Who's Who - Tubby Clayton

Tubby Clayton Philip Thomas Byard Clayton (1885-1972), popularly known as 'Tubby' Clayton, served as a priest during the First World War, and opened and maintained a place of rest near Ypres, an Everyman's Club, much frequented by officers and men alike.

Tubby Clayton was born in Queensland on 12 December 1885 to an English family.  Returning to England with his family at the age of two, Clayton was educated at St. Paul's School in London and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied theology (graduating with a First).

Having taken up a position as curate to St. Mary's Portsea in 1910, Clayton travelled to France in early 1915 as an army chaplain having determined to serve his country in the new war.

Once in France Clayton was approached by the British Sixth Division's senior chaplain, Neville Talbot, with the idea of establishing a rest house for serving soldiers near the fierce battleground of Ypres in Flanders.

Clayton agreed, and Talbot House - named in honour of Neville Talbot's dead brother Gilbert (killed at Hooge) - was opened on 11 December 1915 in Poperinghe, quickly becoming popularly known as 'Toc H' (with Poperinghe becoming 'Pop').

Notices were posted throughout Talbot House instructing soldiers to leave their rank at the door when they entered; all were treated equally by the humane, energetic, rotund Clayton.

With the end of the war Clayton returned to London.  In 1920 he established a new Talbot House, in London, to rekindle the fellowship created in Flanders; it inevitably became popular with old soldiers, many of whom he helped to become ordained in the church following promises made during the war.  This building subsequently became the headquarters of the famous 'Toc H' organisation, which continues to this day.

In 1922 Clayton was asked to take up a position as curate of Vicar of All Hallows-by-the-Tower; he remained vicar of All Hallows for the following forty years, living in nearby Tower Hill for the remainder of his life.

Ten years later, in 1932, Clayton sailed to West Africa where he experienced leper colonies at first hand.  Much moved with his experience of these, Clayton rapidly organised a group of 50 volunteers willing to devote five years of unpaid work with lepers.  Ultimately 250,000 was raised on behalf of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association.

With war renewed in 1939, Clayton established a new Toc H club in 1940 at Scapa Flow (in the Orkneys).  The following year he was appointed naval chaplain to the Anglo-Iranian Line, spending much of the war at sea.

Returning to All Hallows after the war, Clayton attended to the church's rebuilding (it had been heavily bombed during the war), raising funds for the task by travelling the world.  While fundraising in the U.S. in 1947 Clayton established the Winant Volunteers Scheme, which helped American students to travel to Britain to work in youth clubs and in summer camps.

Clayton stepped down as vicar of All Hallows in 1962, but remained active in the growing Toc H movement, and continued living in Tower Hill.  He died at the age of 87 in December 1972.

The original Talbot House, in Poperinghe, doubles now as a museum (detailing the history of the Talbot House during both world wars) and as a hostel for visitors.  The 'Pool of Peace' - a lake created by one of the 19 mines exploded by the British signalling the start of the Battle of Messines, is also owned and maintained by the Toc H movement, also near Ypres.

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

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Who's Who