Crew: Alabaster & Eaton-Clarke

Clifford Alabaster
Eaton-Clarke wedding
L-R: Percival Walder, Eaton-Clarke, the bride,  A N Carlton, Cliff Alabaster, probably E Hambling, G K Smith. Hind archive.
Crew at the time of the wedding photograph:

Pilot: F/L A Eaton-Clarke – Survived the war
Flight Engineer: Sgt G S Dunning – Survived the war (?)
Navigator: W/C Robert Clifford Alabaster – Survived the war
Bomb Aimer: F/Sgt A N Carlton – Survived the war (?)
W/Op: F/Sgt G K Smith – Survived the war (?)
Mid-Upper Gunner: Sgt E Hambling – Survived the war (?)
Rear Gunner: Sgt Percival Walder – 
Survived the war


Cliff Alabaster was one of the very few exceptions of a navigator being the Captain of an aircraft rather than the pilot. He was an extraordinarily able airman, who at the time of the wedding photograph, was an Acting Wing Commander, and as such senior to F/L Eaton-Clarke, his pilot. Alabaster was shortly to train as a pilot in his own right.

Alabaster’s Lancaster

Eaton-Clarke after the War

Roger Marsh emailed, in July 2008, to answer the question of whether Eaton-Clarke had survived the war. He wrote:

He did. He was my boss in London in the 1970s; we were working for the US multinational AMF Corporation on international sales of their industrial machinery throughout Europe and in parts of Africa. A South African by birth, he had taken US nationality some time after the war.

In the course of our business I visited several clients whom he had had to bomb during the war some 30 years earlier – e.g., the Dunlop factory at Montluçon, central France, which of course at the time was under German occupation and producing military tyres for them; the British attack was less than an hour from target when final clearance to bomb was received, via the Résistance Française, or the cities where the customers were situated (e.g. Essen and Düsseldorf, in the Ruhrgebiet of Germany).

“Eaton”, as we called him, didn’t talk a lot about his wartime service as a Pathfinder (he was not a boaster!) but nevertheless sometimes had a few tales when relaxing at the end of the day. As a Pathfinder, he once had a close shave with a German night-fighter (Ju88?) which had hit and damaged his Lanc. He had the choice between taking his second chance with the fighter on its return pass or diving into an adjacent cu-nim cloud; he chose the latter and fell out of the cloud minutes later with one engine now dead but the aircraft still relatively intact; he and his crew made it back safely to the English coast.

Eaton and his wife (who of course appears in the 1943 wedding photo on your site) lived in the Kensington/Chelsea area of London when I knew them and had one daughter, who got married in the mid-late 1970s. He was a nice man. I don’t know what has happened to him since about 1985 or so when we were last in touch, or whether he is still alive; if he is, he’d be in his late 80s by now.