Soldier Spotlight: Captain William Claxton

Image: Grande Prairie Herald, May 20, 1919

Rank: Captain
Branch: No. 41 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

William was born in Gladstone, Manitoba on June 1, 1899. He enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps on his eighteenth birthday. William received the Distinguished Flying Cross in the summer of 1918. The citation read as follows:

“This officer at all times shows fine courage and disregard of danger. He has accounted for six enemy aeroplanes and one kite balloon, three of the aeroplanes being destroyed and three driven down out of control. 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.”

In September he received a Distinguished Flying Cross bar:

“This officer is conspicuous for his courage in attack. Recently in one day he destroyed six enemy aeroplanes—four in the morning and two in the evening. In thirteen days he accounted for fourteen machines. His utter disregard of danger inspires all who serve with him.”

He also was awarded the Distinguished Service Order:

“Between 4 July and 12 August this officer destroyed ten enemy aeroplanes and one kite balloon, making in all thirty machines and one “kite balloon to his credit. Untiring in attack in the air or on the ground, this officer has rendered brilliant service.”

On August 17, 1918, William was shot down and taken prisoner. He suffered a serious head wound, but his life was saved by a German surgeon and he was repatriated on December 1, 1918. William had the sixth most victories of all Canadian fighter pilots in the First World War. After the war, he came to the South Peace and filed on SW 4-72-1-W6 and SW 9-72-1-W6 in 1919. William died on September 28, 1967.

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

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