Edwin A. Clear

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Edwin Arnold Clear
Born (1896-05-28)28 May 1896
London, England
Died 21 February 1960(1960-02-21) (aged 63)
London, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service ca. 1915–1919
Rank Lieutenant
Unit No. 84 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Military Cross

Lieutenant Edwin Arnold Clear[1] MC (28 May 1896 – 21 February 1960) was an English World War I flying ace credited with twelve aerial victories. Most unusually for a Royal Air Force ace of the era, all of his victories involved destruction of the enemy aircraft.[2] Ill-health forced him to resign from the RAF in 1919, but he served in the RAF Reserve from 1923 to 1935.

World War I[edit]

Clear originally joined the Royal Flying Corps at the same time as his younger brother Harold, being issued consecutive service numbers (Harold later became a prisoner of war after being shot down behind the German lines). After spending 20 months in Egypt as a vehicle mechanic he was accepted for pilot training,[3] and on 28 April 1917 1st Class Air Mechanic Clear was transferred,[4] and appointed a probationary temporary second lieutenant, being confirmed in the rank on 27 June.[5]

He began his training before departing Egypt, at both Heliopolis and Aboukir. He then returned to England for further training at the Central Flying School at RAF Upavon. He was commissioned in September 1917, and assigned to 84 Squadron in France the following month as a SE.5a pilot.[3]

His first aerial success came on 29 January 1918, when he set a German observation aircraft afire in midair. After a lull, he destroyed another two-seater on 10 March. Five days later, he shot down his first enemy fighter, an Albatros D.V. Then, on 17 March, he was engaged in a dogfight when two of his opponents collided with one another; Clear was credited with both and became an ace. He finished March with a victory on the 30th.[3]

On 12 April, Clear shot down an enemy aircraft on both morning and evening patrols. On the 25th, he downed two more German aircraft within ten minutes. After a month's lapse, he destroyed another Albatros D.V for his final victory on 28 May. In June 1918, he was removed from combat duty and returned to England to train as an instructor,[6] and was awarded the Military Cross for his efforts.[3]

Post World War I[edit]

Clear remained in the nascent Royal Air Force. He remained on flight duty, and was charged for court-martial for flying under a bridge. On 3 May 1919, he escaped from confinement, "borrowed" a SE.5a from RAF Shotwick, and took off. He got lost, and landed on the Isle of Man. After discovering his location, he took off again to impress bystanders with his aerobatics. When his engine cut out, he crashed on the present site of Ronaldsway Airport. He suffered minor injuries, was re-arrested, and returned to his duty station at Chester on 8 May 1919.[7][8]

He denied the original incident but freely admitted taking the aircraft.[9] He faced a court martial at Chester in July 1919. Remarkably his sentence was only to lose his seniority in rank, although the Advocate General did later discuss and confirm that he could have his pay docked to pay for the loss of the aircraft.[10] On 10 September 1919 Clear relinquished his commission on account of ill-health caused by his wounds, but was permitted to retain his rank.[11]

Despite his previous infractions, Clear was granted a probationary commission as a flying officer in the Reserve of Air Force Officers on 31 July 1923;[12] he was confirmed in this rank on 31 January 1924.[13]

On 31 July 1932, Clear was transferred from Class A to Class C within the Reserves.[14] Health problems forced his resignation as of 16 January 1935; he was allowed to retain his rank.[15]

In the early 1930s Clear's mental health began to deteriorate, resulting in him eventually being admitted to the Bethlem Royal Hospital, where he died in 1960.

Honours and awards[edit]

Military Cross
Temporary Second Lieutenant Edward Arnold Clear, General List, Royal Flying Corps.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During an encounter between one of our patrols and nine enemy machines, he observed an enemy triplane which was about to attack his patrol leader from the rear. He at once dived to the attack, firing on the enemy machine, which turned to avoid him and collided with an enemy scout. The two enemy machines crashed to earth locked together. On the following day, during an engagement between 12 of our machines and about 30 enemy scouts, he attacked an enemy triplane which he observed beneath him. He dived after it, and, following it down, eventually destroyed it. He has destroyed seven enemy machines, and has proved himself a most enterprising and courageous pilot.[16]


  1. ^ In several sources, including the London Gazette, he is sometimes listed was EDWARD Arnold Clear.
  2. ^ "Edwin Arnold Clear". The Aerodrome. 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Shores et.al. (1997), pp.108.
  4. ^ "No. 30254". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 August 1917. p. 8872. 
  5. ^ "No. 30286". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 September 1917. p. 9540. 
  6. ^ Personal flying log book in possession of descendant.
  7. ^ Poole (1999), preface.
  8. ^ "Stolen military aircraft". PPRuNe Forums. 28 December 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "Flying Officers Latest "Stunt"". Abergavenny Chronicle & Monmouthshire Advertiser. 20 June 1919. p. 2. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  10. ^ National Archives.
  11. ^ "No. 31851". The London Gazette. 6 April 1920. p. 4139. 
  12. ^ "No. 32849". The London Gazette. 31 July 1923. p. 5244. 
  13. ^ "No. 32904". The London Gazette. 3 February 1924. p. 1066. 
  14. ^ "No. 33874". The London Gazette. 18 October 1932. p. 6559. 
  15. ^ "No. 34124". The London Gazette. 15 January 1935. p. 385. 
  16. ^ "No. 30761". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 June 1918. p. 7406. 
  • Shores, Christopher F.; Franks, Norman & Guest, Russell (1990). Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 0-948817-19-4. 
  • Poole, Steve (April 1999). Rough Landing or Fatal Flight: A history of aircraft accidents on, over, and around the Isle of Man. Laxey, Isle of Man: Amulree Publications. ISBN 978-1-901508-03-1. 
  • Personal flying log book, (private family collection).
  • The National Archives, various records held within Air.