Lyall Robert Klaffer AFC OAM (1928 – 2021)

Korea, Malta, Vietnam

Lyall Robert Klaffer was born in Prospect, South Australia, in 1928. He attended Nailsworth Primary School and then Adelaide High School before leaving school at the age of 14 to work at F.H. Faulding and Co. Wanting to be a RAAF pilot, he attended night school for several years at the Adelaide School of Mines to obtain his Leaving Certificate.

Image of Lyall Klaffer after a mission in Korea with 77SQN flying a Mustang.(AWM)

He enlisted in the Citizen Air Force in 1947 and after 12 months as an airmen, transferred to the Permanent Air Force and successfully applied for the first post war pilots course commencing at Point Cook in February 1948. Obtaining his Wings in 1949, he was posted to 3 SQN in Canberra flying Mustangs. In September 1949, he survived a mid air collision with the loss of a fellow pilot.

Completing a shortened 3 SQN posting, Klaffer was posted in July 1950 to 77SQN in Japan and subsequently completed 105 missions flying Mustangs in the Korean War between July 1950 and April 1951. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (USA) for action in a mission where he destroyed three anti-aircraft positions despite intense ground fire. He was also Mentioned in Despatches, the US Air Medal and received his Commission to Pilot Officer while in Korea.

Completing his Korean War tour in April 1951, Klaffer was posted to 24SQN (CAF) as the Operations Officer flying Mustangs where he survived another crash landing. In 1952, he was posted to No 2 Operational Conversion Unit where he converted onto Vampires before being posted to 75SQN. He flew with the Squadron and No 78 Wing flying Vampires in Malta surviving his third crash landing before returning to Australia to serve as the Aide-de-Camp for the Governor General, Sir William Slim from May to October 1952.

PLTOFF Klaffer in the cockpit of a Vampire with 78WG in Malta.(AWM)

During the 1950’s, he completed flying instructor postings at RAAF Point Cook and then 2OTU at RAAF Williamtown after completing Fighter Combat instructor Course. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1960 for his service as a flying instructor at RAAF Williamtown. After completing a staff posting to Canberra, Klaffer completed a posting with the Central Flying School where he flew as one of the members of the newly formed Telstars aerobatic team flying Vampires.

From 1965 to 1967, Klaffer completed an exchange officer posting in the USA flying RF-4C Phantoms. During this period, he completed a tour to Vietnam serving with the No 16 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (USAF) flying 52 combat missions. In a series of firsts, he 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 when conducting a Phantom mission out of Ubon, Thailand. He was Mentioned in Dispatches a second time for action during the Vietnam War.

SQNLDR Lyall Klaffer after completing 1000 hours on the RF-4C Phantom in the USA.

Returning to Australia, Klaffer completed a staff posting to Headquarters Operational Command before being selected to command No 1 Squadron (F-4E Phantoms) and then No 82 Wing on promotion to GPCAPT.

Klaffer completed follow-on postings to Amberley (Commanding Officer Base Squadron), Butterworth and Canberra before becoming Base Commander RAAF Based Edinburgh on promotion to AIRCDRE from 1978 to 1981 where he accrued more than 850 hours on the P-3 Orion.

He retired from the RAAF in 1981 completing 34 years of distinguished service flying multiple aircraft types, surviving multiple aircraft accidents and seeing combat in two wars. He had the rare distinction of flying operationally three generations of fighter aircraft (Mustangs in Korea, Vampires in Malta and Phantoms in Vietnam). His final ride in a RAAF fighter aircraft in uniform was along the ground when he sat in an ARDU Mirage that was towed from the flight line to the front gate of RAAF Edinburgh for his final departure from the base on his last day in the RAAF.

Settling in the Adelaide area, he received an Order of Australia in 1989 for his role in the Australian Bicentennial Celebrations. He joined the RAAF Association (SA) Mitcham Branch in January 1982 and had been an active member since.

Lyall Klaffer passed away on Sunday 20 November 2021 aged 93 years. Lest we forget.


Flying Officer Frederick Michael Spafford DFC DFM

World War 2 Bomb Aimer and Dambuster: 455 SQN (RAAF), 50 SQN (RAF), 617 SQN (RAF) Spafford was born Frederick Michael Burke in Adelaide, South Australia, on 16 June 1918, the only son of James Michael Burke (known as Dan), a tannery foreman, and Vida Muriel Spafford....

Reginald Jeffrey “Jeff” Barnes

Reportedly South Australia’s first Aboriginal to join the RAAF NB:This document contains imagery of Aboriginal people who have since died which may cause sadness and distress. Approximately 3000 Aboriginals and 850 Torres Strait Islanders served in Australia’s armed...

Flight Lieutenant Robert ‘Bob’ Claude Hay DFC & BAR

World War 2 Air Observer and Dambuster: 455 SQN (RAAF), 50 SQN (RAF), 617 SQN (RAF) Robert Claude Hay was born in the regional SA Riverland town of Renmark on 4 November 1913. He was the second of six children in a large family with parents John Robert Clare Hay and...

WOFF Norm Ginn

World War 2 Norman Leslie Ginn was born in Mildura on 16 August 1923. His parents were English migrating from England in 1919 to assist family fruit growers in the Riverina. He went to primary and high school in Mildura but left school at the age of 15 and worked as a...

WOFF Doug Hoile (1924 – 2021)

World War 2 Douglas Edward Hoile was born 20 May 1924 in Laura, a rural town in the mid north of South Australia. His father was a Gallipoli veteran having served with the 12th Battalion. His uncle Private Charles Valentine Hoile, served with the 14th Field Ambulance...