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Clive Woodward Estcourt 14 October 1917 – 17 August 2017, age 99

Clive grew up in Hamilton, attended Frankton School, and spent three years at Hamilton Technical College.

He had 18 months as a grocery delivery boy before he hit the first of his lucky breaks, during the Depression, and won a sign-writing apprenticeship. He had just finished his five-year training, when war broke out, and he was quickly in uniform, joining the air force in October 1939.

In September 1942 he was posted to Canada. Twelve months later, after several training courses, and a period of hospitalisation, he gained his bombing and gunnery observer's brevet (half wing). He ended his war as a flight lieutenant.

The Canadian experience left him with many good comrades, but he never wanted to see snow again. That said, he did mention to family that the subsequent sea voyage to England, made without a convoy in U-boat infested waters, was not a particularly healthy experience either.

On a training flight in awful weather conditions during the war, Clive, who was a bombardier in the nose of a RAF bomber, heard the command to bail out.

Unlike the rest of his crew, he survived the fall, dangling from a half-clipped-on parachute he had been taught to operate just the week before. Once he had climbed down the 6 metres from the tree, he sought help from a nearby house.

Further details here.

Clive often reflected on the fact he had benefited from 'the rub of the green' and, in many conversations, he would often comment about how lucky he thought he was in life.

By the time the war ended, Clive's relationship with Marian was becoming serious – there were tears when he left for Southampton to board the ship back to NZ, but Clive vowed he would be back.

He was, and a lot sooner than expected as, on arrival at the ship, his commander decided he was not going to have his men travel back to New Zealand in such cramped quarters, and asked for volunteers to delay their return.

The little bird was on Clive's shoulder again - he caught the next available train back to London, and knocked on a very surprised Marian's door.

He spent the next week walking the bombed streets trying to buy a ring, no easy task when jewellery was so low on the nation's priorities, but found something suitable from a jeweller whose shoe-box size shop had escaped the Luftwaffe's attention.

The couple were married in London shortly after, but had to come out to New Zealand on separate ships.

Above: Taken with his 75 squadron crew members: L-R: Fl/Sgt Clive Estcourt - air bomber NZ/391045, Fl/Sgt David Light - mid-upper gunner NZ4212848, P/O. John Rees Layton - pilot NZ/425914, Fl/Sgt. John Christie - navigator NZ/4212829, Fl/Sgt Leslie Dixon Moore - rear gunner NZ/421327, Sgt. F. Samuel - flight engineer RAFVR, Fl/Sgt. Ta Tio Tuaine Nicholas - wireless operator NZ/425658.

The newlyweds were able to secure a state house in Fairfield Rd, which Clive subsequently purchased, and in which he lived for the rest of his long life.

It was not long before son Paul, and twins, Trina and Pat, were on the scene. Marian's mother Cis also came to live with them.

On returning to Hamilton, Clive was placed on General Reserve and in 1953, Active Reserve, before a full discharge from the RNZAF in 1972. He had a long association with the officers' mess at Base Te Rapa (now The Base shopping Centre), and the local and national RNZAF branches.

Nephew Ken Sowman told those at the funeral that, in those days, he did not know much about the organisations. 'In fact, I thought it was some sort of secret society. Of course, I realised later what this meant to him, the incredible lifelong friendships he developed, and how he so much enjoyed volunteering his time to the air force community. His service was recognised with the Cadet Long Service Medal and he was made an Honourable Life Officer of the National Association.\

Clive returned to sign-writing in Hamilton. He was with Ray Starr (himself a returned serviceman) for quite a number of years, before joining Smith and Brown, doing both sign-writing, and the setup of new stores, until retirement in 1982.

Ken said one of his most indelible memories was of Clive in his shed at nights and weekends sign-writing posters to promote films.

Clive was then a smoker - in fact the shed still houses over 500 empty tins that contained roll your own tobacco. When we were allowed into the shed you viewed, through considerable cigarette haze, these amazing posters, and a collection of model aircraft he had built.'

As one who had experienced much death, family and friendships were an important part in Clive's life. He would visit his sister Nola once a week after she was widowed, and took great pride in his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He had a special bond with grandson Gary, who has a disability, and the two would support one another up and down the stairs at Te Rapa racecourse so Gary could enjoy a day at the races.

Clive devoted considerable time and energy to making sure Gary enjoyed his life as much as anyone else, and the remarkable compassion, love, and mateship he displayed is an example to all.

Late in life, Clive had one more mission to fly. In 2012 he was the oldest, at 94, of 32 veterans who were flown to London by the RNZAF for the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, London.

Above: Another fitting tribute came in April 2015 when he was presented with the Legion of Honour by the French ambassador, Florence jeanblanc-Risler. Rear 3rd from left John Moore Morris (1), John Leslie Munro (2), Hugh Graham Findlater (3), Noel William Sutherland (4). Front - Keith Marwood Boles (5), Clive Escourt, Ambassador, Neil Hayton (6) and Roger Mclean (7).

Clive was fiercely independent and drove a car, and stayed in his own home, right up to the last few weeks of his life.

Clive was the dearly loved husband of the late Marian. Dearly loved father and father-in-law of Paul and Cherry, Trina and Kevin, and Pat. Loved pop of Kelly, Ben and Taryn, Kerry, Dan and Jen, Gary, Melanie, Dean and Kristen, and the late Jane. Loved great-pop of Morgan, Kaley, Connor, Jordyn, Lily, and Rayne.

Clive's brother 28 year old, F/O. Kenneth Trevor Estcourt (shown left) NZ/417042 flying in the same capacity on a 90 squadron Stirling I EF349 shot down by a night fighter on an operation to Wuppertal.

Son of Leonard Horace Estcourt (died on the 13th April 1931, age 48) and Jane Escourt (née Woodward - died 12th November 1942, age 59) of Hamilton.

Above: 27th March 1918: (Sold for $3,400 NZD) Estcourt's war mementos are being offered for sale at auction. One of the lot's highlights is an ink signed and detailed bra. It dates to 01st August 1944 and is signed by Estcourt's fellow crew members and names 42 towns and cities, which the auctioneers believe was bombed by them.

Other items include two RAF 8.5lb practice bombs, Estcourt's leather flying money belt, flying sunglasses, badges, cloth maps, brass and plastic model planes and archive material from the Te Rapa Air Force base which was closed in 1992.

(1) Fl/Lt. John Moore Morris NZ/422424 - Born 01st July 1923 - Died 05th January 2017 Taken PoW 29th July 1944.
(2) Sq/Ldr. John Leslie Munro NZ/413942 - Born 5 April 1919 - Died 4 August 2015 Served with 617 Squadron
(3) Hugh Graham Findlater NZ/416969 - Served with 180, 242 Squadron
(4) Noel William Sutherland NZ/422329 - Born 31st December 1920 - Died 23rd May 2017, age 96
(5) Sq/Ldr. Keith Marwood Boles NZ/413017 - Born 31st January 1921 - Died 24th October 2021
(6) Neil Hayton - seek further information
(7) Roger Mclean - - seek further information

KTY 12-11-2021

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• Last Modified: 12 November 2021, 20:25 •