Leighterton in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire bears the graves of many Australians who died in the service of the Australian Flying Corps during the Great War. In a previous blog, I wrote about Leighterton and its significance in the war, as well as its local impact - click here. I promised to write about the men who lie in war graves there. This piece examines the role of Warrant Officer Thomas Clutterbuck, Australian Flying Corps.
It is perhaps one of the least remembered parts of the First World War - that even under war conditions, men still fought for flags that was not of their birth. Heroes of their lands no doubt. But still perhaps, with a specific local connection to their former lives.
Thomas Clutterbuck lies in perpetuity under an Australian flag, under an Australian Flying Corps emblem, celebrated by Australians who want to revere their fellow Aussies. But maybe there is some cyclical story for Thomas.
Thomas ended his life here at Leighterton, that Cotswold gem twixt farmland and quaint village life on English soil for an English King, a British dominion, an empire built on relationships, on exploration, on wanting more, better. One of the near 60,000 Australians to die in this heartbreaking war. A Warrant Officer in the Australian Flying Corps; a place in the war. Here he died on the 22nd May 1918 before war had ceased. He joined the select men of this special place; just not due to aircraft failure or flying error, nor technicality or fault - just illness, just sickness.
Thomas died of cardiac failure at the George Hotel, Nailsworth on the 22nd May 1918. And under the eye of his uncle still living nearby in Bristol, he was buried alongside his Aussie comrades at Leighterton. For Thomas was born not too far as the crow flies - Bedminster, now a part of Bristol's sprawl in the west country in 1877. He had in many ways returned back whence he had come. For his father had been born in Whitminster, just down the hill from the Cotswold plateau where Leighterton sits.
The Clutterbucks had left Britain to go to Australia when Thomas was still young. He grew up in Queensland. And his first war experiences were at the turn of the century in the Boer War. No surprise then that Thomas went on to the Great War as service dictates.
Thomas' war experiences speak alot of the Aussie character. A man who left family behind to enlist firstly with the New Zealanders in the 3rd Auckland Regiment in the very first part of this world war - German Samoa. And then went on to the Australian Imperial Forces - of Alexandria, of Anzac and the Western Front - of shell shock and fighting spirit in the July of 1916. And then on to the Australian Flying Corps.
He was perhaps for all - a man of many nations. But an Aussie man nonetheless. But maybe a man who had come full circle.
From Britain - Australia - South Africa (Boer War) - Australia - New Zealand - Australia - Egypt - Gallipoli - France/Western Front - Britain. Quite the journey.