Who's Who - William Claxton

William Claxton William Gordon Claxton (1899-1967), a Canadian air ace, scored a remarkable 37 air victories in just 79 days during the war's final year.

Born on 1 June 1899 in Gladstone, Manitoba, Claxton enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in Canada upon his eighteenth birthday in 1917.  Flying S.E.5a aircraft he was assigned to 41 Squadron in France the following March following pilot's training at Camp Borden.

Claxton may have arrived on the Western Front late on during the war; he nevertheless strove to make up for lost time by embarking upon a remarkable, reckless, run of victories that saw him emerge from the war as his squadron's most successful airman.

Claxton opened his tally of 'kills' on 27 May 1918 in the skies above East Estaires, downing a German Fokker Dr.I aircraft.  The following day he brought down two Pfalz D.III aircraft.  Between 12-30 June Claxton successfully downed 17 German aircraft plus an observation balloon.  On 30 June alone he achieved the fear of bringing down six enemy aircraft.  By the end of July he had increased his kill total to 27.

3 August 1918 saw Claxton (nicknamed "Dozy") awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).  His citation noted that "this officer at all times shows fine courage and disregard of danger... on a recent occasion, having destroyed a hostile balloon, he pursued an enemy scout ten miles and eventually drove it down; he was then attacked by five enemy triplanes and other scouts, but managed to return to our lines, though his machine was riddled with bullets".

On 17 August 1918 Claxton was shot down by Johannes Gildemeister during an encounter with Jasta 20 in which he and fellow pilot Frederick McCall were outnumbered 20-to-1; by this time he had amassed 37 air successes.  Having brought down three German aircraft during the encounter Claxton crash-landed behind enemy lines with a serious head wound and was only saved following prompt attendance by a German doctor.

Remaining a prisoner of war until the end of the war Claxton was repatriated on 1 December 1918.  Returning to his homeland Claxton, who had received a Bar to his DFC and the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) during his imprisonment, took up a career as a journalist.

He died on 28 September 1967 in Toronto aged 68.

A "Bangalore Torpedo" was an explosive tube used to clear a path through a wire entanglement.

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