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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. R F H Clerke


Rupert Francis Henry Clerke was born on 13th April 1916 and educated at Eton. He went on to Magdalene College, Cambridge where he read Mechanical Sciences. Whilst there he was a member of the University Air Squadron.

In October 1937 Clerke was granted a Permanent Commission in the RAF as a Universty Entrant. He was posted to 5 FTS Sealand on 25th October and after completing his training joined 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill in June 1938.



Clerke was posted to 79 Squadron at Acklington on 9th July 1940. He shared in the destruction of a He111 off Sunderland on 9th August. He shared in a probable Do17 and a confirmed Me110 on the 15th, destroyed a He59 and probably a Me109 on the 28th, probably destroyed a Ju88 on 6th September and shared in shooting down one He111 and probably another on the 27th.

Clerke was serving with No. 1 PRU at Benson on 13th July 1941 when the first Mosquito, W4051, arrived and on 17th September he flew the first operational sortie, photographing Brest and the Spanish-French frontier.

In October he demonstrated the Mosquito to the King and Queen at Watton, in mock combat with a Spitfire. On the 15th Clerke made a record-breaking flight from Wick to Benson in a Mosquito in 1 hour 32 minutes and on 4th November he made one of the first Mosquito flights overseas, making the trip to Malta in 4 hours 45 minutes, using the cameras as he crossed Italy.

In early 1942 Clerke was posted to 157 Squadron at Castle Camps as a Flight Commander. On 30th September he had the first Mosquito day combat when he shot down a Ju88 thirty miles off the Dutch coast.

Clerke was given command of 125 Squadron at Fairwood Common in December 1942 as an Acting Wing Commander. He destroyed a Do217 on 17th February 1943 and a Ju88 on 13th June, both at night.

Awarded the DFC (gazetted 23rd July 1943), he was then credited with four enemy aircraft destroyed and three shared.

Clerke was posted away from 125 Squadron in October 1943 and commanded RAF Manston from September 1945 to October 1946.

He married Ann Jocelyn Tosswill on 22nd June 1945 in Exeter Cathedral.

He stayed in the RAF postwar, retiring on 9th August 1965 as a Group Captain.

He died in 1988.

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