WWII veteran James Clayton turns 100 in Tea Gardens

The Clayton family (L-R): Mark Clayton, Jo Sheehan (blue w/scarf), Wendy Williams (salmon, front), Fran Clayton (denim), James Clayton, David Read, Tammy Read, Trish Woodrow (dots), Lee Clayton, and ‘birthday boy’ James Clayton in the middle.

WORLD War II local veteran James Clayton turned 100 years old on Wednesday, 19 April, surrounded by family and friends in Tea Gardens.

Three Clayton generations united at Estia Health in Tea Gardens, to celebrate James’ centenary with cake, lunch, and a very nice bottle of Veuve Cliquot.

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After joining the AIF during WWII, Mr Clayton eventually entered the Royal Australian Air Force, and served with distinction as a Wireless Operator in a Lancaster Bomber over France and Germany from 1944, aged just 21.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” Mr Clayton previously told NOTA, “Most of my friends and fellow trainees died over France or New Guinea.”

After the War, Mr Clayton joined a successful wool-buying company, eventually becoming its Director, later owning his own company and raising a family.

James, and his loving, late wife Lal, lived at Mallabula and North Arm Cove after retirement.

In 2015, the French President asked to see James’ original wartime log books, and awarded Mr Clayton the French Legion of Honour medal.

From across Sydney, Port Stephens and Forster, James’ two children, four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren visited, and he received video-calls throughout the morning from those who could not attend.

Apart from family messages, Mr Clayton received several ‘VIP’ acknowledgements, from State Member Kate Washington, the Prime Minister, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Governor-General, and, last but not least, King Charles and Camilla.

“Dad really enjoyed the celebration, so lovely he was awake!” James’ daughter Lee Clayton told NOTA.

“He really wanted to get a letter from the Queen, but I told him, ‘You outlasted her, Dad!’”

Vanessa Cook, Care Director at Estia Health Tea Gardens, told NOTA, “All the staff at Estia wish James the best on his 100th birthday milestone,”

“He joins an elite club of Centenarians at Estia, and had a lovely morning with family, friends and staff.

Mr Clayton, genuinely touched by the love from so many on his very special day, announced, “I love you all.”

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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