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David George Clayton 1915-2009


David George Clayton 1915-2009

David Clayton, a former Executive Secretary of the Society, was born in India in 1915 but returned to England aged five upon the death of his father. Educated at Bedford school, he subsequently joined the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst from which he was commissioned into the King’s Own Royal Regiment and joined them in India in 1936. During the Second World War, he saw distinguished service in Iraq in the relief of Al Habbaniyah (about 90km west of Baghdad) where he was wounded and recommended for a mention in dispatches. On his recovery he rejoined his Regiment and was sent to North Africa to join the Eighth Army. He also had a spell in Cyprus on the way to which his ship was torpedoed and sunk. He ended the war as Company Commander of his Regiment in Italy, fighting their way up to Trieste.

It was after the War with the Royal West African Frontier Force commanding the first Ghana Regiment at the insurrection in Togoland that he suffered severe spinal damage and was invalided back to the UK. It became clear that he would never be able to re-take command of an infantry regiment and this resulted in his retirement from the army in 1960.

Returning to civilian life and obtaining gainful employment as a retired officer at the age of 44 proved something of a challenge but ultimately led to a post with the British Productivity Council for 10 years. This was followed by his appointment as Executive Secretary of the Society in 1971.The Society’s fortunes were at a low ebb and such was the state of the apartments, he almost decided not to go through with his interview! But as the Society’s Annual Report of 1979 records, it was to go through a transformation under his stewardship. The apartments were refurbished, new specialist groups were formed, thematic meetings were launched, the publications programme expanded, appeals for funds were made and the membership increased at an unprecedented rate. He was an excellent administrator at a critical moment in the Society’s history and his firm and unflustered hand on the executive tiller kept it afloat during the vicissitudes of its rebirth.

Following his retirement in 1980, the recently formed Joint Association for Petroleum Exploration Courses (JAPEC) was fortunate in securing his services as its first Secretary and his contribution to its administration played a significant part in establishing JAPEC’s role and reputation. He held this post until his final retirement in 1985, when JAPEC paid tribute to his services through a valedictory dinner and a case of Claret sent at Christmas.

Earlier in his life, he was a distinguished athlete and Rugby player and also was a keen golfer. He was a person of great courtesy and a fine and generous host with a sharp sense of humour and invitations to join him in London or in his retirement in Swanage with his wife Marjorie, were always occasions to look forward to and to savour. He was very sociable, loved a party and enjoyed recounting an episode at one President's Evening, when despite concern for them at the time, some high spirited Fellows slid down the banisters of the Piccadilly entrance at Burlington House! He was also an enthusiastic supporter of the Geological Society Club and proud to have been elected as its first non-geologist member.

In retirement, through his Fellowship of the Society and Geoscientist, he enjoyed following the Society’s fortunes and maintaining a keen interest in them, something which he did until the end.

He leaves his wife Marjorie and his three daughters, Jennifer, Judith and Miranda.

Richard Bateman