Squadron Leader Leslie Clark D.F.C.
Squadron Leader Leslie Clark D.F.C.
Born: August 31st 1920, East Ham, London. Died: July 29th 2012 Age 91
On March 19 1943, Clark was the captain of a B17 Flying Fortress with No 206 Squadron, patrolling from Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides around a convoy of 24 merchant vessels that was heading for Britain from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
During a search under a rain squall astern the convoy, a U-boat was detected.
Clark attacked and straddled it with four depth charges.
There was a heavy explosion and a large black oil slick floated to the surface.
It was later confirmed that Clark had sunk U-384, then on its second patrol.
Two months earlier, on January 15, Clark had been flying in mid-Atlantic when he attacked a surfaced U-boat with four depth charges.
The submarine remained visible and Clark’s gunners fired 300 rounds.
The U-boat gradually slipped backwards with its bow at an angle and leaving bubbles and foam on the surface. U-632 had been damaged but managed to return to port.
Clark had a third encounter with a U-boat on June 17.
He was flying from an airfield in Cornwall and patrolling over the Bay of Biscay near the northern coast of Spain when a surfaced submarine was spotted.
U-boat commanders had been ordered to remain on the surface and take on attacking aircraft with their guns.
The submarine took violent evasive action and engaged the Fortress, causing minor damage to the aircraft. Despite heavy return fire, Clark pressed home his attack and his depth charges missed narrowly. As he turned for a second attack, the U-boat dived and four more depth charges landed alongside. U-338 was badly damaged and forced to return to St Nazaire.
Clark was awarded a DFC.
On the outbreak of war he volunteered for service in the RAF and trained as a pilot, completing his specialist maritime training in Canada.
Clark joined No 206 Squadron to fly the American-built Lockheed Hudson on anti-submarine patrols from Aldergrove in Northern Ireland.
He completed 41 sorties before being selected to fly a modified Hudson on a meteorological reconnaissance sortie over the North Atlantic.
Additional fuel tanks were fitted to the aircraft which necessitated the removal of the depth charges.
During the sortie Clark spotted a surfaced U-boat but, to his frustration, could fire only at the conning tower.
On the night of June 25/26, Air Marshal Arthur Harris, Bomber Command’s Commander-in-Chief, unleashed the third of his “1,000 Bomber Raids”, with Bremen the target.
He called on Coastal Command to help bring the force up to the required number of aircraft.
Three Hudsons from No 206 were deployed, and Clark bombed Bremen from 8,000ft before returning to an airfield in Lincolnshire. The other two Hudsons were lost.
By the middle of July 1943, Clark had completed 103 operational sorties and was rested.
For the next two years he flew a wide variety of aircraft on radar experimental work for the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), which operated an airfield at Defford in Worcestershire close to its base at Malvern.
Clark was mentioned in despatches.
He returned to civilian life in 1946 and spent the rest of his career with the paper merchants JD Henderson in the City of London, rising to become managing director.
He retired to Devon in 1980.
Clark was awarded a Devon county badge for indoor and outdoor bowls.
He was president of the Sidmouth Bowling Club and later qualified as a county umpire.
He and his wife were keen ballroom and sequence dancers, achieving gold medal standard.
Leslie Clark married Wynne Taylor on July 7 1943, the day he received a telegram announcing the award of his DFC.
His wife and their son survive him.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard of the Spixworthonian Language School.