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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

Lieutenant Claude H. Trotter RAF

Previously on his blog, we looked at the life of an artillery officer, Torrens Trotter. I had originally research Torrens nearly 15 years ago. It was while researching him I came across his brother Claude. After having the privilege of seeing his Canadian memorial cross, I thought I would do this dedicated post on his brief life and service.


Claude Handley Trotter was born at Ardrahan, County Galway on 20 February 1895. He was the youngest son of Reverend John Crawford Trotter and Fanny Rebecca Trotter (Nee Torrens). Reverend Trotter was native of County Down and Rebecca was from County Donegal, they had married in Fanny’s father’s house at Glenleary, County Donegal on 4 July 1876.

 

Reverend Trotter was Rector of Ardrahan when Claude was born. Claude is recorded on the 1901 census as living in house 2 in Caherkelly, which was probably the rectory. Claude’s parents, and six sisters are also records. His elder brothers had already left home.

 

Claude attended Galway Grammar School and later the Royal School Armagh. After his schooling, he emigrated to the Canada, departing from Derry to New York aboard the ship “California” on 26 April 1913. He lived in Edmonton where he worked as motor agent for the Chalmers Motor Car company at the Edmonton Garage Co Ltd from September 1913 until August 1914.

 

Claude enlisted in the Canadian Army on 23 September 1914 in Quebec. He gave his profession as a motor mechanic. He was posted to the 19th Alberta Dragoons, but was later transferred to the 10th Battalion where he was commissioned as a Lieutenant after passing cadet school.

 

While serving with the Canadian’s on the Ypres Salient, Claude was wounded in the left arm by a bomb fragment during a bombing raid on German trenches on 11 August 1916. After a hospital stay, where the bomb fragment was removed from his arm, he was posted back as fit for general service.

 

In January 1917 Lieutenant Trotter was posted to the 9th Reserve Battalion, where the following month was attached to the Royal Flying Corps, where he was attached to no. 57 squadron. In May he was posted as a flying officer, where he would take up the role of an observer. He later gained his pilot wings.

 

His army records state his special qualifications included, knowledge of petrol engines, being a qualified army observer (passed on 22 April 1917), qualified aerial gunnery (passed February 1917) and that he had spent 130 flight hours as an observer in DH 4s and F.E. 2ds  

 

Lieutenant Trotter was posted to 44 Squadron on 5 August 1918. The squadron was formed in 1917, and it was based at Hainault Farm, Essex. It was tasked with the responsibility of home defence, and conducted night time flights. At the time Zeppelin raids were still a treat to London.

 

On the night of 13 October 1918, while piloting Sopwith Camel E5417. Lieutenant Trotter flew into a search light beam which disorientated him and resulted in him crashing his plane, he was killed instantly.

 

Lieutenant Trotter’s funeral took place on 17 October. His Union Jack draped coffin entered the graveyard at All Saints Church at Chigwell Row. A guard of honour was provided from no. 44 squadron. As he was laid to rest a volley rang out from the firing party composed of men from the 13th Artists Rifles, as Sopwith Camels from no. 44 Squadron fly overhead.

 

Lieutenant Trotter’s grave was originally marked by a plan propeller. A Commonwealth War Grave Commission headstone replaced in 1921. Claude’s father had the following personal inscription added to his headstone “FOR HIM, LIFE NOT DEATH/FOR US, SORROW/YET JOYOUS HOPE/GOD IS LOVE”. The original propeller cross can still be seen in All Saints Church.


Claude’s medals and memorial plaque were sent to his father, while his Canadian memorial cross was sent to his mother. The cross is given to mothers and wife of fallen Canadian service men.

 

 

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