Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Arthur Ross Clayton (1876–1963)

by William A. Land

This article was published:

Arthur Ross Clayton (1876-1963), medical practitioner, was born on 14 May 1876 at Yankalilla, South Australia, son of John Woods Clayton, storekeeper, and his wife Elizabeth, née Cornish. Educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide, and the University of Adelaide (M.B.,B.S., 1902) he was resident surgeon at the Adelaide Hospital in 1903, then went abroad for postgraduate study (L.R.C.P., London; M.R.C.S., England, 1905). After returning home he went into general practice at Moonta in 1907, and was appointed surgeon to the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining and Smelting Co. (1908) and medical officer of health for Moonta (1909). Three years later he was commissioned in the Australian Army Medical Corps, and before the outbreak of World War I was regimental medical officer to the 24th Light Horse.

On 10 September 1915 Clayton joined the Australian Imperial Force as a captain, and on reaching Egypt served at the 1st Australian General Hospital and the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Heliopolis. He was transferred to the 7th and 6th Field Ambulances in March 1916 and then to the newly formed 12th Field Ambulance which reached France in June; from August his unit was based at Bécourt on the Somme, dealing with casualties from the battles of Pozières and Mouquet Farm. Clayton was promoted to major in November and transferred to the 8th Field Ambulance as second-in-command. He was placed in charge of the 5th Divisional Rest Station at Vignacourt and, early in 1917, of the 1st Anzac Corps Rest Station at Bellevue Farm during operations at Bapaume. During the battles of Bullecourt he served at the 5th Division's main dressing stations and from October to December was acting commander of his unit.

Early in 1918 the 8th Field Ambulance remained with the 5th Division on the Somme. Clayton resumed temporary command in February and, except for a period in April-May, retained command until the Armistice. He was slightly wounded in action in April and was mentioned in dispatches and made temporary lieutenant-colonel in May; in June he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. After the A.I.F.'s final Hindenburg Line operations he was posted to 5th Division hospitals in northern France and Belgium; he was confirmed as lieutenant-colonel in November and from April 1919 was commanding officer of the A.I.F.'s remaining divisional field ambulances in Belgium.

Clayton returned to Australia in August 1919 and was discharged in December. He was made a lieutenant-colonel in the Australian Military Forces in 1920 and was area medical officer at Moonta and Kadina before being placed on the unattached list in 1922. After demobilization he had resumed medical practice at Moonta and on 12 September 1922 at St Mary's Anglican Church, Wallaroo, married Nellie Mabel Mary Harbison; they had no children. Clayton remained at Moonta until his death on 2 September 1963; his wife had predeceased him. He was among the community's most prominent citizens and was mayor of the Moonta Corporation in 1924-26 and 1939-40. He was a warden of the local Anglican church and a Freemason. Clayton was tall, well built and distinguished in appearance and in his youth was a keen sportsman.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916-17 (Syd, 1929, 1933)
  • A. G. Butler (ed), The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918, vol 2 (Canb, 1940)
  • London Gazette, 28 May, 3 June 1918
  • People's Weekly (Moonta), 6 Sept 1963
  • A. R. Clayton file (Australian War Memorial)
  • war diary of the 8th Field Ambulance, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

William A. Land, 'Clayton, Arthur Ross (1876–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 May, 1876
Yankalilla, South Australia, Australia


2 September, 1963 (aged 87)
Moonta, South Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.