Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Air Commodore Arthur Edmund Clouston 1908-1984

Having learned to fly in his native New Zealand, he joined the RAF on a short service commission and was posted to No 3 FTS at Grantham (Spittlegate). Joining 3 FTS on the same course as K B B Cross (later ACM Sir Kenneth), he was promoted to the senior term after only 2 - 3 hours owing to his previous experience. Posted to No 25 Squadron flying Fury I's at Hawkinge, he spent the next three years there before moving to No 24 Squadron at Hendon. No 24 was classed as a Communications squadron and carried out a wide range of duties from refresher flying training to VIP transport using a multitude of aircraft types.
When his SSC ended in 1935 he was offered a permanent commission, but turned it down having already decided to forge a career in civil flying back home in New Zealand. However, these plans changed when having transferred to the RAFO, he was offered one of the two newly created posts of civilian test pilots at the RAE Farnborough. During his time at Farnborough he carried out tests into the effects of wires on aircraft and countermeasures against them, as in the case of barrage balloons as well as conducting test flights examining the effects of ice accrual on aircraft flying surfaces. In his own time he also found time to establish a number of distance records including a flight to Cape Town (from Croydon) between 14 and 20 November 1937, with Betty Kirby-Green, in a flight time of 17 hours 28 minutes and the following year he set a record for a return flight from London to New Zealand of 10 days 21 hours 22 minutes. Just prior to WW2, he was attached to Westlands in a private capacity by AVM Tedder, to carry out tests on the new twin engined fighter, the Whirlwind.
Recalled to duty on the outbreak of WW2, in the rank of Acting Squadron Leader, he continued research flying, including tests into the possibility of using flares to illuminate enemy bombers to enable night fighters to make interceptions. In order to gain a better understanding of the problems involved in night fighting, he requested an attachment to a operational squadron, serving with 219 Squadron from Redhill for a month. Further tests in the night fighting sphere followed his return to Farnborough when he was tasked with carrying out trials with the Turbinlite, designed by Air Commodore Helmore and fitted into the nose of Douglas Boston.
Having also carried out tests with the Leigh Light and badgered the authorities to give him an operational posting, it was fitting that he should be given command of No 224 Squadron, a Liberator anti-submarine unit based at Beaulieu. After nearly a year in command of 224, he was promoted Group Captain and appointed CO of the still incomplete Coastal Command station at Langham in Norfolk. Here he was responsible for two Beaufighter strike squadrons, No 455 (RAAF) and No 489 (RNZAF). With the end of the war, he was posted to Germany to command the airstrip, B151, later renamed Buckeburg and expanded, the base would become the headquarters of the British Air Forces of Occupation.
It was whilst at Buckeburg he was offered a permanent commission in the RAF, which he accepted. However, also at this time he was offered the post of Director-General of Civil Aviation in New Zealand. Replying that he was interested but would need Air Ministry approval, the New Zealand government formally announced his appointment, which resulting in the Air Ministry refusing to release him. Possibly as a consolation, he received a secondment to the RNZAF for two years as CO of RNZAF Ohakea. With his experience as a test pilot, it was highly appropriate that in 1950 he should be appointed Commandant of the Empire Test Pilots School, a post he held for three years. Promoted Air Commodore, he returned to the East as AOC Singapore for three years before once again returning the world of aircraft testing as Commandant of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down.