19 March 1935 to 19th October 2023
Patrick was a sporting polymath whose extensive RAF career included multiple international tours and commands.
Arriving at Sedbergh in January 1949 Patrick’s year group was well established, but another new boy, Graham Smith, started in Hart House on the same day. Their friendship blossomed and they remained life-long friends. One of Patrick’s first memories of Sedbergh was running up Winder on days the rugby pitches were too wet for normal games. Best of all, the quickest way down was a ‘bum slide’. Less fondly recalled were the cold baths on freezing mornings, the doorless ‘bogs’ and the shorts worn all year round.
‘Paddy Cliff’ was a boy of action, enjoying cricket, rugby, Winchester fives (playing as a pair with Patrick Bates with whom he was School champion in 1952), squash, cross country running and boxing. He also enjoyed training with the CCF. He continued to be active beyond Sedbergh and gained colours for cricket, squash and rugby while at RAF Cranwell.
His creative talent, which he confessed to be limited, found an outlet in woodworking, including making a little oak table still in use by his family today.
In later life Patrick recalled that on sunny Sedbergh days the Headmaster, Bruce-Lockhart, would cancel lessons and order the boys to run or walk ten miles. Paddy and his friends often reached the top of the 2,000ft Cautley Spout, where they admired the views before returning for high tea at the local B&B. The owners served plates heaped with rashers of ham, fried bread and eggs, a memorable treat. These runs were a prelude to “The Wilson Run” for which Paddy chose his own training method, running 12 to 15 miles instead of the recommended fast run 6 miles. He came 9th place out of 67 runners in 1952. He trailed behind three of his fellow Hart House friends, acknowledging they were better runners.
Paddy managed O-Levels in Maths and English, among a few others, but generally preferred his sport to books.
On their last night at school, Paddy and five fellow leavers decided to leave on a nostalgic high. In the dark, they headed to the top of Winder where they sang the School song in full voice. The sound clearly travelled well because on descent they were intercepted and told to report to their Housemaster in the morning. A complication was that one of them had an early train to catch, which the remaining five persuaded him to do, saying they would take the rap. Unfortunately, their Housemaster took issue with one of the culprits absconding and reported the lot of them to the Headmaster, who felt compelled to put an end to “silly behaviour” becoming a last day of School ritual. Only the year before the leavers had whitewashed all the shop windows in Sedbergh Main Street. As a result, Paddy and his friends were banned from returning to School for a year. In later years, Patrick very much enjoyed telling the story, with some pride, of how he had been expelled!
Patrick left Sedbergh in July 1952; a year short of taking A levels. The Headmaster, when asked for a reference for the RAF, wrote “He left early simply owing to lack of family finance”, adding that if Patrick had stayed on his career would have been capped by being made a prefect and “very likely with athletic distinction too”.
Patrick looked back at his time at Sedbergh with great fondness and much enjoyed tracking the evolution of the School from his days of cold baths, through to the arrival of girls and on to what the School is today.
During World War II Patrick’s father was a member of the Royal Observer Corps identifying the aeroplanes flying over their area of Yorkshire. Patrick would often join him and was inspired from an early age to become a pilot in the RAF.
Patrick’s RAF career was varied and prestigious. His obituary in The Telegraph records:
‘He received his wings in 1958 and trained as a fighter pilot before joining 56 Squadron at Waterbeach near Cambridge where he flew the Hunter. He completed the flying instructors’ course at the Central Flying School before taking up an appointment to train students in the Oxford University Air Squadron. After converting to helicopters he assumed command of 78 Squadron, flying Wessex helicopters from RAF Sharjah in the Persian Gulf. He later moved to RAF Gütersloh in northeast Germany.”
He commanded the helicopter force during the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and was appointed OBE at the end of his tour. The citation read: “By the strength of character, combined with tact and outstanding leadership, Wing Commander Cliff overcame the difficulties which confronted him and welded together his force into a dynamic operational unit.”
Always a devoted family man Patrick was happily married to Ruth for sixty-five years, with three very much loved daughters, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.
After a successful career in the Royal Air Force, and running a Country house hotel for 7 years, Patrick settled down to playing golf and bridge, both to a high standard.