Pilot Officer (Pilot) John Kenneth Grahame Clifton
John Kenneth Grahame Clifton, (known as “Kenneth”), was born in Plymouth in October 1918. He was the son of John Henry and Susie Dorothy Anderson Clifton. The family moved to Somerset in 1928 where Kenneth was educated at Taunton School.
Kenneth Clifton’s RAF career is almost identical to that of David Jenkins. Both joined on a short service commission in February 1939, both trained at No.11 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School at Perth, both were promoted together and both joined No.253 Squadron together, where Clifton acquired the nickname “Curly.” Their operational careers were almost identical and, tragically, they died just two days apart.
In common with most of his squadron colleagues, Kenneth Clifton flew from the temporary base in France during May 1940. During this period he is credited with the downing of a Dornier Do.215 on 18th May, diverting to Le Touquet on his return to base. The following day he made a claim for a Messerschmitt Me109. Subsequently, he flew sorties from RAF Kenley to France until moving north to RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey with the squadron on 24th May.
On 30th August, No.253 Squadron’s first day of operations from Kenley, Kenneth Clifton flew five times. The day saw the squadron involved in a major battle near Redhill which saw the loss of David Jenkins and Colin Francis.
The following day, although marginally quieter, saw the loss of Squadron Leader Starr on the first patrol of the day. The next patrol, launched around 12.35, saw Clifton claim a He.111 as damaged.
The pattern was repeated again on 1st September, albeit with the first patrol of the day making no contact. The squadron launched its 9 Hurricanes again around lunchtime, eventually being vectored to intercept a large enemy raid near Dungeness. On contact, the squadron attacked the bombers but were soon engaged with the large fighter escort. Clifton’s aircraft was hit by return fire from the bombers and he was wounded.
A local resident witnessed the combat and the fall of Clifton and his Hurricane, P5185. In his final moments he appeared to be slumped in the cockpit as he crashed with his aircraft in Grave Lane, Staplehurst, Kent.
Clifton’s remains were later recovered and buried in St. Johns Churchyard, Staplegrove, Somerset. His mother passed away just over 6 months later and now lies with him.
Kenneth’s christian faith was very important to him. Had he survived the war, he wanted to become a vicar.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.