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May 21, 2020

The Reverend Philip Thomas Byard Clayton CH MC FSA

Philip became “Tubby” at School and in 1915 when the 30 year old volunteer chaplain teamed up with his friend from Oxford, Neville Talbot, in France that was how Clayton was universally known.

In December that year Tubby and Neville opened Talbot House, named after Neville’s brother, Gilbert who had recently been killed in action, at the little town of Poperinghe near Ypres. Toc H had been started. Over the entrance to the chaplain’s room at Talbot House were the words “All rank abandon, ye who enter here”.

Rank had never seemed to matter to Clayton. A contemporary over 50 years after leaving School remembered, “the thing which always filled me with wonder and admiration was to see you walking solemnly at the side of the Old Man (High Master Walker) before prayers, apparently discussing the most abstract subjects as pal with pal. I never saw the like; and, when I heard later of Tubby’s failure to be awed in the presence of a field marshal, it did not surprise me.”

Tubby’s aim was that Toc H (morse signaller’s language for T.H.) should be open to anyone and everyone, to be a place of fun and games and God. There was a chapel in the loft that was the spiritual core but the day-to-day hub appears to have been the Chaplain’s Room. Here Tubby, with his terrible practical jokes, “a rubicund gnome in a clerical collar” presided. He also travelled to the front dressed in an outsized greatcoat (not always his own). It appears to have been something of a travelling circus including at times a portable cinema, screen and films. He brought “uproar, and even the proximity of shell-fire could do little to restrain the enthusiasm.”

On his return to London, Tubby established Toc H in London with All Hallows by the Tower becoming the movement’s guild church in 1923. What had worked with all ranks at Poperinghe also worked as an ecumenical Christian movement focused on fellowship, service, fair-mindedness and the kingdom of God. It caught the mood after the devastation of war and the Spanish flu. It gave meaning during the hard economic years of the late 1920s and 1930s. Toc H grew to have thousands of branches in the UK (there are still over a 100), hundreds overseas and a women’s association was set up. There is Pathe newsreel from the late 1920s of Tubby (again in a huge greatcoat) enthusiastically setting off on a world tour.

If being a “national treasure” is a pre-requisite for ‘Pauline of the 20th Century’, Tubby was clearly that. He was ambushed by Eamonn Andrews for This is Your Life in the late 1950s and had a more comfortable time on Desert Island Discs in 1967 with Roy Plomley. His list of records and his luxury (a pipe, tobacco, matches and a compass) tell a tale about the man (by then aged 82).

Peter Jackson: Waltzing Matilda

Arthur Sullivan: I have a song to sing (from The Yeoman of the Guard)

Peter Sellers: My Old Dutch

Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565

Gracie Fields: The Biggest Aspidistra in the World

Henry Smart: Postlude in D Major

London Recital Group: He Who Would Valiant Be

Alvar Lidell & Gerald Moore: Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes

It appears Tubby achieved (like many great people) through force of character. That character thankfully seems to have been entirely admirable. As his friend Trevor Braby Heaton observed “without an enemy in the world and with friends all over the world, with malice toward none and a smile (or rather a roar, as from an infuriated elephant) for all, he remains humble and simple and devout, and absolutely sincere.”

Clayton and the Old Pauline Club

Clayton kept in regular contact with his former school and, equally, St Paul’s was proud of its alumnus. The July 1915 edition of The Pauline mentions Clayton twice. First, in ‘Pauline Notes’: “The Rev. P. T. B. Clayton, Chaplain to the Forces, is now at No. 16 General Hospital, France” , and then again in ‘Navy and Army News’: “The Rev. P. T. B. Clayton is appointed to be Chaplain to the Forces, 4th Class.” His life as Army Chaplain is documented to an extent in subsequent wartime editions of The Pauline. For example, in June 1916, he illustrates a melancholy but touching scene in his letter, ‘Belgian Officer’s Funeral Oration’, in which he is called to deliver the funeral of a Belgian artilleryman who has been killed in action; Clayton has been called upon as it is believed the gentleman was an Anglican. It is plain to see, from his own account, that the Chaplain took the utmost care to give this soldier, previously unknown to him, a dignified service: “Here I took the first part of the Prayer-book service slowly, trying so to inflect it that it should not sound meaningless to those who knew no English.”

In November 1916, his letter describing ‘A Padre’s Northern Tour’ is included, which again shows his care for the soldiers. When Clayton finds himself in Edinburgh as part of the tour, he remembers that the mother of one of his Confirmation candidates in Poperinghe lives in the city. He looks up the address in his notebook and goes to visit: “I never spent a better half-hour—a big, Peabody sort of building, with shy children playing on the stone stairs, by whose wondering guidance I find her, and we sit and compare notes on Jamie and see him and his in all sorts of self-conscious photographs.”

In the “Pauline Notes” section of The Pauline, December 1916, “The Rev. P. B. Clayton has been back from the front, where he has all the gunners’ forts round Ypres in his care, to act as Messenger at Portsea, for the National Mission. He twice addressed 4,000 Royal Navy men, and took the Men’s Conference.” It is clear that Clayton’s gifts and talents in relating to the men of the armed forces had been noticed by the powers that be and, finally, in The Pauline, February 1918, Clayton is listed as one of the Old Pauline recipients of The Military Cross.

In March 1972, the news is shared that “The Rev. P. T. B. Clayton (1897-1905) has, in recognition of exceptional service in founding Toc H and for his spiritual ministry and support of the work of the Salvation Army, been made a member of the Army’s Distinguished Service Order, its highest honour, which has never before been conferred on anyone outside the Army.” Then, in the July 1972 edition, “In both world wars, the record of Old Paulines was indeed a fine one; in the first over 3,000 served, of whom 500 gave their lives, including two winners of the Victoria Cross, and in World War II the names of 254 Old Paulines were recorded on the panels of the war memorial, including the posthumous award of the George Cross. The Club has always been proud of having Tubby Clayton the founder of Toc H as one of its members.” Finally, in the same edition, Clayton is included in the list of OPs who have donated gifts to the School/Club, including “among other gifts, his books Tales of Talbot House, and Plain Tales from Flanders”. Clayton died later that year, his obituary in The Pauline, March 1973, can be read below.


Clayton’s Obituary in The Pauline, March 1973

CLAYTON (1897-1905). On December 15th, 1972, in his sleep, the Revd, Philip Thomas Byard Clayton, C.H., M.C., D.D., F.S.A., aged 87.

CLAYTON. We regret to record that the Rev. Philip Thomas Byard Clayton, C.H., M.C., D.D., F.S.A., died in his sleep on December 15th, 1972, aged 87. The following notice is substantially reprinted from The Times. He was born on December 12th, 1885 at Maryborough, Queensland, the fifth and youngest child of R. R. B. Clayton. Next year, disastrous floods and the failure of a bank left the family, who were then visiting Britain, penniless. With what small help relations could give they settled in Fulham, Mr Clayton starting work in the City and Mrs Clayton undertaking the education of the children. Such was her success that all three sons gained scholarships at St. Paul’s School, where Philip won the Milton and Truro Prizes and gained a classical scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford; their father was earning £2,000 a year when he retired 20 years later. At Oxford, “Tubby” Clayton (he had earned the nickname at school) began by enjoying himself and getting a third in classical moderations. He then came under the influence of Scott Holland and Dr Stansfield of the Bermondsey Medical Mission, decided to be ordained, and worked so hard that in a year he took a first in theology. He started work in 1910 as one of the 18 curates of Portsea parish church under Dr. Garbett, the future Primate. On the outbreak of war in 1914, he volunteered as an Army chaplain and served first in hospitals in France. The Senior Chaplain of the 6th Division, Neville Talbot (later Bishop of Pretoria) was looking for a rest-house to serve the troops in the bottle-neck of traffic surging to and from Ypres Salient in Flanders. He knew that Clayton was the man to take charge of it and together they found the house. On December 11, 1915, Clayton started his unique rallying-point and continued to be, while officially the Garrison Chaplain of Poperinghe, the genial host and inn-keeper at Talbot House until after the Armistice. This “home from home”, a “heaven in the hell of men’s lives”, was named after Neville’s youngest brother, Gilbert Talbot, the most brilliant of the sons of the Bishop of Winchester, killed in action in the Ypres Salient five months previously. The spirit of the place generated by its host was denoted by the sign facing men as they entered and pointing back to the door, “Pessimists, Way Out”. Clayton soon had his guests busy on jobs of service. Refreshment for body, mind and soul was provided in the garden, a canteen, recreation and writing room, a library, in the chaplain’s room labelled “All rank abandon, ye who enter here” and above all in the loft, “the Upper Room”. There Tubby installed a carpenter’s bench, found in a garden shed, to serve as altar in a chapel used in turn by thousands of men, many for the last time, for the Ypres Salient alone took toll of a quarter of a million lives. Talbot House was Tubby’s base for frequent visits to troops in and near the front line. For a time a daughterhouse was possible in the ruins of Ypres. The name, TH for short, became Toc H in the morse signallers’ language at the time. This nickname stuck to the postwar movement of which it was the birthplace and Tubby the founder. In 1919 Clayton selected Knutsford Prison in Cheshire to be transformed into an Ordination Test School, of which he became Chaplain and tutor. (The Service Candidates Ordination Fund and a first roll of candidates had been started during the war in Talbot House.) During the same period, in collaboration with his cousin, Dick Sheppard, then vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and with Alec Paterson, shortly to become a Commissioner of Prisons, Tubby was planning to open a Talbot House in London. Between them they formulated a way of living, “Four points of the Compass”, to guide men keen to preserve and pass on the best of what experience in war had taught them. In 1920 the first residential house of many, “Toc H Mark I”, was opened and Tubby had launched a movement “to teach the younger 16 generation class-reconciliation and unselfish service”. As a way of practical Christianity, one of its aims and methods was “to spread the Gospel without preaching it”. By 1922 Toc H had 40 branches and became an association incorporated by Royal Charter, the Prince of Wales being the active Patron and Tubby the Founder Padre “for so long as he desires to hold the office”. By dint of constant travelling and letter-writing Clayton built a movement which eventually numbered a thousand branches in Britain, several hundred overseas and the Toc H Women’s Association of almost equal strength. To provide a spiritual centre for the work of Toc H, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, as patron of the living, appointed Clayton in 1922 to the benefice of All Hallows by the Tower. This most ancient of parish churches in the City of London became the guild church of Toc H, serving Free Churchmen as well as Anglicans. He remained vicar until 1963. In 1926 he planned and launched the Tower Hill Improvement Trust. Largely through the generosity of Lord Wakefield of Hythe, properties were acquired and clearances effected. The provision of Tower Beach as a playground for children was secured in 1934. The gardens and the public terrace on the site of a huge warehouse overlooking the Tower are permanent memorials to his unflagging work for the amenities of Tower Hill. In the blitz of 1940 All Hallows Church was bombed and burnt, only the tower, some walls and the undercroft surviving. After the war Clayton toured the Dominions and the United States to secure gifts of money and material and raised sufficient to supplement the war damage grants for rebuilding. In fulfilment of Clayton’s hopes, the headquarters of Toc H was moved in 1960 from Westminster to a freehold property at the corner of Trinity Square, opposite the guild church. In the early part of the Second World War Clayton was with the Royal Navy in the Orkneys, establishing Toc H Services Clubs around Scapa Flow. Later he was at sea as chaplain to the Anglo-Saxon tanker fleet and to the Merchant Navy in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917 and was made a Companion of Honour in 1933. In 1954 he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity (Lambeth) “in recognition of his services to the Church through Toc H”. He was unmarried.



1. “Pauline Notes” in The Pauline, Vol. XXXIII, July 1915, No. 219, 139 Accessed 14.05.2020
2. “Navy and Army News” in The Pauline, Vol. XXXIII, July 1915, No. 219, 141, Accessed 14.05.2020
3. “Belgian Officer’s Funeral Oration” in The Pauline, Vol. XXXIV, June 1916, No.2, 78 Accessed 14.05.2020
4. “A Padre’s Northern Tour” in The Pauline, XXXIV, November 14 1916, No. 228, 161 Accessed 14.05.2020
5. “Pauline Notes” in The Pauline, XXXIV, December 1916, No. 229, 185 Accessed 14.05.2020

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