How Flintshire RAF pilot’s death sparked family search

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

JACK Clatworthy was just 21 when he was killed in a Royal Air Force pilot training exercise.

Now, nearly 70 years later, his family have finally found the North Wales spot where he died.

Jack, based at RAF Sealand, was killed when the Miles Master aircraft he was flying crashed into a mountainous area on farmland at Nannerch, Flintshire.

Had he completed his training he may have gone on to fly Spitfires during the Second World War.

Jack’s death in December 1940 hit his family hard and became something of a taboo subject.

But a desire to find out more led to Jack’s sister-in-law Frances Clatworthy, his niece Sue Upstone and her partner Jim Nicholas making a special visit to the region from Watchet, Somerset, shortly before the 70th anniversary of his death.

Sue, 59, began her search after her father Geoffrey, Jack’s younger brother, died earlier this year.

She said: “I never knew my uncle and what happened to him was something that was not talked about.

“It had obviously upset my father a lot that he had lost his brother. He idolised him and I’m sure he would have been very pleased that we had done this for him.

“It was not until my father had a stroke towards the end of his life that he started to talk about his brother and things began to unravel.

“I feel coming up to Flintshire has allowed us to lay a ghost in our family.

“I am so glad we have done this and got to find out more about what happened to Uncle Jack.

“We were so pleased at all the kindness shown to us during our visit to Flintshire and being able to visit the site where he died.”

After visiting Hawarden Record Office to see the coroner’s report on Jack’s death, the family found where he died the following day.

A beach pebble was left at the site as a memorial and some of Geoffrey’s ashes were scattered on the field.

The family also met Shelley Thompson, whose father had run the farm during the war; Alvey Pinder, who had witnessed the fatal crash as a young boy, and Mike Grant, of the RAF Historical Society.

Although some details of Jack’s life remain unclear, he is known to have been a keen sportsman who played rugby for the RAF and was a good mathematician.

RAF discharge reports described him as being a man of “good character”.

Mr Grant said: “This was very sadly a common occurrence.

“The family’s involvement has allowed me to learn more about what happened.”

Mrs Clatworthy, 88, said the visit to Nannerch “will be indelible in my memory” and thanked Mold Broncoed councillor Haydn Bateman for his help in organising the visit.

He said: “I was only too happy to welcome the family from Somerset and to help them.

“It is important we are able to celebrate Flintshire’s contribution to the war and the Battle of Britain.”

See full story in the Leader

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