Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Getting Clear Away

Just before 1730 on Sunday the 17th of March 1918 Lt Edwin Arnold Clear banked his SE.5a through the skies above Crevecoeur.  The patrol he was part of, from 84 Squadron, had suddenly become engaged with some nine enemy aircraft. Below him Lt Clear could see a Fokker Dr.I closing on his patrol leader. Lt Clear angled his plane down and dived on the Fokker. The German seeing Lt Clear’s aircraft coming down on him made a sharp turn to its port side, directly towards a cloud bank. Coming round the clouds at the same time, the other way was, an Albatross D.V, and both German aircraft collided. Lt Clear was awarded the credit for both aircraft and they brought his tally up to five, making him an ace. 

First World War dogfight.... Or is it? It is one of a series of faked pictures. Would you like to know more?

Lt Clear had spent most of the war as a vehicle mechanic in Egypt, before volunteering for the Royal Flying Corp in April 1917. He was commissioned in September, and dispatched to France and 84 Squadron in October. All his career had been on SE.5a’s. His first confirmed victory was a German Observation plane in January, which he shot down in flames. By the war’s end Lt Clear would get twelve kills, with the last on the 28th of May. The following month he was pulled from combat patrols and sent to work as an instructor in the UK. He was awarded a Military Cross for his service, and the number of kills he had obtained, although the MC was awarded sometime after his 7th kill at the end of March 1918. 

Random First world War SE.5a picture.

Shortly after the end of the war Lt Clear decided to show off and flew under a bridge. As this sort of showboating was strongly discouraged in the RAF Lt Clear was duly arrested and sent for Court Martial. He promptly escaped, and found himself at RAF Shotwick, in North Wales, where he saw an SE.5a, which he promptly stole, he decided to flee to Ireland. He flew for several hours before alighting on an island, only to find he was on the Isle of Man. Upon learning of his mistake, he decided to continue to Ireland, however, before he left, he gave an impromptu aerobatics display for the locals. Halfway through the SE.5a’s engine cut out, and he crashed. 

Replica Se.5a during filming for the film Richthofen & Brown

Lt Clear survived, largely unharmed and was arrested by the authorities. He was back at his original airbase of RAF Poulton shortly afterwards. From his escape to return he had been AWOL for five days. He was Court Martialled two months later in July. He pleaded not guilty to the original charge of low flying, but did plead guilty to stealing the SE.5a. In a remarkable turn his punishment was limited to loss of seniority, and his pay being docked for the price of the SE.5a.

In September 1919 the wounds sustained during his crash caused him to drop from the active list into the RAF Reserve, where he would remain until 1935. Ill health caused him to slowly drift down the fitness scales until in 1935 he left the RAF Reserve. This was caused not only by his wounds, but also as his mental situation deteriorated. Suffering from mental problems he was eventually admitted to the Bethlem Royal Hospital where he stayed for many years. Interestingly, in 1939, while still listed as a patient housed at the hospital, he was holding down a job as a railways clerk.

During his life he married once, and had two children, although how they fit into the above story is not immediately obvious. Edwin Clear died on the 15 February 1960 at St Pancras Hospital (some sources give his death as 21st Feb in Barnet). 


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