Lt Patrick William Cleary
Info & Pic provided by Brian Conygnham
Patrick William Cleary, born on the 4 January 1923 in Pretoria, worked as an audit clerk with the South African Railways and Harbours. He was single, worked and lived in Johannesburg and gave his mother Frances Cleary as his next-of-kin. He was RC and had attended the popular Catholic boys school Marist Brothers, where he gained his Senior Certificate.
Patrick had attested with the SAAF as an Air Apprentice on the 15th January 1940 but was discharged on his own request on the 26th July 1940. A day later on the 27th July 1940 he re-attested at the Premier Mine with the 1st Witwatersrand Rifles as a rifleman being allocated to “HQ” Coy at the age of “22 years and 6 months” according to his new attestation papers. He was in fact still only 17 and had falsified his birth date on the new papers to 1918, thereby adding another 5 years to his age.
He was soon promoted to L/Cpl on the 15th August 1940, possibly due to SAAF service. During November 1940 whilst attending training at Piet Retief, he went AWOL. As punishment he was “Reverted to the Ranks” and received a further stoppage of pay for the period of 26th November to the 19th December 1940.
On the 13th March 1941 he transferred from Support Coy 1st Wits Rifles at Barberton back to the SAAF at Voortrekkerhoogte in Pretoria. He trained at 75 Air School, 3 Air School, 7 Air School and finally at No 24 Air School as a pupil pilot on Tiger Moths and Oxfords. He passed out as an “A” grade pilot gaining his wings on the 12th June 1942, being promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. Just three months after becoming a pilot he got married on the 14th September 1942. He was further promoted to Lieutenant on the 12th December 1942.
He served with 161 (Reserve) Squadron SAAF from his date of qualifying as a pilot until being posted to 26 Squadron SAAF on the 1st January 1943. On the 9th April 1943 they departed for Takoradi via Freetown in Sierra Leone.
Cleary served at Takoradi until the 1st August 1943 when he fell ill, possibly with a tropical disease. He was repatriated to the Union and admitted to hospital for a number of weeks and then again on and off until November of 1943. Once he had recovered he was posted to numerous Air Schools around the country including 61 Air School George in the Cape Province. His final posting was at Air Force Station Congella Durban. He was finally discharged on the 1st October 1945.
His full medal entitlement consists of the 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, The War Medal and Africa Service Medal.