Rank & Name: F/Sgt T. Clark
Date of Death: Still Flying


Recently contacted by Owen Clark, the son of Tom 'Nobby' Clark who is also the official historian of No. 47 Sqn RAF. Owen submitted the following.

My father F/Sgt Tom Clark (service number 578758 ) served with 59 Sqn as a Wireless Operator Mechanic/ Air Gunner. His nickname was Nobby.

He was born in Yorkshire in February 1925 and after leaving Thorn Grammar school at the age of 16 spent the next year working as a draftsman until he could join the RAF as an apprentice on his 17th birthday. Dad was determined to be aircrew and decided that to make this more likely he needed to join the RAF as a regular rather than volunteer for the RAFVR and thus he signed up for 10 years. This made him a bit of a rarity in his crew most of whom were RAFVR.

Dad did his apprentiship training at RAF Cranwell and started his aircrew training at RAF Penrhos in wales on 9(O) AFU doing gunner practice from an Avro Anson. In October 1944 he left the UK on the Queen Mary to go to the US. On arriving in New York he was sent south by train to Florida and then flown to Nassau in the Bahamas to join 111 OTU where he crewed up. Initial training was done on NA Mitchell Mk I (B-25B, These aircraft were unique to 111 OTU as they were deemed unsuitable for front line operations.) The crew then started on the Liberator, mostly GRIII and Vs.

In January 1945 he returned to the UK joining 1674 HCU at RAF Aldergrove in Northern Ireland to get fully proficient on the Liberator GRVIII before joining 59 Squadron at the end of April 1945, going operational on 1st May

The Squadron boss at the time was W/Cdr NB Littlejohn and Flying Officer Rigg dad’s skipper.

Tom's Skipper, F/O Rigg is seated 2nd from the right.

Post war he stayed with 59 Sqn until September 1945 when he was posted to 12 Ferry Unit, still on Liberators. He converted to Handley Page Halifax A Mk VII and IXs with 1665 H(T)CU being posted to 297 Sqn in June 1946 doing glider towing and Para dropping attached to British Airborne Forces. In 1948 he was posted to 47 Sqn in Oct for conversion to Handley Page Hastings C.1 and within weeks was on the Berlin Air Lift. He flew over 160 sorties to Berlin and back over the next 10 months flying in supplies, mostly coal. He left the RAF in 1950 and joined Marconi Radio ltd, later moving to the Post Office and finished his career as Director Maritime Radio for British Telecom. Interestingly a year after he retired he joined Voluntary Service Overseas and spent two very happy years in Western Samoa working in telecoms at the main post office in Apia.

Liberator GR.Mk.VIII

The Liberator GRVIII was for its time probably the most advanced anti-submarine long range patrol aircraft operating over the North Atlantic. Dad’s aircraft was equipped with centimetric ASV search radar which allegedly could pick up a U-Boat’s snorkel at a range of up to 5 miles in calm seas. The aeroplane also carried sonar buoys (HIGH TEA) which could be dropped in a pre-set pattern to detect and track submerged U-Boats. Offensively it carried the standard 250lb depth charge but also Fido (the Mk24 Mine) FIDO was an American developed homing torpedo which could home in on the engine noise of a submerged U-Boat. The was a highly secret weapon and thus orders were issued that it was only to be dropped after a U-Boat had dived and never in the presence of more than one U-Boat. Thus if a U-Boat was detected running on the surface it had to be attacked to try and convince it to dive before FIDO could be deployed, sometimes a U-Boat would not play the game and remained on the surface to fight it out with the attacking aircraft, relying on its array of 20mm and 37mm anti-aircraft guns and the skill and determination of its gunners. The need to carry long range tanks in the forward bomb bay restricted the aircrafts load to probably 6 x 250lb Depth Charge 2 x FIDO.

Although the B-24J/GR VIII was built with an upper gun turret just aft of the cockpit, Dad seems to recall that these were removed in the case of Coastal Command aircraft to save weight and also because the likelihood of having to defend the aircraft from attack from above was considered remote. I have never been able to establish if this is true or not as all the photos I have seen of 59 Sqn GR VIIIs are inconclusive. Most photos of GRVIIIs in other Coastal Command Squadrons I have seen do show a M/U turret Do you have any information or photos that would clarify this?

Patrols would be long and tedious 16-18 hrs. with the chance of spotting a U-Boat very poor. The aircraft would be operating alone at relatively low level, not an altitude that the Liberator was designed for or particularly happy at. The chances of being picked up if forced to ditch very slim indeed, and even the approach into Ballykelly in bad weather was not good, though by this time they did have the BABS blind approach system in place.

When the Germans surrendered in May 1945 all U-Boats at sea were ordered to surface and proceed to Allied ports. To indicate their compliance the crews were ordered to fly a black flag (Because they didn’t carry a white flag?) U-Boats were now popping up all over the place, but there was still a natural suspicion and caution. Dad recalls circling a surrendering U-Boat just out of range of the submarine’s Flak guns which tracked the aircraft never quite sure if it was about to turn into attack. This continued until the Royal Navy turned up to take over the escort duties. Dad has at home a pencil drawing of Danzig from before the war that he claims he liberated from the captain’s cabin of a captured U-Boat.


Thank you Owen.


Further Information

If you have any information about Tom Clark, please contact me, thank you.