Serial Number: NZ402587
RNZAF Trade: Flight Mechanic
Date of Enlistment: 19th of July 1940
Rank Achieved: Leading Aircraftsman
Flying Hours: nil (passenger only)
Operational Sorties: nil
Date of Birth: Born on the 2nd of June 1918, at Ngaruawhahia
Personal Details: Arthur was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur H. Clayton of Victoria Road, Cambridge, and husband of Mrs Dorothy Ivy Clayton of Hamilton Road, Cambridge. He was educated at Cambridge Primary School and Hamilton Technical High School.
Prior to the war Arthur had been an apprentice mechanic at Wilkinson & Co, Cambridge, a motorcar garage. Arthur was keen on motorcycling, golf and tennis
The following excerpt comes from page 17 of The New Zealand Observer magazine, which was a social magazine of the day, dated the 31st of December 1941. This snippet of news, written by a Cambridge-based columnist identified only as SALLY who wrote the column with seemingly only female readers in mind, came under the section "Waikato Doings" and the subheading "Cambridge Sidelights";
"The Patriotic Committee staged a morning tea recently for Arthur Clayton, who is a Leading Aircraftsman with the RAF, and is the son of A.H. Clayton (whose family, by the way, dates back to the very early days here). Attractive floral decorations of sweet peas and irises adorned the tables, and some of the committee and visitors there to honour Arthur were Mrs Edgar James (Mayoress), Mrs Graham Taylor, Mrs Arthur Nicholl, Mrs A.H. Clayton, Mrs Norman Macky, Mrs A. Clayton (junior), Mrs Cliff Haworth, Mrs R. Newcombe, Mrs A.J. Swayne and June Clayton."
Note - Arthur was in the RNZAF, not the RAF as reported above. The Waikato Independent reported on the same event on the 24th of December 1941 thus:
AIR FORCE MEMBER HONOURED
"A morning tea in honour of Leading Aircraftman Arthur Clayton was arranged on Friday by the Patriotic Committee. Bowls of irises, larkspur and sweet peas were arranged at the tables. Those present were: Mesdames E. James, A.H. Clayton, H.E. Amyes, W. Munore, H. Bear, J. Jeans, R. Newcombe, A.H. Nicholl, Jack Haworth, A.N. Macky, A. Clayton, jnr., C.R. Howarth, G.G.L. Taylor, Davies, Snr., D.G. Russell, A.J. Swayne, Misses D. Newcombe and J. Clayton."
Service Details Arthur enlisted at RNZAF Station Hobsonville on the 19th of July 1940, and after intiation into the Air Force he was posted to RNZAF Rongotai for technical training on the 23rd of August 1940. He completed his training as a Flight Mechanic in January 1941, and on the 21st of that month was posted to Whenuapai.
Arthur served with No. 1 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron at Whenuapai till the 23rd of December 1941 when he was posted to Fiji.
He had served as a flight mechanic in the RNZAF for two years before he tragically disappeared in Lockheed Hudson NZ2028, whilst onboard to carry out a daily inspection during a regular transit flight
Details of Death: On the 25th of July 1942, Arthur took off in Lockheed Hudson NZ2028 from Nausori at 09:19hrs. The Hudson was to deliver two Army officers to Tonga. The aircraft failed to arrive at the scheduled time 3 hrs and 25 mins later. Late in the afternoon a message was received that NZ2028 had only an hour's fuel remaining and that the aircraft was lost due to deteriorating weather.
Contact was made with control at Tonga who guided the Hudson to within a few miles of its destination. Unfortunately the American radar controller confused the Hudson with US Navy aircraft from a carrier in the area, and the Hudson failed to make landfall. The last contact was heard at 17:20hrs, and the Hudson apparently ditched soon afterwards into the sea south of Tonga, within 10 miles of the airfield.
Despite extensive air and sea searches no trace was found of the ditched aircraft and crew. One of the passengers killed was Major General Owen Herbert Mead CBE, who was the highest-ranking New Zealander to be killed in the Pacific war, and was General Officer Commanding the Pacific Section of the 2NZEF. Arthur was aged 24
Of some interest, before the aircraft took off from Nausori a parade of the station's RNZAF contingent was held. Taking part was Cambridge's Phil White, who was based there. He knew Arthur and the two were able to briefly meet up before this fateful flight. Phil's widow Julia says he took a photo of the Hudson as it took off on that day - undoubtedly this was the last record of that bomber. However she has mislaid the photo. Hopefully if she finds it we can add it to this page.
Commemorated at: Arthur's body was never found, and he is commemorated on Panel 8 of the Bourail Memorial
Connection with Cambridge: Arthur was formerly a resident of Cambridge, New Zealand for many years prewar
Note: Details of this airman's death were sourced from the excellent volumes of 'For Your Tomorrow' by Errol Martyn.