A Reflection on the Life of Pilot Officer J. Kenneth G. Clifton
On 1st September 2020, Daphne and John Clifton visited the memorial near the spot where their Uncle, Pilot Officer John Kenneth Grahame Clifton, lost his life at the height of The Battle of Britain.
Daphne has discovered, from family correspondence, that Kenneth wanted to be ordained if he had survived the war. As she is a Non-Stipendiary Minister in the Church of England, Daphne wrote this reflection for the 80th anniversary of his passing.
John Kenneth Grahame Clifton
Born 20.10.1918 Died 1.9.1940
Killed in action, aged 21 years
An Airman’s prayer
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Give us courage and make us brave;
Protect us whereso’er we go,
From shell and flak and fire and foe.
“I am the resurrection and the life,” says the Lord. “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26, The Bible
We have come here today to remember before God, our brother Kenneth and to give thanks for his short life and his courage in the face of unimaginable fear. The uncle we never met, the brother and son so sorely missed for decades. Now, reunited, in Christ, our eternal hope.
A poem found in Kenneth’s prayer book
(‘O Valiant Hearts’ text by John Stanhope Arkwright)
O Valiant hearts, who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.
Proud you gathered, rank on rank, to war,
As who had heard God’s message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave
To save mankind – yourself you scorned to save.
Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
Rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
While in the frailty of our human clay
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self-same way.
Still stands his Cross from the dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still through the vale, the Victor’s pitying eyes
Look down to bless our less Calvaries.
O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
Whose Cross has brought them and whose staff has led,
In glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
Commits her children to they gracious hand.