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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Clark, James (1915–1944)

by Keith Isaacs

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

James Clark (1915-1944), by Eric Kennington, c1941

James Clark (1915-1944), by Eric Kennington, c1941

Australian War Memorial, SUK10814

James Clark (1915-1944), air force officer, was born on 28 August 1915 at Waverley, Sydney, son of David Clark, carpenter, and his wife Mary McFarlane, née Kilpatrick, both Scottish born. Educated at Sydney Boys' High School, James was employed as a clerk by the Macarthur-Onslow family company, Camden Park Estate Pty Ltd, at Menangle. In his spare time he studied accountancy, and played cricket (at which he had represented his school) and tennis in the Camden district. On 19 August 1940 Clark enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. He gave his religion as Presbyterian, and was recorded as being 5 ft 8 ins (173 cm) tall, 11 st. 6 lb. (73 kg) in weight, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.

After attending No.5 Elementary Flying Training School at Narromine, in December Clark went to Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme. He gained his flying badge at No.4 Service Flying Training School, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was promoted pilot officer on 16 May 1941 and arrived in England next month for operational training at Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. On 6 September he joined No.458 Squadron, R.A.A.F., and flew Wellington bombers from the Royal Air Force Station at Holme, Yorkshire. His targets included Brest, Calais and Boulogne, France, Emden, Germany, and Ostend (Oostende), Belgium; he also attacked the German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. In February 1942 the squadron was sent to the Middle East and in August Clark transferred to No.148 Squadron, R.A.F.

Operating from Egypt in support of the Eighth Army, he participated in numerous sorties over Libya. He devised and pressed home new methods of attack, damaging enemy motor transport and starting fires in the dock area of Tobruk. For his deeds he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (1943). By January 1943 Flight Lieutenant Clark was back in England, instructing Australian aircrew at No.27 Operational Training Unit, Lichfield, Staffordshire. He married Ivy Eileen ('Cherrie') Cook on 10 July that year in the parish church, Normanton, Yorkshire. On 13 September he was posted to No.460 Squadron, R.A.A.F., which was equipped with Lancaster bombers and stationed at Binbrook, Lincolnshire. Having completed navigation training, he was appointed a flight commander and subsequently assumed temporary command of the squadron.

Clark was a retiring, even shy, man, who kept most of his private life to himself. As an airman, he was popular: sincere and dedicated, he set a high example. For his later service in England, he was mentioned in dispatches, awarded the Air Force Cross (1944) and on 1 October 1944 promoted acting squadron leader. On the night of 12-13 December No.460 Squadron took part in a 'topping-up' raid against Essen, Germany; it was 'a heavy blow' to the squadron when his aircraft went missing and he was presumed dead. His wife and infant son survived him. Eric Kennington's pastel portrait of Clark is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • P. C. Firkins, Strike and Return (Perth, no date)
  • J. Herington, Air Power Over Europe 1944-45 (Canb, 1963)
  • P. Alexander, We Find and Destroy (Syd, 1979)
  • Australian War Memorial records
  • private information.

Citation details

Keith Isaacs, 'Clark, James (1915–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 20 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

James Clark (1915-1944), by Eric Kennington, c1941

James Clark (1915-1944), by Eric Kennington, c1941

Australian War Memorial, SUK10814