Village buzz as WW2 ‘wasp’ Top Gun is saluted

Published on: Sunday, 25th February 2024
Support Erewash Sound
Arthur Clowes (credit: EBC)

A World War Two fighter ace who survived a mid-air crash to help rout Hitler’s mighty Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain has been honoured by his home village in Erewash.

The borough’s mayor led a salute to heroic Top Gun Arthur “Taffy” Clowes – whose personal emblem was a stinging wasp. The event saw a plaque unveiled at Sawley War Memorial.

Squadron Leader Clowes, who came from a humble background to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, shot down around a dozen enemy aircraft – including blasting up to five bombers out of the sky during the Battle of Britain.  The dogfight king painted the wasp on the nose of his Hawker Hurricane. Its stripes represented “kills”.

The plaque was unveiled on Sunday 25th February near where the name of his father appears on the village’s war memorial.  Arthur was four when his dad was killed in World War One while serving as a lowly private with the Sherwood Foresters.

Sawley parish councillor Alan Chewings, who has personally footed the bill for the plaque, said: “It is only right in light of the squadron leader’s immense courage that father and son’s names appear together.”

Arthur was educated at Long Eaton Council Elementary School and joined the RAF in 1929 as an aircraft apprentice. He trained in a maintenance role known as a metal rigger. Desperate to get into the air, he applied to train as a pilot and was accepted. After gaining his wings he initially flew a Hawker Fury fighter.

His first brush with death came in 1937 when two planes he was flying in formation with collided, killing their pilots. Two years later – after the 1939 outbreak of war – he had a mid-air crash himself. Arthur had just shot down a Heinkel bomber near the German border when the tail of his Hurricane was clipped by a French plane. 

The hero cheated death in a crash-landing – paving the way for an ever more illustrious career as a pilot. It was brought to an end in September 1943 when an accident blinded him in one eye.

He continued to serve with the RAF but survived the war by only four years – dying from liver cancer in 1949. He was 37. The ace is buried at Brampton in Huntingdonshire.

Erewash Mayor Cllr Frank Phillips was joined at the unveiling of the plaque by RAF envoys including delegates from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Members of Long Eaton’s Royal British Legion branch will attend along with Scouts, Guides and Brownies. 

The Mayor said: “People are thrilled by Tom Cruise in the Top Gun movies – but Taffy did all that stuff for real when the country was in its gravest peril. He is a true legend who we all owe an immense debt to.”

For more information about Sqn Ldr Clowes visit: Battle of Britain London Monument - P/O A V Clowes (

Share this story:

Tell us YOUR news...

If there's something happening in your area that matters to you and feel that the rest of the borough needs to know about it, tell US about it.