KLAFFER, Lyall Robert

Service Number: O4218
Enlisted: 24 February 1947, Citizens' AIr Force - Canberra
Last Rank: Squadron Leader
Last Unit: No. 77 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Prospect, South Australia, 4 February 1928
Home Town: Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Adelaide High School and School of Mines, Adelaide, South Australia
Occupation: Pilot
Died: Natural Causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 20 November 2021, aged 93 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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Non Warlike Service

24 Feb 1947: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Air Cadet, SN O4218, Citizens' AIr Force - Canberra

Korean War Service

8 Jul 1950: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, SN O4218, No. 77 Squadron (RAAF), RAAF Operations - Korea

Vietnam War Service

1 Jul 1962: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Squadron Leader, SN O4218, RAAF Operations - Vietnam
Date unknown: Honoured Mention in Dispatches

Korean War Service

Date unknown: Honoured Mention in Dispatches, RAAF Operations - Korea
Date unknown: Honoured US Distinguished Flying Cross

Lyal Klaffer Autobiography "Fighter Pilot"

227 page autobiography by Air Commodore Lyall Robert Klaffer entitiled "Fighter Pilot".

Manuscript details the authors personal history before enlistment. Accounts post-enlistment are divided into chapters based on posting:

Enlistment in Citizens Air Force; Flying training at Point Cook; Flying training at RAAF base East Sale; No.3 Squadron; Central Flying School; No. 77 Squadron Japan;

24 City of Adelaide Squadron; Officer Training school Rathmines; No.2 Operational Conversion Unit; No.75 (F) Squadron Malta; ADC to the Governor-General of Australia; No.2 (F) OCU RAAF Williamstown; Central Flying School RAAF Base East Sale; RAAF College Point Cook; No.3 Fighter Combat Instructors Course; Air Armaments School; RAAF Base Williamstown; RAAF Staff College Point Cook; Air Force Headquarters; Central Flying School; No.16 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (US) South Carolina; Headquarter Operational Command; No.1 Squadron Amberley; Base Squadron Amberley; Air Base Butterworth, Malaysia; Air Force office, Canberra. Accounts of active service during the Korean War.

Training, conversion and posting experiences through the rest of his career including his role as ADC to Governor-General Field Marshal Sir William Slim. Personal photographs included throughout.

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

Lyall Robert KLAFFER, AFC, OAM, MiD,  US Distinguished Flying Cross   (1928-2021)

Lyall Klaffer's RAAF career spanned 34 years, two wars, and he had the rare distinction of flying three generations of fighter aircraft in operations: Mustangs in Korea, Vampires in Malta, and Phantoms in Vietnam.  He flew a significant number of aircraft types, survived several aircraft accidents and was decorated for his endeavours.

Lyall Klaffer was born in the inner Adelaide suburb of Prospect in 1928.  He attended Adelaide High School and the Adelaide School of Mines, which was a highly reagrded technical College at that time. 

Having left school at 14 years old, to work at F.H. Faulding & Co, his real ambition was to become a fighter pilot, so he attended night school at the School of Mines in order to obtain his Leaving Certificate. He joined the Citizen's Air Force (CAF) on 24 February 1947, then completed a course at the Air and Ground Radar School at Ballarat as a Radio Technician,  after which he was posted to RAAF Base Canberra serving with CAF units No. 4 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and No. 87 Squadron.

He had to transfer to the Regular Air Force to be eligible for the first post war pilot course at Point Cook which he joined in February 1948. After initial training, Klaffer was sent to the Central Flying School at East Sale where he completed his course as the 'most proficient pilot' and was posted to No.3 Squadron at RAAF Canberra. He arrived in Canberra for the second time in October 1949 where he flew Mustangs with Ross Coburn and Bob Hunt; two men with whom he would go to war.

On 15 September 1949 he was involved in a tragic accident south west of Canberra when his squadron was practising formation flying. Another pilot, Jack Edwards, clipped Klaffer's wing, and while Edwards managed to release his parachute, it failed and he crashed near Bonshaw. Klaffer was luckier and crash landed at Canberra airport.

In July 1950 Klaffer was posted to East Sale again, to attend a flying instructor's course.  However, the Korean War had begun and pilots were needed. Before he could start his Instructor's Course, Lyall Klaffer was off to war. He was posted to No. 77 Squadron, based at Iwakuni in Japan.

He served in Korea from 8 July 1950 to 7 April 1951 flying Mustangs in 105 operations over Korea. He was awarded the US Distinguished Flying Cross for his "aerial achievement over Korea on 13/12/1950" and was also Mentioned in Despatches for his actions in a mission where he destroyed three anti-aircraft positions, despite intense ground fire. 

Completing his Korean War tour in 1951, Lyall Klaffer was posted to No. 24 Squadron, back in Australia, again flying Mustangs, and again survived another crash landing. 

In 1952, he was posted to No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit where he converted onto de Havilland Vampire jet fighter aircraft. He was then posted to 75 Squadron in Malta, flying Vampires, where he survived his third 'prang'; actually an aborted take off, when a panel covering an ammunition 'bin' came adrift on the takeoff roll.  

His tenure there was foreshortened as he was  appointed as aide-de-camp to the new Governor General, Sir William Slim, taking up his duties in April 1952 and serving with him until October 1952 after which he returned to his duties with the RAAF.

Klaffer was posted to RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle in the late 1950s where he met and married Anne Clery.

In 1960, he was awarded the Air Force Cross for his service as a flying instructor at RAAF Base Williamtown.  He later posted to Central Flying School where he flew as one of the members of the newly formed Telstars aerobatic team, which flew Vampires.

He was appointed to the Directorate of Flying Safety in Canberra in 1959 and moved to a house in Hannan Place, Ainslie. He and his wife's first child was born in Canberra in March 1962 but, by the end of the year, Klaffer was on the move again, back to East Sale.

From 1965 to 1967, he completed an exchange officer posting in the USA, flying RF-4C Phantoms.  During this period, he completed a tour of Vietnam with the No. 16 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and flew 52 combat missions. 

Lyall Klaffer was the first RAAF pilot to fly the Phantom; the first RAAF pilot to accrue 1000 hours on the Phantom and the first military pilot to accrue 1000 hours on the RF-4C Phantom. 

He is also the only RAAF pilot to have flown over Hanoi during the Vietnam War, on a Phantom mission out of Ubon, Thailand. 

In January 1977 he moved to Canberra for the fourth time when he took up the position of Deputy Director General Personnel Services and later as Director General Co-ordination and Organisation RAAF. However, his stay lasted only ten months before he was posted to command RAAF Base Edinburgh near his home town of Adelaide.

Klaffer remained in charge at RAAF Edinburgh until in late 1980, he was offered a promotion to Defence headquarters in Canberra. Klaffer declined the offer for the benefit of his family and resigned his commission on 24 February 1981. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1989 for his service to the community, particularly through his contribution to the Australian bicentennial celebrations of 1988 in air operations planning.

He also managed to accumulate 850 hours flying the P3 Orion Maritime Patrol aircraft.

He was a Member of long standing at the Naval Military & Airforce Club of SA, in Adelaide, where he was a well-known 'identity' and renowned story teller; and he had plenty of them.



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