NEE DURRANT 1906~1933
daughter of Rev Arthur Durrant, vicar of Leverstock Green &
model for Katherine Clifton in the novel The English Patient
(Search on the Internet for numerous entries.)
NÉE DURRANT.  1906 - 1933

Dorothy's  story is one which  has always fascinated me from the moment I first heard of it several years ago now, and is one I feel particularly involved with as it very surprisingly linked my own family to her story at the time of her death, and ultimately led me to discover more of my own family history as well as that of Leverstock Green's.

Dorothy's story is one which gradually unfolded over a few years of research, with the ultimate twist in the story coming to light as a result of an American film company getting in touch with me about her.

Four Feathers Film Inc. of Orandell New Jersey contacted me just before Christmas 1997 completely out of the blue.  I received a letter from the Film Company seeking information on Lady Dorothy and the Durrant family.  They had been told by the Archivist at DBC that photographs of Dorothy's Father the Rev. Arthur Durrant, and the old Rectory in Leverstock Green were to be found in my book.  They rather hoped I had more photographs including one of Dorothy, and they wanted permission to reproduce the photos I did have. It turns out that Four Feathers produce multimedia presentations for pre-productions and story boarding. With an end product of a video or CD-ROM. The particular project they contacted me over encompasses early aviators and explorers, hence the interest in Dorothy and her husband. It also sounds from the information the company provided me with, that they eventually hope to produce a full multimedia CD-ROM covering explorers and aviators and if the section on Dorothy was approved they would need broadcast quality photographs and on-camera interviews for inclusion.  Although the on camera interviews were ultimately to materialise, I didn't hear from Four Feathers after early 1999,so it looks as if the whole thing may have fizzled out.

The interest of Four Feathers Films prompted me to see if more could be discovered, in particular  to see if a photograph of Lady Dorothy could be uncovered.(Had any of us realised that there were five wonderful portraits of her in teh National Portrait Gallery, that would have been easier, but global publication via the Internet was then very much in its infancy. Little did I realise when I started precisely how involved her story and that of her family was to become.  I mentioned too earlier that there turned out to be a link with my family, namely my grandfather, who lived and worked on the Isle of Wight.  By a strange quirk of fate it would also seem that by the likelihood of Dorothy having been the model for the principle character in a Prize winning novel, which in its turn was to be turned into a multi-million prize winning film, there would be further connections with the Island.  More of that later!!!!!!!!

Dorothy's Story

Dorothy was born  in Leverstock Green on September 26th 1906, the youngest child of the Rev. Arthur Durrant and his wife Alice Mable.   The elder three children were Lorna, born July 22nd 1886; Michael Arthur, and Enid. Michael trained as an architect and was killed in the Great War. He is remembered along with others from Leverstock Green who gave their lives during that conflict, on the war memorial. As no record appears in our Parish registers of Michael or Enid's baptisms, I assume that they, like Lorna, were both born prior to the Durrants moving to Leverstock Green in 1899. Alice Durrant would have been 40 at the time Dorothy was born, and there was a twenty year difference in the ages of Lorna and Dorothy.  Dorothy was baptised by her father in Holy Trinity Church  on November 4th 1906.

By all accounts the Durrants, who were from a fairly "upper crust" family, and one of whose ancestors was Elizabeth Fry the famous prison visitor/reformer of the early eighteenth century, considered themselves rather socially superior to the general population of Leverstock Green. The Rev. Durrant was an extremely well educated man, having graduated from Emanuel College, Oxford. (Only the moneyed and privileged few had access to a University Education in the last century, and particularly either Oxford or Cambridge.) Mrs. Durrant was definitely considered "a lady" and quite a lot of entertaining went on at the Rectory. A frequent visitor was a Canon Pelly,  Dorothy's Uncle.  However, before we condemn this outlook, particularly in a member of the cloth and his family, we must remember that this was very much the norm at the beginning of the twentieth century, and would have increased the respect of the Leverstock Green community for their Vicar and his family rather than diminished it.

As a member of "a well bred family", Dorothy was therefore not allowed to attend the village school, but received lessons at home with a governess. Mrs. Durrant invited Hilda Dell, a local girl, to share these lessons with Dorothy and to be a chosen playmate/companion.  Hilda's elder sister Beryl, had been similarly invited to benefit from the governess imported for Dorothy's elder sister Enid.   It was a great privilege for these local girls to be singled out in this way, particularly as their father was a local hay dealer. Several photographs of the Dell family  (relatives of Madge Field's) appear in my book, particularly on pp103, 117 and 119.

According to Betty  Thomas, (born Marie Elizabeth Chambers), daughter of Hilda Dell, Dorothy was "a lively lass", generally thought to be very bright and adventurous.   In 1920, when the Sunday School photograph on page 49 of my book was taken, (Click here to view) Dorothy would have been 13 years of age.  Her sister Lorna has been positively identified by both Betty Thomas and Marjorie Ashby (nee Brigginshaw) as the lady in the large black hat at the very end of the back row, just in front of the window.  Neither were able to positively identify Dorothy, but Marjorie  thinks she may have been  the girl in the white hat next to Lorna, as she is one of the few individuals she cannot name from the photograph. However, since discovering a studio portrait of Dorothy in a 1932 edition of The Daily Express I can say without hesitation that the girl in the large white hat next to Lorna is undoubtedly Dorothy.

Except that she acted as a bridesmaid at her sister Enid's wedding in August 1920, little else is known about Dorothy until she herself marries at the age of 25 on  February 29th 1932, and this in itself was shrouded in mystery and unanswered questions. She apparently met Sir Robert Claytom East Clayton, a 24 old officer in the Royal Navy, on an ocean voyage and they were married on Leap Year Day in a London registry office. Dorothy had already achieved a reputation as a sculptress.  The couple decided to devote themselves to exploring.  But why did they marry in a register office?

According to Who Was Who 1933, Dorothy's husband, Sir Robert Alan Clayton East Clayton, RN; was the 9th Baronet of Marden (created 1732) and the 5th Baronet of Hall Place Maidenhead, (created 1838). He was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and attached to the RAF from 1932, the year of his marriage to Dorothy.  He was the only son of the 8th Baronet and Lady Frances Louise Helen Clayton, youngest daughter of the late Lieutenant Col. James Colquhoun, D.L. Sir Robert succeeded his father in 1926.  He owned 1500 acres of land at Hall Place near Maidenhead. It is unlikely to have been because the couple were from differing denominations, as the Clayton's are extremely well represented by memorials etc. in their parish church.  Whytherefore did Dorothy chose to get married in a registry office rather than her father's church?  

It took me a long time to find the likely answer to this question, which turned out to be linked to the story of her sister Lorna's doomed romance; Lorna's suiter have previously being deemed totally unsuitable by her father. Having many years previously emigrated to Canada to "make good", Lorna's suiter had returned to marry his middle-aged bride only to be rebuffed once more by his intended father-in-law, have their story made front page news, and his bride placed in a mental institution.  The details of Lorna's story had been made highly public via the National daily papers. For details see page on Arthur Durrant & Family.

It now seems likely that Dorothy's wedding was a quiet one purely in order to avoid publicity.  Her sister and her father had already in the months leading to Dorothy's marriage  found themselves the centre of national as well as local gossip.  At the time of Dorothy's marriage itself, even though the Rev. Durrant had by that time given his consent to the marriage of his elder daughter,  Lorna was being nursed in a sanatorium and it would have seemed cruel to have had the large society wedding expected of a couple in Robert & Dorothy's  position. Such a wedding would undoubtedly have attracted the major press who would equally as undoubtedly have made capital out of it.  They would probably have also made much out of her other sister's story, being the divorcee daughter of a "respected" clergyman.The social niceties of life in the early 1930's are very differnt to those of today.

The middle sister Edith had trained as an artist, and initially made a highly suitable match to Charles Hazeldene Moore of the King's Light Infantry, the only son of Mr. & Mrs. Moore of "Redbourne House"  near St. Albans. Their wedding took place in August 1920 in Leverstock Green and was reported in The Gazette for August 28th of that year. The Marriage took place at Holy Trinity Church, The Rev. Durrant giving the bride away, and the ceremony being conducted by Rev. Cannon E.J. Gallop. There were two bridesmaids, the bride's sister Dorothy and her cousin Miss Stella Pelly.  The Hon Robert Grimston (son of Viscount Grimston, heir to the Earl of Verulam.  Viscount Grimston lived with his fmily in Leverstock Green at his house "Pancake" which he had built shortly before WW1) and Master  Richard Randolph acted as pages.   Sadly the marriage was not to last, ending in divorce with Enid  remarrying. She was said later to go to France to live after (presumably)   marrying a Parisian artist.  However, it was generally not considered "correct" to talk about Enid as she was divorced. At Dorothy's funeral Enid and her new husband, George Anson, were present.  (It is uncertain if he was the French artist, or if she married for a third time.)

As it turned out, the Rev. Durrant would appear to have approved  his youngest daughter's marriage, and later performed a Church Blessing on their union.  But sadly Dorothy's marriage was  not to last much more than six months, as Sir Robert died on 2nd September 1932, having apparently contracted a form of polio whilst on an expedition to Libya undertaken shortly after their marriage.  It should also be remembered here that prior to the discovery of antibiotics and ant-viral drugs, the sudden death of otherwise healthy individuals due to various viral and bacterial infections was very common as the school log books and parish registers can grimly testify.

The Daily Express's report for Saturday September 3rd 1932 read as below, The paper also carried two photographs, one a rather fine studio type portrait of Lady Dorothy from which it could be seen that she bore a strong resemblance to her Mother Mrs. Alice Durrant; the other a smaller portrait of Sir Robert.
This page was last updated on: August 19, 2010
Printed Sources:

Extracts from the Hemel Hempstead Gazette and the Herts Advertiser.(See individual yearly dated entries for precise dates of extracts)

The Daily Express September 3rd 1932 p 9 (includes photos of Dorothy & Sir Robert.)

The Daily Mail, September 3rd 1932 (includes studio type portrait of Dorothy & Sir Robert).

The Daily Express. September 16th 1933, at the very  end of   The Names Make News column.

The Daily Express September 19th 1933 (includes photo of Dorothy in flying helmet)

The Times Wednesday February 17th 1932

The Times, Wednseday July 6th 1932

The Times, September 16th 1933 - several articles including Obituary, and 2 pages of Lady Dorothy's own account of her trip to Libya (pp1(?), 11, 12 & 14

The Times, September 19th  1933

Vintage Aircraft Magazine, (No 28, Autumn 1983)

The English Patient, a novel by Michael Ondaatje

The Last Camel died at Noon, a novel by Elizabeth Peters

"English Patient's Real Lover was a gay Nazi" - article by Richard Brooks in The Sunday Times, May 2nd 2004

Add this page to your favorites.
Tell a friend about this page

Chronicle pre-20th CenturyMaplinks page (for large scale and old maps of the area.)

20th Century Leverstock GreenGlossary
Rev Arthur Durrant & Family.
A detailed history of one village in Hertfordshire UK.
  Rare Germ
Kills Young
  "Daily Express" Special
   MAIDENHEAD, Friday.

A RARE and fatal tropical germ that remains latent in the system for a considerable time has caused the sudden death of Sir Robert Alan Clayton East-Clayton the twenty-four-year-old baronet of ancient ancestry.
Sir Robert became ill on Monday and although five doctors and specialists were called and oxygen applied his condition became worse, and he died at his home Hall Place , Hurley, near here last night.
It is most probable that the germ that caused death was picked up during his recent travels in the Libyan Desert.  The germ induces a condition known as acute anterior poliomyelitis.  The disease is similar to  infantile paralysis.
He went out with Count Ladislas de Almasy to find the lost oasis of Zerzura. The oasis was discovered, but during the expedition Si Robert and his companion were lost in the desert for two days.  The privations then endured may, it is thought,  have undermined his strength and made him more susceptible to the germ that caused his death.
His mother Lady Clayton-East was on a caravan holiday in Scotland when Sir Robert became ill.  She was traced by broadcast messages from BBC Scottish stations, and returned to Maidenhead immediately, only to hear that her son had died.
Sir Robert was married on February 29 to Miss Dorothy Mary Durrant, the twenty-five year old daughter of the Rev. Arthur Durrant vicar of Leverstock Green, Hertfordshire. She is a talented sculptress.
A portrait of Sir Robert on his own (as opposed to the joint protrait mentioned at the top of this page) is housed at The National Portrait Gallery and can be accessed at from their website under "Collections". Click here.

Less than six months after her husband's death, Dorothy herself was reported in The Hemel Hempstead Gazette for  February 11 1933 as she set off on her own search for a lost oasis in Libya in an attempt to achieve what her husband had been unable to do.  It interesting to note that the various newspaper reports I have so far uncovered all spell the name of the oasis slightly differently! They also don't always agree as to the facts. For example, compare the accounts in the Gazette  and The Daily Express of Sir Robert's search for the lost Oasis.
An additional snippet of information has recently come to light, in that on the 26th June 1932, the Claytons signed the guest book of the Royal Victoria Hotel in Pisa.  As well as their signatures was the name and number of their plane, and the note Cairo-London. They were no doubt en-route for England after their trip to Libya. [Source: e-mail from the present owner of the  Royal Victortia Hotel Pisa.]  It is interesting to note that, althoug it was Sir Robert who had earlier added the "East Clayton" to his name, their both signed thier names with just a single Clayton.t.



Much local interest has been aroused by the news of the death of Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton, Bart, RN, which occurred on Thursday of last week at his home, “Hall Place”, Hurley, near Maidenhead.
He married Miss Dorothy Mary Durrant, a daughter of the Rev. Arthur Durrant, Vicar of Leverstock Green , last February.
The late Sir Robert was the only son of the late Major Sir George F. C. Clayton East, and was only 24 years of age.  He succeeded his father in two baronetcies in 1926.
In April of this year Sir Robert made a journey to the Libyan Desert to find the “lost” oasis of Zerzura.  Unfortunately the expedition was unsuccessful in locating the oasis and another expedition, of which Sir Robert was to have been a member, is being planned.
Death was due to acute anterior poliomyelitis which is similar to infantile paralysis. It is a rare disease, which is generally fatal, and it is believed that Sir Robert picked up the germ, while in the desert.
Lady Clayton East Clayton is a talented sculptress.  She has a studio in London and specialises in glass and plaster work. Many people will remember her charming exhibits at Arts and Craft shows in Hertfordshire.
Her father, too, is a keen artist.
The sympathy of a large number of friends in and around Leverstock Green  will go out to the Vicar and his daughter in their  bereavement.
The remains of Sir Robert were cremated at Woking, on Tuesday, following a service which was taken by the Vicar of Leverstock Green , assisted by the Rev. D.W. Money.
Among those present were: Lady Clayton East (mother), the Misses Clayton East and R. Clayton East (sisters), Mr. Harold Clayton, (cousin), Major T.G. Anson, Mrs. Anson, Brigadier-General R.T. Perry, Major J.M. Hamilton, Mrs. Harrington Stuart, Mrs. Balfour, Captain R.G. Harvey, RN, Mrs. Symons Jeune, Miss Maude, Miss Murphy and Nurse Melnerney.
The ashes are to remain at the crematorium, and will be privately removed and scattered over the English Channel from an aeroplane. [ Herts Advertiser Sept. 9th 1932]

Click here to link to a page showing the collection of portraits of Dorothy held at the National Portrait Gallery by photographer Bassano and taken on 6th March 1932, presumably commissioned to selebrate Dorothy & Robert's marriage a few days previously.

Lady Clayton to search for lost oasis

The news has been published this week that Lady Clayton East Clayton intends to start at the weekend on a flight to the Libyan Desert to search for the lost Oasis of Zerrura.  It is stated that she is to make an attempt to find the oasis in a chain which formed an old caravan route from the Sudan to the coast.  Flying in her own aeroplane, Lady East Clayton will use the  maps and routes left by her husband, and is taking with her a reserve pilot, Lieut. Comdr. Raundall.

Prior to her marriage to Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton at a London Register Office, on February 29th 1932, Lady Clayton East Clayton was Miss Dorothy Mary Durrant.  She is the daughter of the Rev. A. Durrant, Vicar of Leverstock Green.  It will be remembered that Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton set off soon after his marriage to find the Oasis, but having been lost in the desert for several days. returned home without success.  About five months later he died at his home, Hall Place, Hurley, near Maidenhead, from a form of infantile paralysis.  It is believed that he became infected with the germ which caused the infantile paralysis while in Libya.

Lady Clayton East Clayton, who has the consent of the Egyptian Government for the expedition, expects to be away for some two months or so.

Sadly, within seven months of this expedition and within days of her 27th birthday, Dorothy herself was dead.
The following was among the first items in William Hickey’s now famous society column in The Daily Express. In the edition for September 16th 1933, at the very  end of   The Names Make News column, was a small paragraph as follows:

Young attractive widow of young 9th Baronet.  Married February 1932, husband died September 1932.
Launched only a few weeks ago, new hairdressing fashion: over and through her blond hair were a sleek natural looking lock of black.


A few days later on  September 19th 1933, at the top of  page 7 in The Daily Express was splashed the following headline:
Two Fatal Days At Brooklands:
Graphic Inquest Stories

(The article also included two photographs, one of Lady Clayton, a close-up of her face in her flying helmet.  It is difficult to tell from the photo if it was taken at the time of her leap from the plane, or whether it was reproduced from another occasion. Under the photo was the caption: Lady Clayton jumped from her airplane at fifty miles an hour. The other photo was of Flying Officer William Kent who gave evidence at one of the other inquests.
“Death by Misadventure” was returned in each of the three inquests held at Weybridge yesterday on the victims of the tragic sequence of fatalities at Brooklands on Friday and Saturday.

The victims were:-

Lady Clayton-East -Clayton,  widow of Sir Robert Clayton-East-Clayton the explorer who fell from her airplane while it was moving on the ground.

Flying  Officer Leslie M. Few, pilot of an RAF Vickers Virginia bomber which crashed on landing:  and

Mr. M.B.Watson, the racing motorist, whose machine caught fire and overturned while he was competing in the 500-miles race........................(Then followed details of FO Few’s inquest which was held first.)

.................The first witness at the inquest on Lady Dorothy Mary Clayton -East-Clayton was her father, the Rev. Arthur Durrant who said that she was an experienced pilot. Mr. Max Finlay, instructor at Brooklands Aero Club, said that Lady Clayton was a good amateur pilot.  The airplane involved was her own.  He had flown in it with her on the day of the accident and the previous day.

George Edward Lawdell, an instructor who was sitting in another machine, said that Lady Clayton’s machine suddenly swerved to the left and then to the right.

“I saw her head and shoulders coming out of the cockpit as the machine was gathering speed.  She stood up as if she were struggling to undo her safety belt, and jumped when the machine was racing along at fifty miles an hour.”

Major Cooper, the air ministry expert, said that the only possible conclusion was that the throttle lever broke, and that Lady Clayton, acting on a sudden impulse leapt out without realising the speed of the machine.

The lever was exposed to the weather, and the breaking was probably due to lack of lubrication.  That matter was one entirely for the private owner.  The engine was quite controllable even with the lever broken, and it was extraordinary that she did not knock off the switches..........
(The rest was an account of Mr. Watson’s inquest.)

Another national, The Times ran the following obituary on September 22nd:

The funeral of Lady Clayton East Clayton took place yesterday in Leverstock Green Churchyard, Hertfordshire, conducted by the Rev. C.S. Carey and the Rev. Douglas Pelly (uncle).  The chief mourners were:-
The Rev. A Durrant (father), Major and Mrs George Anson (brother-in-law and sister), Mr G.F. Norman Durrant (uncle), Miss Ella Durrant (aunt), Mr. & Mrs. Reginald Woolley (cousins), the Rev. Arthur Hackblock (uncle), Mr. Reginald G. Durrant (cousin), Mrs. Douglas Pelly (aunt), Brigadier-General Theodore Pelly and Mrs. Pelly (uncle & aunt), Miss Pamela Pelly (cousin), Mrs Godfrey Lawford and Mrs. Mortimer Rowland (aunts), the Hon. Blanche Arundell, and Mrs. Ada Rosedale (cousin).
Others present included:-
Lady Clayton-East, Miss Clayton-East, Colonel & Lady Janet Bailey, Miss J. Bailey, Mr. Douglas J. Bailey, Mr. O.N.Bailey, Mrs. Mitchell Innes, Miss P. Seymour, Miss J. Seymour, the Rev. F.C.Clare, Miss A. Campbell, Miss N. Campbell, Mrs.F. Rodd, Mr. G.G.R.Rodd, Mr. & Mrs. Rodd, Mr. Peter Rodd, the Rev. A.C. Jefferies, Miss Streatfield, Mr. Brown Teders, Lieutenant-Commander Rondell, Mr. Andrew Tracey, Mr. Claud Brighten, Mr. P. Webster and Mrs. A. Tuke.

It would seem that her rank, coupled with the fact that her death was the result of a flying accident, and anything to do with flying at the time was news - especially if it involved a woman - put the story of Lady Dorothy’s death very much into the national, rather than local scene.  No doubt , National papers other than The Times and The Express carried articles on her, and her death was also noted in specialist journals of the day.  Flight  magazine, for September 21st 1933 reported as follows:
“ Accidents at Brooklands  - It is with  the greatest  regret that FLIGHT has to record the death of Lady Clayton East-Clayton, which took place at Brooklands aerodrome on Friday September 15th.  It appears that as she was about to take off., and when the machine was travelling across the ground, Lady Clayton climbed on to the edge of the cockpit abs dropped out on to the aerodrome. If, as at seems most likely, the throttle of the machine in some way or other jammed or broke off near the hand lever, it is difficult to explain why the pilot did not resort to the obvious remedy of switching off the engine.  Another accident also occurred at Brooklands  on the same day, due it seems to an error or judgement on the part of the pilot.....”  [S308]
Half a century later in the Vintage Aircraft Magazine, (No 28, Autumn 1983), the following eyewitness account of Lady Dorothy’s death was reported by Bill Boddy in his reminiscences on Brooklands as he remembered it:
“..........But there was a dark side.  I was there when Lady Clayton East-Clayton somehow contrived to fall out of her Spartan Arrow right in front of the Clubhouse as she was taking off one September morning in 1933.  Her injuries were fatal and the aeroplane had to remain there until the Air Ministry Accident Inspector  arrived, to Duncan Davis’ disgust as he thought this uncondusive to Club recruitment.”.
The article also included a stunning aerial view of  the Brooklands Aero Club, and surrounding race track, as well as a photograph of Lady Dorothy’s Spartan Arrow plane, G-ACHF - before the fatal accident.

In a very long letter to me concerning the crash in May 1998, Bill Boddy enclosed a photocopy of the photo of the aircraft which he inscribed. (Right)

The following long article is from the Hemel Hempstead Gazette of  Saturday September 23 1933:


The people of the district were profoundly shocked on Friday last to hear the news of the tragic death of Lady Clayton East Clayton, the explorer, and daughter of the Rev. and late Mrs Durrant of Leverstock Green. Lady Clayton East Clayton was killed when she fell from an aeroplane at Brooklands.
The machine was taxiing along the ground at about 60 miles an hour, just before taking off, when Lady Clayton  fell or jumped from the cockpit, striking the ground with great force.


Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton died at his home, Hall Place, Hurley, near Maidenhead, almost exactly a year ago from a mysterious disease believed to have been contracted while searching for a lost oasis in the Libyan desert.

He met Lady Clayton on an ocean voyage and they were married on Leap Year Day last year.  As Miss Dorothy Durrant she had already achieved a reputation as a sculptress.  Sir Robert was then 24 and an officer in the Royal Navy.  The couple decided to devote themselves to exploring.

Their first mission was to discover the lost oasis of Zerzuza. They went to Egypt and obtained permission of the Egyptian authorities to carry out their quest.  Sir Robert went alone by motor and aeroplane, leaving Lady Clayton behind.
The expedition was unsuccessful and Sir Robert returned to England, where he fell ill and died suddenly last September.
Last February, a year after her marriage,  Lady Clayton  made a second attempt by aeroplane to discover the lost oasis.  She was accompanied by a reserve pilot, Lt-Comdr. Raundall.  This expedition also failed.


The inquest was held on Monday and the Rev. A. Durrant gave evidence.  He said that his daughter was an experienced air pilot.

Max Finlay, a flying instructor to the Brooklands club, said Lady Clayton - East Clayton was a very good amateur pilot, she held an "A" licence.  She had been flying alone for about 18 months. The machine was a light aeroplane of the Spartan type, new this year, and was her own property.  Apart from another member of the club who flew to Folkestone, four or five weeks ago, nobody had been in it apart from Lady Clayton and himself.

On the morning of the accident he flew in the machine with Lady Clayton.  He was in the front cockpit, where he had the controls. but Lady Clayton actually controlled the machine during the half hour they were in the air.
Mr Finlay explained that although Lady Clayton was a good pilot, it was not unusual for owners to invite the instructor to take the first flight of the day with them.  She had not been in the machine for four or five weeks, except on a flight the day before, as she had been abroad.

While she was away the machine was in a Brooklands Aero Club hangar.  It would not be overhauled without her instructions, and she had not given any.

The broken control rod of the machine was produced in court.

The coroner (to Mr Finlay): If the control rod broke away, what would happen? 

The throttle would remain where it was.  If it were open it would remain open.

And Lady Clayton being in the back would have no means of stopping the engine? 

Yes, she would,  There was the switch.  All she had to do was to put her hand over the side and switch off.
Did she know that?  Oh yes.  She had used the switches.

Mr Finlay agreed with Major Cooper (Air Ministry inspector of accidents) that it was customary for private owners to have their machines looked over at the end of very 25 hours' flying.  As his machine had been flying about 25 hours she would probably have had it looked over shortly.

Ernest Nicholls, chief inspector of the Spartan Aircraft Company who had made the machine, said it left the works on June 28th.  The throttle control lever which had broken off was obviously rusty. After it had broken off , the thing to do was switch  off the engine with the other lever.

Mr Nicholls agreed that if the lever came off in the pilot's hand when the machine was taking off it would be very embarrassing and possibly difficult.

George Edward Lowdell, an aviation instructor, said he was sitting in his machine, ready to take off, when he saw Lady Clayton's machine suddenly swerve to the left and then to the right.  Then he saw her head  and shoulders completely out of the cockpit.  The machine meanwhile was gathering speed.

"She stood up in the machine as if she were struggling and endeavouring to undo her safety belt." Mr Lowdell continued: "She got her right foot out on the right side of the fuselage and then jumped when the machine was racing along at about 50 miles per hour."

Marcus Michael Kaye said he was sitting outside the clubhouse watching the flying and saw Lady Clayton's machine swerve.
"As it came opposite the clubhouse I saw the pilot apparently getting out of the machine.  She fumbled with her safety belt and stood up in the pilot's seat.  Then she leapt or was thrown from the machine. She turned a somersault as she fell to the ground.”

Dr Gardner said Lady Clayton was unconscious when she was admitted to hospital.  She had a broken arm and bruises on the head.  Her condition was hopeless and she died within about an hour from cerebral haemorrhage due to a fracture of the skull.  The fracture was consistent with falling on the hard ground.

Major Cooper said the only defect in the machine not manifestly due to the crash was the broken throttle control lever and rod.  He thought that the lever could have been operated satisfactorily if it had not been allowed to become rusty.  The fracture was probably the result of lack of lubrication.

A verdict of "Death from misadventure" was returned.


The funeral of Lady Clayton East Clayton took place at Leverstock Green Church on Thursday.   The clergy and choir preceding the cortege were met at the church door by the crucifix, thurifier and acolytes.  Psalms 39 and 90 were chanted and the Rev. Douglas Pelly, uncle of the deceased, read the lesson. The service and committal rites at the graveside were conducted by the Rev. C. S. Cary, of St Saviour's. St Albans.  The hymn "Abide with me" was sung, and Mrs Grimwood, who was at the organ, played as the cortege left the church, "Pleasant are They Courts Above".

The grave was next to that of Lady Clayton East Clayton's mother and had been lined with variegated ivy, Michaelmas daisies and asters.  Rain fell heavily throughout the solemn service but this did not prevent a large number of villagers attending to pay a last tribute of respect.

When I first read the above  Gazette report, not only was I saddened by her story, but found it very easy to picture as I was intimately aquainted with Brooklands and Weybridge Cottage Hospital where she would have been taken after the accident.  My father moved from the Isle of Wight to work at Vickers-Armstrong, the aircraft manufacturers based at Brooklands (Weybridge, in Surrey) in 1955, where he continued to work until his retirement in 1983 - though by then it was known as British Aerospace.

The most famous of all the aeroplanes designed at Brooklands, and on which both my parents worked being Concorde.  My  mother also worked there from about 1963, and for much of that time she worked in an office immediately next door to the Brooklands Clubhouse, (built in 1907 when Brooklands was built as the world’s first motor-racing track,) which for most of the time I knew it served as one of the canteens or “the mess” for the white-collar staff at the factory.  What was left of the motor-racing trackway and embankment was an integral part of the factory.  The Aero Clubhouse - a 1930’s Art-Deco building, was on the Byfleet side of the track, and had only just been opened at the time of Dorothy’s fatal accident immediately in front of it.  This building is still standing, and is now  part of the Brooklands Museum. It is also frequently filmed for its architectural style and had featured in episodes of Poirot and similar dramas set in the early 1930’s. In 2009/2010 the area outside the clubhouse was also used as the venue  for a sesion of The BBC's  Antiques Roadshow, and featured in one of the episodes of James May's Toys on BBC2.

When my parents worked at British Aerospace it was used as the Sports and Social Club for the staff, and I had attended several functions there over the years.
My Grandfather ERNEST NICHOLLS, who gave evidence at Dorothy's inquest. He was awarded the BEM in June 1950, and he died in July 1960
Most people will be familiar with the film: Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines. Although set in the pre First World War Years, rather than the early thirties of Dorothy’s time, it Featured the Great Air Race; the film was a parody of what actually took place at Brooklands and the Great Air Race of 1911.  Brooklands was called Brookley in the film, but included many real film clips from Brooklands, and everyone who remembers the film will remember the sewage works, and the dome of the Clubhouse used  as a lookout  and from which the fire-engine was summoned every time a plane crash landed. These features really existed, and the smell from the sewerage works was part of my childhood! Pilots overshooting the small runway at Brooklands frequently ended up sampling its waters!

Reading on I was shattered to find my grandfather -Ernest Nicholls -  mentioned in the account of the inquest.  As  far as I knew at the time he had worked for Saunders-Roe at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.  As he had retired shortly after I was born, and died when I was 9 I had not been familiar with what he had done.  It turns out that the Spartan Company was a subsidiary of Saunders-Roe; and that Granddad had risen to become not only their Chief Inspector of Aircraft for Spartan and Saunders-Roe, but also prior to the establishment of the Air Registration board, he was area surveyor for Lloyds Register of Shipping in connection with issuing air worthiness certificates to planes. It was therefore not really surprising that he should be called to give evidence at Dorothy’s inquest.

Martin, the boys and I were spurred into a nostalgic days outing to the Brooklands Museum, but they had no information about Dorothy other than that  which I could give them, and to which I can now add.  I wrote to Dame Barbara Cartland who was  an important member of the Brooklands Motor Racing Club in the 1920’s and 30’s and who also flew her own planes at Brooklands, but she could not recollect Dorothy at all.  A helpful member of staff from The Isle of Wight County Press has sent me a copy of my grandfather’s obituary, and has promised to see if they can find a report on the incident in the County Press of the time, as the plane hadn’t long left the Spartan works on the Island when the fatal accident occurred. This was never forthcoming.

For anyone wishing for an enjoyable outing, I would recommend a visit to the Brooklands Museum.  The old clubhouse has been lovingly restored and has lots of interesting exhibits including many early automobiles and racing cars as well as a history of the motor racing industry.  They  have a restored “Motoring Village” just as it would have been in the 1930’s, and the remaining  section of racing embankment is a truly impressive site, especially when viewed from the Members Bridge. They also have a large display of aircraft, most of which were built or flown at Brooklands, including Concorde and the Wellington Bomber pulled out of Loch Ness not so many years ago.  It is a museum well worth a trip around the M25 to reach, and of interest to all age groups.  It would seem you can also get married there these days - on Concorde if wished!  Telephone the Museum on 01932 857381 for a leaflet giving details and how to get there.

Returning to the days following Dorothy's death, THE TIMES published the following within a couple of days of one another:
“The English Patient” at Holy Trinity.

I never imagined when I began delving into the history of Leverstock Green, that I would end up spending three hours wandering around and in Holy Trinity fully wired for sound, virtually blind (as I had whilst inside the church to remove my glasses as they reflected badly in the camera lens!), and accompanied by a five man film crew whilst being interviewed to camera for a Television documentary.  Even less did I imagine that the story of an adventurous daughter of one of our past Vicar’s would turn out to have been the inspiration for a character in a novel, which subsequently was turned into an extremely successful and well know film.  Truth often turns out stranger than fiction, and there have been plenty of interesting twists and turns  in this particular tale.

Those of you who read my articles last year on Lady Dorothy Clayton East Clayton née Durrant, daughter of Holy Trinity’s Vicar Rev. Arthur Durrant, will recall that she died tragically in September 1933, aged only 26, as a result of an aircraft accident at Brooklands in Surrey.  She was buried in Holy Trinity’s churchyard next door to her mother, and three years later her father was laid to rest on her other side.

Dorothy had been the youngest of the Durrant children, and the only one to be born and brought up in Leverstock Green. She didn’t go to the village school, but had a governess at the Vicarage to provide her education. Little is know about Dorothy until her marriage to Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton on February 29th 1932 at a London Registry office, other than she had apparently made something of a name for herself as a sculptress.  Sir Robert was an officer in the Royal Navy, attached to the RAF, and they apparently met whilst on an ocean voyage. After their marriage they announced they were going to devote their lives to exploration, and it wasn’t long before they set off to the Libyan Desert, together with Count Ladislas D’Almasy, other RAF personnel, and a member of the Egyptian Government Desert Survey to try to find a lost Oasis. It is however, unclear whether this expedition was a military one or a purely personal enterprise. 

A few months after their return from this failed expedition Sir Robert was taken fatally ill with  what was reported to have been  a type of acute anterior poliomyelitis, supposedly picked up whilst Sir Robert was in the Libyan Desert.  A year following Sir Robert’s death Dorothy is known to have gone back to the Desert to see if she could find the lost oasis; later travelling on an expedition to Lapland.

Dorothy was an experience pilot, and it was whilst manoevering her Spartan Arrow plane in front of the newly built Brooklands Aero Club building, that the throttle leaver apparently broke.  Evidence is somewhat confusing after that, but it would seem that Dorothy either jumped out of the plane or was thrown out, but she somersaulted and hit her head on the hard   runway surface. The injury proved fatal.

There had always seemed to me and many others who read the accounts of the inquest and various other reports, that there was something not quite right about the whole accident, particularly given that the plane was only a few moths old and as it was still Autumn hadn’t yet been exposed to the vagaries of a British winter; in addition the plane had been flown quite happily and jointly by Dorothy and an instructor earlier that day without problems.  Yet despite this, the throttle leaver had broken off completely -according to contemporary reports it was suggested that it had rusted through and was lacking in lubrication. Although not impossible, this does seem highly improbable.

Which brings me back to the film crew. Janet Osen, a researcher who works for Four Feathers Film Inc. from New Jersey in the States has undertaken some research which is tending to suggest that the accident to the plane may have been as a result of sabotage - and it is just remotely possible that her husband’s death was too.  When they went on the expedition to Libya, Sir Robert was accompanied by a Count Ladislas D’Almasy. (He was later to attend Dorothy’s funeral.)  Yet it is reported that there was extreme animosity between Dorothy and the Count, though no one seemed to know why.  At the time of both the original expedition, and later Dorothy’s own, the situation in Europe was beginning to head towards war.  Perhaps Dorothy and her husband had stumbled on something in the desert they shouldn’t know about, or perhaps the Count had affinities with the growing power of Hitler and Nazi Germany; perhaps he resented Dorothy’s influence as a new wife over Sir Robert. Although speculation, there is enough circumstantial evidence to make the whole story of Sir Robert and Lady Dorothy their explorations and their tragic deaths an important part of a series of  American TV  documentaries  entitled “Mirage: The World War II Desert Series”.  What makes it even more interesting is that it would seem Leverstock Green’s own Dorothy Durrant was the real life person on whom the character Katherine Clifton in the novel “The English Patient” was loosely based. The novel which was subsequently turned into an award winning film by Anthony Minghella. (Another family association here as he too came from the Isle of Wight)

Nearly seventy-years after her death, Dorothy’s story  meant that the full paraphernalia of a roving film crew - cameraman, lighting man, sound man, the director and the researcher, together with their driver and mountains of extremely hi tech equipment descended on Holy Trinity which became an “outside location” for three hours.  The verdict of the film crew was that they were really glad they came (originally the intention was to interview me in London) as not only was the church “real pretty, and looks just like the old pictures”, the graveyard was looking at its best, with numerous wild flowers in full bloom, and there was plenty of colour from the plants in the borders.  The sun shone over everything, and even bushes were in just the right places to screen out the Trinity Room and the oil tank -this please the cameraman greatly.

However, having today been walked continuously round the churchyard in the very hot sun, sometimes backwards whilst making sure I didn’t look directly at the camera, or trip over the sound recordist; then boiled by great banks of lights inside the church whilst a huge boom hovered over my head and I was made to repeat a phrase for the umpteenth time, I have decided that film actors and TV personalities perhaps have to work harder than I had thought!
The English Patient - a postscript

     by Barbara Chapman

Following my article in last month's Chambersbury News, I've been fortunate to borrow both the video and the Booker Prize winning novel (1992) of The English Patient from the library; intrigued to see if I too could link Dorothy Durrant to the Katherine Clifton in the story.

Although  I have yet to read more than a few chapters of the book, there is an obvious link between Dorothy and the story in the person of "the English patient"  Count Ladislaus D'Almásy.  He was a genuine Hungarian explorer, educated and living in England and who as a member of the Royal Geographic Society undertook explorations in the desert, including that in 1932 in which Sir Robert Clayton and his new wife took part.  Indeed the cover photograph on the copy of the novel I've been loaned was one of Almásy's, taken during that particular expedition, and now amongst the archive of the Royal Geographical Society in London.

With the Count retaining his own name in the book, and the obvious connection to Zerzura in the Libyan desert, it is not too large a leap of imagination to infer that the newly married couple Geoffrey and Katherine Clifton of the book's expedition in search of Zerzura were based on the genuine newly weds Sir Robert and Lady Dorothy Clayton - even the names Clayton and Clifton only differ by two letters.

The preface to the book (fictional) begins:
                                           "Most of you, I am sure, remember the tragic circumstances of the death of Geoffrey Clifton at Gilf Kebir, followed later by the disappearance of his wife Katherine Clifton, which took place during the 1939 desert expedition in search of Zerzura..................

I shall be interested to see how many other similarities are obvious between what is currently known about Dorothy Clayton née Durrant, and the character in the book.  The disclaimer in the book states "that the portraits of the characters who appear in it are fictitional, as are some of the events and journeys."  It is however, interesting to speculate how much is fiction, and how much drawn from fact. 
The above photographs of Dorothy's grave, and inscriptions below I took for the film crew to use as they wanted them taken on a dry day ( it rained the day they were here).  The autumnal photos below were taken in November 2002 and show all three Durrant graves. (Dorothy's mother and father were also buried here.  Dorothy's is the one in the centre, and also shown on its own.
Dorothy’s Will

7th November 1933 - In the Wills and Bequests section of   “The Times” was the following: “Dame Dorothy Mary Clayton East Clayton of Maidenhead Berkshire, explorer and traveller, who died at Brooklands on September 15th, left estate of the gross value of £2, 843 with net personality of £728.”  [The Times, 7th November 1933.]   In today's terms that is £150,000.00 using the retail price index or £565,000.00 using average earnings. [Lawrence H. Officer, "Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1264 to Present," MeasuringWorth, 2009. ]

But further revelations were to follow, ultimately resulting in a High Court Case.  On April 10th the following year (1934) in the Kings Bench Division, before Mr Justice Branson, a full account of which appeared in The Times for April 12th that year, and extracts from which I quote below:

Although I have heard no further from the film company, I did subsequently undertake a search on the Internet  with DOROTHY CLAYTON EAST CLAYTON.  The result was amazing.  There are a large number of sites which refer to her and her husband quite clearly as the models for Katherine Clifton and her husband in the novels.  There is also a great deal of information concerning the search by numerous bodies in the 1920's and 30's for the lost oasis, and various related material.  I even found the "lost oasis" to be one of the strands in the Amelia Peabody Novel "The Last Camel Died at Noon" by Elizabeth Peters.


Over the years since I first uncovered Dorothy's story and published it on the Internet I have been contacted at regular intervals by many people interested in her story, that of her family, and the explorations she and her husband undertook.  It seems likley to me and to others, that as more and more information is released from various archives, that further twists to Dorothy's story will emerge.  I have gradually over the years uncovered her elder sister's story, and considerable more information about her middle sister and her brother who was killed during the First World War (see Rev Arthur Durrant & Family and Three MIlitary Crosses for Leverstock Green Officers.)

In recent years a development of new houses in the village next to the churchyard was named Clayton Drive in her memory.

One aspect of Dorothy's life I would dearly like to know more about is her sculpture, and to discover a peice of her work would be amazing.

If you can add to my information on Lady Dorothy, and particulaly if you have photographs of her, members of her family or her art work/sculpture, please contact me.
Barbara Chapman
Above: Dorothy in Egypt.
Right: Anither photocopy of one of Dorothy's planes sent me by Bill Boddy.
The Times, September 16th 1933


Lady Clayton East Clayton, widow of Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton, who was died last year, was killed yesterday morning at Brooklands by falling from an aeroplane in which she was about to make a short flight.

By a remarkable coincidence The Times is able to publish today an article of exceptional interest by Lady Clayton East Clayton. Her husband paid with his life for his zeal for exploration in the Libyan Desert, and when he died his widow resolved to carry out, if possible, his unfinished task.  She spent over three months in the spring of this year in a courageous effort to trace the lost oasis of Zerzura.  The article from her pen, printed on pages 11 & 12, which describes her journey, reached The Times yesterday afternoon a few hours after her death.

Precisely how the accident at Brooklands happened is not clear event to those who saw it.  Lady Clayton East Clayton was alone in the light aeroplane, and had begun to taxi it into position for the takeoff.  For some reason at present unexplained, she lost control if it and got out while it was travelling at a fair speed across the aerodrome.  Her fall appeared not to be a very heavy one, but on examination at Weybridge Cottage Hospital, it was found that her skull was fractured.  She died two hours after the accident.
The reason for her climbing out of the cockpit is obscure.  One view was that she became alarmed at the acceleration of the aeroplane, and that possibly the throttle lever had jammed.  This has not been established yet, nor is there any explanation of her failure, if this was the case, to switch off the magneto, which would have stopped the engine.  The alternative, on an engine of this size, would have been to open the throttle fully and let the aeroplane take off.

It is assumed that, after falling from the machine, Lady Clayton East Clayton was struck by some part of it, and so suffered the injury which caused her death.  IN leaving the cockpit she apparently put the control column forward, for the tail lifted, and putting its nose down, the machine turned over.
The Times, September 16th 1933

*A memoir appears on page 12.



In the following article Lady Clayton East Clayton, who met with a fatal accident at Brooklands yesterday, tells the story of her attempt to find the lost oasis of Zerzura in the Libyan desert, which her late husband also attempted without success to find.  The account reached “The Times” yesterday afternoon shortly after her death.
By the late Lady Clayton East Clayton

In the course of an aerial survey which my husband made in 1932 he observed a large well-wooded wadi on the eastern edge of the Gilf Kebir which at the time he believed to mark the site of the legendary oasis of Zerzura, the oasis of birds.  It was impossible then to make a landing, but the possibility that he had discovered the solution of this great puzzle remained in his mind.  After my husband’s death I determined to finish the work of discovery we had begun.  The Gilf Kebir is the great flat  plateau bounded by steep cliffs and interested with deeply eroded valleys which lies at the southern end of the Sand Sea and forms a barrier almost as impassable between the Libyan oases of Kufra and Owenat and the Nile Valley and it satellite oases of Baharia, Farafra, and Dakhla.
It was accordingly with this end in view that I started out from Cairo last March.  I had originally intended to use the aeroplane I had brought out from England in the survey, but local conditions convinced me that it would prove rather a source of worry and danger than a help.  I and Commander Roundell, who accompanied me, decided therefore to rely on lorries and camels for our transport. 
While in Cairo I had the good fortune to be put in touch with Sir Ahmet Hasseinein, without whose assistance it is very doubtful if my expedition would have materialised at all.


Hasseinein, whose duties to his King have all too long deprived geography of one of its most brilliant explorers, arranged for me to join forces with P.A. Clayton, who was just off on one of his periodical surveys in the area I was bound for.  This fortunate coincidence enormously increased the chances of obtaining valuable scientific results.

Our transport consisted of six Ford lorries, four of Clayton’s and two of mine, and the personnel, besides the Europeans of 12 Arabs. Though prepared by the experience of other travellers, I must admit I was surprised by the performance of our lorries.  Neither the cliffs of the Gilf nor the looses sands of the dune sea could provide a serious obstacle for them, and though in the course of the expedition we did break two back axles, all of the lorries were brought safely back to Cairo.

Our first stop after leaving Cairo was the oasis of Baharia, where we rested and made up deficiencies in our equipment.  This beautiful oasis is thickly inhabited and intensively cultivated, the fresh green giving an impression of unsurpassed luxuriance by contrast with the aridness of the desert.

From Baharia we moved to Ain Dalla, a small pool of fairly good water just under the eastern edge of the Sand Sea.  Ain Dalla was to become our base for water supplies, for our survey of the waterless country on the western side. Everything depended on the success with which we could organise and maintain communications across the Sand Sea with the camp which we intended to establish on the other side.  Our lorries proved themselves equal to this task.  No fewer than four double crossings were made, the trip taking about two days each way, and at no time did we feel cut off by this apparently formidable barrier.


The dunes of the Sand Sea, for most of its length, consist in long ridges running roughly north and south.  Between them are “streets” of comparatively firm sand.  The eastern slopes of these ridges are gradual and fairly easy to manage, but the leeward slopes on the west are steep and the sand is loose and tricky.  At first, before we became experienced in driving over dunes, we had some trouble with these western slopes.  The sand haze and the monotony of the colour as one drives across the crest of a dune are deceptive.  Before one notices it the car has come to the western edge and is hurtling down a steep slope of loose and with its cargo of passengers tumbled in a heap in the back.  Gradually, however, we learnt to watch the colour and texture of he sand, and mishaps of this kind became fewer.

From our camp on the western side we made a series of trips to the south-east, where the Sand Sea abuts on the Gilf.  In the course of one of these we established a camp in an area where large quantities of glass were scattered over the soil.  This glass, which is probably of cosmic origin, varies from light bottle green to almost pure white and appears to have some kind of affinity with the darker Moldavites found in the Balkans.  Its distribution seemed to indicate an impact and burst, being thick in the centre of the area and more scattered towards the circumference.

The geographical results of the surveys are in the course of preparation and will in due course be published.  Before returning north to Western camp, and in order to replenish our water and petrol supplies, Commander Roundell and myself decided to make an expedition to Kufra, which we reached by striking the Kufra Abu Mungar Road and following it westwards.  The road is one of the hardest of the North African Caravan routes, evidence of its terrors being the white bones of the camels which are the travellers’ guide along almost its whole length.

At Kufra the Italians gave us a great welcome.   I had previously on my way out by air made acquaintance with the hospitality of the Italian Air Force Mess and knew that we should find friends; but I was almost overcome with their welcome.  I should also like to place on record that both in Italy and North Africa it would  be impossible to find greater helpfulness, hospitality, and good company than with the Italian Air Force.

During this and another visit to Kufra a week or two later, I made a tour of several of the villages of the oasis. The Arab population has somewhat declined as a result of the occupation, the uncompromising fanaticism of the Sennusiya  making it difficult for them to live at close quarters with the Italians.  Many wandered out into the desert to die of starvation and thirst after resistance had been broken in 1931.  Others crossed the border into Egyptian territory.  The Tebbu population, who were the inhabitants of the soasis before the Arabs came, have been less affected by the change.  In Kufra they are sedentary and much easier to get on with than their fierce nomadic kinsmen in Tibesti.  The Tebbu are a negroid stock, and their  clean and tidy dwellings built of palm folds provide a striking contrast to the squalid and dirty houses of their Arab neighbours.

We returned from Kiffra to the Gilf and made a survey of the top of the plateau.  The car was successfully got up the steep cliffs , but getting it down again nearly ended in tragedy.  With all the brakes jammed on and the whole crew holding on for all they were worth, the feat of tobogganing it down was accomplished.  This finally convinced us that there is no country which cannot be traversed with a little optimism and a Ford lorry.

After another trip to Kufra we set out to explore the mysterious Wadi which I had seen from the air.  We found the entrance on the eastern side and penetrated some way along it , though a shortage of petrol and water limited our movements.  The wadi is well wooded, and we saw a considerable amount of animal life.  There were birds and there were foxes, one of which I photographed, but we found no surface water.  It is possible that there may be pools in the rocks further up the valley.  In one ravine we found a cemetery of mountain sheep.  Hundreds of skeletons were piled one on top of another in a narrow cleft.  Whether it is the place where mountain sheep go to die, or a herd was overtaken by some catastrophe, it is difficult to say.  There is, so far as I know, no parallel to this place of death.
After this expedition we rejoined Clayton and proceeded to Western Camp to prepare for our journey north to Siwa.  Clayton was anxious to make the journey through the middle of the  whole length of the Sand Sea.  A feat which would appear barely possible, but we accomplished it with really very little difficulty.  Sometimes we would drive along the crests of the dunes and sometimes in the “streets” between them, and all the time the going was easier than it had been during the east to west strips between Western Camp and Ain Dalla.

From Siwa the journey home to Cairo over the Quattara depression was dull and uneventful.  WE reached Cairo after being away just over a month, with all the members of the expedition and the lorries being none the worse.  We had covered a wide area of unexplored country, filling in many of the gaps which Clayton himself and the other great travellers, Major Bagnold, Hasseinein Bay, and Prince Kemal ed Din left for their successors,   and we had proved that much useful work can be done even with such limited resources.
If the problem of Zerzura still remains unsolved, and area which there are wadis with trees and some vegetation has been found.  There may even be more than one such valley where recently none was known o exist.  When all these have been visited and  the oasis of Birds has still not been located then we shall have narrowed down even further the Zerzura problem, perhaps to vanishing point: but until that has been done the lost oasis is still there to be found.

* Illustrations of page 14 [These were two photographs showing a view from and the oasis itself of Siwa.]


Lady Clayton East Clayton, an article by whom and an account of whose death are published on other pages, was the widow of Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton, Bt., the explorer, who died last September from a disease which it is believed he contracted in the Tropics..

Before her marriage to Sir Robert of February 29th 1932, she was Miss Dorothy Mary Durrant, being the daughter of the Rev. Arthur Durrant, vicar of Leverstock Green, Hertfordshire.

Her husband who was ninth Baronet of Marden and fifth and last Baronet of Hall Place, had succeeded his father in both baronetcies in 1926.  Soon after the marriage Sir Robert set out with Count L.F. de Almasy to explore the unknown are of the Libyan Desert  north of the Gilf Kebir, and to find the legendary lost oasis called Zerzura.  After being lost for several days in the desert and suffering sever hardships the expedition returned without achieving its object.  A full account of the adventure, a map and illustrations were published in The Times of July 6th 1932.  In a few weeks Sir Robert was dead.  He developed a disease similar to infantile paralysis, and though respiration was induced by an automatic apparatus he died on September 1st at the age of 24.

Lady Clayton East Clayton, determined, if possible, to fulfil her husband’s ambition.  In February this year she set out on an attempt  to find this last undiscovered oasis in a chain which formed an old caravan route from the Sudan to the  coast.  Before she left she said “I am only carrying on my husband’s work.  We always did this sort of work together.  He left with his work unfinished. I want to try and finish it off.”  She took with her husband’s plans and maps, flew her own aeroplane and travelled unarmed.  Before she left Hanworth, she had to obtain the permission of the Egyptian Government to carry out the search.  Her courageous effort, however, in turn proved unsuccessful and she returned in May.  On the 29th of that month she was present  at the meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, when Major Bagnold’s  account of his last journey through the Libyan Desert was read.  She was herself to have lectured to the Society in the coming season.

In June Lady Clayton East Clayton was in London. making arrangements for a trek across Lapland, and from that journey she returned only five days ago.  It was foreign to her nature to be idle, and she met her death at Brooklands when engaged in aviation, which occupied an important place among her varied interests.  Always an enthusiastic believer in air travel, she was herself a very experienced pilot.  Lady Clayton East Clayton was herself a talented sculptor, and her home, as well as the vicarage of Leverstock Green contained many examples of her work.

Transcribed by   
Barbara Chapman  
August 11th-13th 1999

* A memoir appears on page 12.
A further item appeared in The Times a few days later. Although the writer was merely quoted as a Corresepondant, I beleive this may have been written by her father, who also wrote items to our local paper as Our Specal Correspondent, but as its beleived that he later blessed their marriage, it is more likely to be a close family friend, many of whom were also members of the clergy.
Times, September 19th 1933

A correspondent writes:-

There is such vivid picture in my mind of the last time I saw “Peter” as we all called her, that I will share it if I may, with the many friends who are shaken by the sorrow of her sudden passing.  It was two days before her marriage.  (If I have not seen her since, it is because some of us live in quiet corners where the younger ones can find us on the rare occasions they need us.)  She was sitting on the hearth-rug in the flickering firelight to tell me all about “Robert”; his strength and fearlessness, and his dream that was soon to become an attempt to achieve the finding of the lost oasis.  She was so happy, and so completely one with him in his enterprise with no possible thought of loss for herself.  One could see how she loved him.  When we think how brief was their time together here, can any one of us grudge her the radiant happiness of her reunion?  To outward seeming these two young lives have fallen to the earth with broken wing - have fallen into the ground and died.  But to us who believe, their youth is renewed, for they are risen.  The gifts entrusted to them - her sensitive perception of beauty, with the power to reproduce it in loveliness of form and colour; their courage and endurance, their spirit of high adventure, and their personality goes on - purified and irradiated - in higher service.

“We, rather, seem the dead who stay behind.”

Dorothy & the link to The English Patient.

But Dorothy’s story was not to end there.  The film crew who had originally set me off on further detailed research into the Durrants, also led to the near certainty that Dorothy Durrant was the real life inspiration for the heroin in the book The English Patient.  The following are two articles I wrote for Chambersbury News which will explain.
His Lorship gave judgement for the defendants, Provident Mutual Life Assurance, in this action brought by Miss Blanche Mary Arundell, as executrix of the will of Lady Claton East Clayton, who was killed in a flying accident at Brooklands on September 15th 1933, which raised a question of the construction of a policy of life assurance.
Lady Clayton's husband, Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton, died intestate in 1932, and at the material time she had an income for her life from his estate of between £3,000 & £40000 a year..............She had given a power or attorney to Mr Francis Rennell Rodd, and he....had arrangedwith the agents of the defendents for the assurance of Lady Clayton's life for a sum of £2000 at a premium of £29 a year. The policy contained a special provision..............   Mr W.T.Monkton, K.C.  and Mr Valentine Holmes appeared for the plaintiff: Sir William Jowitt K.C. and Mr. Harold Murphey for the defendents.................
........His Lorsdhip, in giving judgement, said the words of the policy specifically prohibited any flying not authorised by the policy itself, it was contended that the reference to racing or exhibition flights was redundant unless lfying generally, unlessaprt from the Egyptian expedition, was contemplated..........he held therefore that on the construction of the policy as it stood all flying was prohibited except the Egyptian expedition........
..............he was satisfied thatthe association never intended an unrestricted right to fly alone after Lady Clayton had returned from Egypt ....he held therefore that onboth heads the claim failed, and there must be judgement for the defendents......
This article raised several points.  Firstly it appeared to contradict an earlier item in the Times following Sir Robert's death, when it was stated under the heading "Amongst the Latest Wills:" that Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton, 5th Baronet, R.N. had left an estate the gross value of which was £132,932 of which net personality was £25,282.  Secondly (and a sight of her will may answer this) why did the executrix go to the bother and considerable expense of taking the insurance to the High Court when it was fairly obvious she wouldnt win, and Dorothy didn't have any children of her own to leave her money to.  Thirdly would aviators expect to insure thier lives int eh 1930's.