot, navigator, W/Ops and 2 gunners, plus an English bomb-aimer and a Scottish engineer (whose given name was Jimmy, but of course we called him 'Jock'), we were the only predominately Australian crew on this 3 Group squadron, though some of the other crews were captained by young Australians, including Eric Barton and Dennis Godfrey. Flying from Tuddenham and later on from Stradishall, we were pegging the stipulated 30 ops, but when we got up to about 28, the tour was extended to 35 because too many blokes were being killed in training. We struggled up to 33 - all of us with the twitch by now - and then it was bumped up to 40.
They told us we might get in a few short trips to France, but we continued to fly clean over France, mostly on 'daylights' to the Ruhr. Grandad was heard to say something about what his mother would think if she knew what they were doing to him.
When 'Clarson's Mob', as they called us, went on the night raid on the German Fleet at Kiel on 9th April, 1945, it was our 39th op. as crew on 186 Squadron.
We were coned over the target and Jeff hurled 'M' Mike (we had decided on 'Mike' instead of the regulation 'Mother' in deference to Grandad) down one of the beams, but an aileron had been damaged by flak, and only a Herculean effort by Jeff and Jock, combined with the structural strength of the Lanc', enabled us to clear the harbour after diving and falling about 16,000 feet. Jock reckoned we overtook the cookie on the way down.
When we finally got back to Stradishall the news was leaked to us that the tour had been dropped back to 30 some hours before we had taken off for Kiel, but some balls-up with signals from Group H.Q. had left us on the night's battle order. You couldn't print Willie's response to that bit of 'intelligence', but it did include a reference to his mother.
Some time before Keil, Grandad had got himself married to a pretty little Scottish Sheila, whom he'd met somewhere on a 48. She had fallen for his line about his prosperous goanna farming operation back home. We all went to the wedding, but the best man and groomsman (the two air gunners) along with a few others felt an urgent need for a leak during the service, and we had to halt proceedings whilst this could be attended to out among the tombstones. Willie took time out to join us, but the preacher declined. Grandad must have enjoyed his honeymoon, because he overstayed his leave, and we carted a cookie and 500 pounders to 'Happy Valley' without him, taking our chances with Bob Evans in the Grandad's seat. The hierarchy took a dim view of that sort of thing, and Willie had to make up his tally. He was taken on by another crew, when their regular W/Op was sick. The kite was 'O' Oboe and it was destined for Dortmund, but it didn't get there.In fact it didn't get much further than the end of the runway, where it slammed into the boundary fence and blew up.The explosion nearly knocked the beer out of our hands in the Mess over a mile away. A phone call told us that 'O' Oboe had blown up and all aboard had perished.
About an hour later when Jock was proposing yet another toast to our old mate, an apparition which looked very similar to old Grandad came barging through the door, peered around in the tobacco smoke, and then we heard it yell, ìIf my old mother could see you pack of bastards getting pissed at my expense.
We knew then that it was in fact the old fellow himself. While insisting that we keep shouting for him until he caught up, and jabbering from a bad bout of the shakes, he related that the regular W/Op from 'O' Oboe had a medical clearance at the last moment, and kicked Willie out of his possie as the kite was about to leave dispersal. Grandad, who had to trudge back in the dark humping his parachute and Smith and Wesson, was later to express his satisfaction of that young bloke's zeal.
On the night of 6th/7th December 1944 we were threading our way home after bombing the Leuna oil plant at Merseburg when a stream of tracer from a Jerry fighter missed us by what seemed to be about a foot. Both gunners bellowed 'corkscrew port'. And Jeff flung the Lanc' into the cumulonimbus that we were trying to avoid. It sure put the Jerry off but the ensuing half hour or so was pretty hectic with the kite being bucketed about in the worst electrical storm we were ever to experience.
When we'd got through the worst of it the compass and other navigational aids were u/s, and we were lost in a hostile sky, not knowing whether we were heading out of Germany or further into it. There was a bit of technical talk up front on the inter-com about fixes, astro's Pole stars and things like that, followed by a grunt from Grandad. The next minute there appeared an unbroken line of flickering fire on the starboard beam at point blank range. It seemed that Jerry had found us again, and had brought half a dozen of his mates with him. Wondering why they weren't dead, and forgetting to tell the skipper which way to corkscrew, both gunners blazed back.
The 'line of fire' suddenly cartwheeled about in the sky, and then drifted down behind us. We reckoned we'd downed half the bloody Luftwaffe, but Grandad didn't seem to be impressed. 'Oh Jesus, if only my mother could see what you bloody delinquents have done to me!' Jeff butted in on the conversation, 'What the bloody hell's going on down there, what's the bloody fix, Grandad? ìI haven't got a bloody fix, wailed old Willie, 'because those two bastards have just shot off my trailing aerial.'
The gunners thought they were in enough of a fix anyway, and couldn't figure out why he needed any more. Hours later and almost out of fuel, Jeff plonked us down more or less intact (except for an aerial and a few thousand rounds of ammo) on the emergency drome at Woodbridge on the East Anglian coast. Grandad staggered out, eyed us off and stammered, 'My mother might never see me again if you two bloody sprogs don't smarten up.'
Crew from left to right: P/O James (Jock) Hepburn D.F.M. (RAF) Flight Engineer, P/O Dennis Parrish (RAF) Bomb Aimer, P/O Gerald McPherson (RAAF) Rear Gunner. P/O Ron Liversidge (R.A.A.F.) Navigator, P/O Jim Mallinson (RAAF) Mid Upper Gunner, Flt./Lt. Jeff Clarson D.F.C. (RAAF) Pilot, W/O Wilbert Perry (RAAF) Wireless Operator. Pictured with the crew is 'Mike' the crew's Lucky Lancaster XY-M NG354, which was flown for approximately 50% of their missions.
We did our best to live up to Grandad's expectations over the next few months and we even let him win at Poker the day he reached the venerable of 23. We continued to drop in on the Third Reich in the meantime, and on 5th March 1945 we went over to hit the coke and benzol plants at Gelsenkirchen for the fourth time in a fortnight. It was a very heavily defended place, and we had strife each time we went there.
We shed the 500 pounders, but by the end of the bombing run we hadn't experienced the sudden jump in altitude we had come to expect. The bomb-aimer called up to Jeff that the cookie had failed to release. To our consternation Jeff wheeled the Lanc around and instructed Dennis and Willie to chop a hole in the floor with the axe and 'find out why the bloody thing was hung up'. We were being shredded by flak as they chopped the hole and Willie shut his eyes as he belted at the coupling that was gumming up the system. While he was panting and swinging he muttered those poignant words, 'If only my mother could see me now'. By this time the rest of the bomber stream was nearly out of site, and Grandad proclaimed to all and sundry that even his mother would know there was a dropping zone in the channel for getting rid of hang-ups. He raved on for a while about how the Jerries made it obvious enough that we weren't welcome to fly 'ring a rosie' in their bloody country etc. until Jeff butted in again, ì for Christ's sake shut up, Fat Arse, or you'll have to get another fix Willie had a lot more to say about there being enough bloody holes in the aeroplane without him having to make any more, but he saved that until we got back to England.
Except for our navigator, Ron Liversidge, we all came home on the 'Stirling Castle' in July 1945. Ron is still missing, but after a few years we gradually made contact again, though Jeff was somewhere in Queensland, I lived in western N.S.W. and Willie and that virtuoso of the Browning machine gun, Gerald McPherson, were in different parts of Victoria. On my trips to have a yarn with Willie, I noticed that he'd gone out of the goanna business, and had gone into rabbits in a pretty big way on his block in the Western District, with a few sheep as a side line.
In 1982, our engineer, Jock Hepburn and his delightful wife, Catherine, came out from their home in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides (over 13,000 miles of shark infested waters as Willie used to say) to track us down, though he had no idea where any of us lived. Eventually jock found Willie, and the old bloke (who was a genuine grandad by them) got Gerald and me organised for a session. Sadly, however, Jeff had died in Cairns the same week that Jock had arrived in Australia.
Grandad was in his element as we yarned all night about the times we had in England, and dicing over the Third Reich. The women, who reckoned they'd heard it all before, retired soon after midnight, even before Jock could tell them how Willie helped him win his medal. As the sun was coming up, Grandad reflected our thoughts of those days with another of his one-liners when men were men, and pansies were flowers.Cheers old mate!
This photograph of the Crew with members of the Ground Staff at 186 was taken on April 10th 1945 after having completed the squadron's last trip to Kiel, however our father's log book notes incorrectly that the date of the last flight was April 11th 1945.
Gerald McPherson (rear gunner) however informs us that he and Jim Mallinson (mid upper gunner) had the date of the last trip to Kiel as April 9th and this date was confirmed in 'The Bomber War Diaries'.
D.F.C. Letter and Citation.
A CLOSE ENCOUNTER
Gerald McPherson (Rear Gunner) will tell the story:
“On 11th April, 1945 we were briefed for a night raid on Kiel, which turned out to be our last trip. By mid-March 1945 our crew had completed thirty-eight operations and were regarded as highly experienced. The battle order went up early at Stradishall in Cambridgeshire where we were now based, and our names were on it for that night’s raid to Kiel, a large German naval base.
Over the target and just after we had dropped our bombs, I was blinded by searing light as the aircraft was “coned” for about 15 minutes - caught like a moth in the beams of between twenty and thirty German searchlights which beckoned every surrounding gunner to get a bearing and open fire.
In an endeavour to escape the lights, Jeff Clarson, our pilot, threw the Lancaster around like a fighter plane. Later, Jock, the flight engineer told me that at one point we were actually upside down and that it was a remarkable feat by Jeff to get the plane back onto an even keel.
After Jeff successfully flew us out of the searchlights we set sail for the U.K. We were briefed to descend to 7,000 feet when we crossed the Danish coast and to continue to fly back over the North Sea at that height. As we reached the Danish coast Jeff was obviously tired and stressed and decided to descend to 7,000 feet quickly rather than gradually.
In the rear turret I was aware that we were descending very rapidly when all of a sudden the tail of the plane started skidding. I instinctively looked down and saw that we were skidding over the body of another Lancaster about 6 – 8 feet below. It was about midnight, but we were so close that I could see the two gunners in their respective turrets. Apparently, during the descent, Jock spotted the other Lancaster directly in our path and his immediate reaction was to hit Jeff across the chest. Jeff automatically pulled the control column back and began to climb and the sudden change of direction made me look down. To this day I don’t know if the other two gunners saw us – if they didn’t they must have been blind or asleep!
It is worth noting that the German pocket battleship “The Admiral Scheer” was sunk in this raid.
It was a sobering fact to learn that we should never have been sent out on that night, as we were told on our return that the tour of operations for bomber crews had been reduced to 35 - some hours before we were due to take off for Kiel.
Our crew was given to understand that this was brought to the attention of our new commanding officer, who had replaced Wing Commander Giles, and his only comment was to the effect that “they are already on the battle order for tonight – leave them there”.
I have always maintained that it would never have happened if Wing Commander Giles had still been our commanding officer.
The Kiel raid completed our tour of 39 operations.”
Above, the daughter of Jeff and his rear gunner, Gerald meet up at a reunion lunch in December 2015. Left: Gerald, Susan, Fay and Greg. Right: Gerald and Susan.
RSL Cairns - Memorial by Jeff's Children
In 2008 Jane coordinated a project which involved the donation of our father's WWII medals together with original photographs and a letter to the RSL Club in Cairns in North Queensland. The donated presentation is in the form of a montage.
'Montage to Jeff Clarson at the R.S.L. club in Cairns, North Queensland. The notation (above medals attached to bottom photo centre) is in our father's handwriting, and he had probably sent the photograph and note home to his parents.
We felt that Cairns should be the home and final resting place of these important historical items and that they should be preserved for posterity and for all to share Cairns is where Jeff made his home flying for Ansett ANA and the Cairns Aerial Ambulance in the final years of his flying career and where he now rests in peace in the 'ANZAC Gardens' Forrest View Memorial Park following his passing on November 18th 1982.
The preservation of the DFC and other medals was of the utmost importance to us and to have them displayed where all who visited the RSL Club are able to view and reflect on the bravery of these men and the part they played in ensuring we live in safety and freedom.'
Ansett Pilot Retires
A presentation was made at the Cairns Aero Club last night to former Ansett-ANA pilot Captain Jeff Clarson who has retired for health reasons.
Crews and staffs of Ansett-ANA, DCA the meteorological section, Cairns airport and Cairns ambulance gathered to watch the ceremony and wish Capt. Clarson well.
Jeff Clarson’s life has been almost entirely above the ground since 1941, when he joined the RAAF and went to England.
There he was drafted to Bomber Command and won the DFC while flying bombers over Germany.
Back in Australia after the war, he immediately joined Australian National Airline, as the present Ansett company was called, and flew on domestic routes for several years.
After a spell with KLM airline in Indonesia he rejoined Ansett-ANA and came to Cairns, where did a great deal of flying for the Cairns Aerial Ambulance over a period of some five years, until illness affected his sight in mid-1965.
He was presented with a table inlaid with ceramic representations of the various aircraft flown by him in various parts of the world.
From his flying crew colleagues at Ansett-ANA he received a pair of engraved pewter mugs.
Mr. Clarson has now gone into business in his own account in Edge Hill.
This article appeared in the “Cairns Post” Newspaper in 1966.
Above: The long overdue Bomber Command Clasp received by the family in 2014
Anzac Garden Forest View Memorial Park, Cairns, North Queensland, Australia.
His Epitaph was marked by Jeff during his tour in WW11 in a small soft leather bound book called the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
He had earmarked and written on the page and this book is in our possession...my Sister and I share responsibility for it. He (according to our Step-Mother Ray, now deceased) came back from the Tour with this still in his jacket pocket - this story was told to her by Jeff many years later.
Jeff’s brother, Kenneth Clarson, also served in the R.A.A.F. but was tragically killed in a flying accident in November 1944.
This Tribute, along with numerous other pages of remembrance, has been kindly sponsored by way of a donation, from Susan Clarson-Griffin and Jane Dean Jeff's daughters. Aircrew Remembered would like to thank them for their support, along with the use of their impressive collection of photos and documentation, which we are most honoured to reproduce here, made available for all to share in memory of their father.
Note: For further information please contact us and we will forward your email to Susan.