Surrey’s Battle of Britain heroes: 101-year-old Terry Clark
PUBLISHED: 17:03 17 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:02 14 July 2020
Malcolm Triggs remembers one of the last remaining of ‘the Few’ who kept this country safe from invasion during the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940
Since this article was first published Terry has sadly passed away in May 2020 at the age of 101.
Those in the know are cautious about putting a firm figure on how many of “the Few” are still alive, although the commonly quoted figure of four (at the time of writing) is unlikely to be far off.
These days, when data is king and Big Brother ever-present, we forget that 80 years ago, life was very different.
Record-keeping, particularly on a front-line fighter station, was not the main priority when runways were being cratered and newly-trained aircrew sent off to fly within hours of arriving.
Even today, the number who qualified for the Battle of Britain Clasp – flying at least one operational sortie with an accredited RAF unit between July 10 and October 31 1940 – is far from certain, though it is accepted to be just short of 3,000.
Those men, whose names are inscribed on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Wall at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne in Kent, include William Terence (Terry) Clark, who was born in Croydon and will celebrate his 101st birthday on April 11 this year.
Clark joined No 615 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force just before his 19th birthday as an aircrafthand and trained as an air gunner, flying in Hawker Hectors.
It is to recognise the air gunners, radio operators and navigators numbered amongst the Few that the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, custodian of the Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne, is careful to refer to ‘airmen’ rather than ‘pilots’.
Clark joined No 219 Squadron at Catterick on 12 July 1940, two days into the battle, and later trained on radar as a radio observer, flying in Beaufighters.
In July 1941 Clark was awarded the DFM (the non-commissioned equivalent of the DFC) after a number of notable successes intercepting and destroying enemy aircraft.
He was commissioned in May 1942, leaving the RAF in November 1945 as a flight lieutenant.
One anecdote that again highlights the difference between ‘then and now’ tells how Clark was given leave from training as a controller to visit a former colleague, flying officer D Robinson.
Learning that Robinson’s navigator was unfit to fly, Clark took his place on a beach-head patrol, which saw the pair destroy a Ju188.
Churchill’s Few are remembered at the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne in Kent. For more information see battleofbritainmemorial.org