|Pilot Officer (Air Observer) John Clements, RCAF|
RAF Waddington today remains as one of the Royal Air Force's mainstay airfields. It is currently the home of the RAF's Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Units. They utilize NATO AWACs, flying the E-3 Sentry and Raytheon Sentinel aircraft, and the unmanned MQ-9 Reaper weapon. RAF Waddington is the home of 34 Air Wing, Combat Support Group 2 as well as the base of many flying and non-flying RAF units. It is the home base of the RAF Red Arrows aerobatic display team, the Lincolncolnshire County Ambulance (helicopter), and the only flying Avro B-1 Vulcan bomber. The RAF Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster, Spitfires, Hurricane and Dakota are frequent guests from nearby RAF Coningsby while the field is host since 1995 to the RAF Waddington International Air Show as well as being a nuclear weapon dispersal site. A very busy place and also home to my daughter Beverly, her husband Greg a RAF Corporal, and their young family.
The field was built in 1916 as a Royal Flying Corps training station. Its first occupant was 44 Squadron in 1917 flying Sopwith Camels and commanded by later World War II Bomber Command Leader "Bomber" Harris the Squadron being based here intermittently until 1982. During World War Two, RAF Waddington functioned as a large base for front line Bomber Command Squadrons particularly again 44 Squadron who entered the airbase once more in 1937 and later in the war were the first RAF Squadron to fly the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber. The field is ideally located higher up in elevation from the surrounding fens, positioned a few miles from the English Channel and fast flying times to the Lowland countries of Holland and Belgium, and facing favourable prevailing winds.
The town of Waddington still maintains its Elizabethan-era charm albeit with a modern grocery mart and take-out food stores. St. Michael's Church, Three Horseshoes Pub and Market Square still are main destinations within the town as they were during the war. It was in this context that myself and wife Lynn decided to spend a couple of weeks visiting Bev and her young family and tour the surrounding countryside. When arranging our visit I noted that St. Michael's Cemetery was the final resting place to a number of RAF men, specifically one Canadian whose Common War Graves Commission listing showed that Pilot Officer (Air Observer) John Russell Clements RCAF was in fact a native of Milton, Ontario our new hometown.
John Clements was the grandson of one of Milton's first families William Clements and Drusilla Bowbeer. He was born June 8, 1915 as the first son to Captain Russell Matthew Clements and wife Alma Pearl Burling. Russell Matthew had served in the South Africa War (Boer War) 1899-1902 with the Canadian Mounted Rifles at a very young age (b.1884). He was awarded Boer War Land Grant #366. Post war he remained with the local militia unit the 20th Halton Rifles 13 years rising to the rank of Captain. He enlisted in World War One in Ottawa with the Canadian Army Service Corps # 2688437 but returned to Milton to supervise recruiting of the recently raised 164th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Post World War One, Russell Clements became the town postmaster and fulfilled several town functions at various times.
John Russell Clements spent his early life in Milton attending public school and Milton High School in this picturesque town. He was a 1938 graduate of the University of Toronto and obtained employment in Sudbury's Hollinger mines as an engineer. This is where he was employed when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in North Bay September 1940. Like most young Canadian men that enlisted in the R.C.A.F., John probably had dreams of flying a fighter Spitfire aircraft into the bowels of Germany. However that was not to be. He eventually ended up as a Pilot Officer (Air Observer) helping to fly large twin-engined Manchester bomber aircraft in British 207 Squadron, RAF out of RAF Waddington September 1942.
|The infamous Avro Manchester 2-engined heavy bomber|
|P/O John Russell Clements, RCAF, Milton, ON|