Sgt Charles John Clarke (Charlie) died in the crash in St Andrews Park. He was in the front gunner position that night. William Dowler
William Benjamin Dowler (known as Bill)
in his Home Guard uniform taken in 1942
& Bill later in life tried to rescue Charlie from the front of the plane, but was driven back by the flames and was unable to get him out.
Charlie was the oldest son of Charles Henry Clarke and Elsie Hudson. He was born on 6 July 1915 in Beeston, Nottingham. He had three siblings Thomas, Brenda and Desmond (known as Jack). On the 13th February 1937 he married Nora Litchfield. At the time of the crash they had two children, Charles Arthur (known as Arthur) and Francis Peter Derek (known as Pete) and Nora was pregnant with their third child, Patrick. Patrick (known as Pat) was born on 28th May 1941. Nora later remarried and died on the 29th June 1969. At some point during his service Nora sent Charlie this postcard containing a picture of their son Arthur on the front and the message on the back.
Charlie was keen on building model airplanes and flying these and always wanted to be a pilot. In the mid-late 1930's he rented an empty shop, owned by his uncle, in Beeston, near Nottingham, as a workshop for making model airplanes and ran this as a model club. He also went on frequent model airplane flying expeditions with his cousin and their uncle. Charlie also played the guitar and liked tap dancing. He apparently went to see all the Fred Astaire films with another cousin and they both tried to emulate their idol. He also enjoyed playing football.
He enlisted in the RAF on 2nd March 1939 and began his service as an "Air Observer". On 6th January 1940 he became a "Wireless Operator/Air Gunner" and on 18th January 1941 he was promoted to Sergeant. To view Charlie's Service Record and his Observer and Air Gunners Log Book click here. The picture below shows Charlie on the right in his flight suit.
Charlie received two medals (below)- Defence and War. Unfortunately these medals were never engraved around the edge with his name.
Charlie is commemorated in the Royal Air Force Book of Remembrance (Volume 3, page 38) which is held at St Clement Danes Church, The Strand, London. He is buried at Beeston and Stapleford Cemetery, Nottingham (Sec. C. Grave 27). Buried in the same plot is Nora and her second husband Alf. Below is a photo of his gravestone. The inscription reads:-
Charlie is commemorated, along with Kenneth Evans and Len Lever, on the war memorial at Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire. See my Memorials page.