The Reverend Philip Thomas Byard Clayton was an Oxford educated priest of The Church of England who served as an army chaplain in World War I. Chaplain Clayton, affectionately known as “Tubby,” founded Talbot House in Poperinge, Belgium in West Flanders near the front lines of battle. Talbot House served as a place for war weary soldiers to go when given a few days of leave from the trenches. Tubby established four objectives for Talbot House; (1) Friendship, (2) Service, (3) Fair-mindedness, and (4) The Kingdom of God. Although Anglican in establishment it engendered an atmosphere to overcome the hostility between different Christian traditions.
Following the war, former soldiers wanted to reproduce the Talbot house experience back in England. Houses were established in Kensington, London, Manchester, and Southampton. Using the military alphabet of the day, they were known collectively as “Toc H.” An additional agenda was added. A number of former soldiers had experienced conversion experiences during the war and felt called to the ordained ministry. Toc H helped to prepare them for the theological college at the Ordination Test School at Knutsford, Cheshire.
I first met Tubby when he spoke at my home church and I was eight. He was recruiting for a new program where young American men would spend a summer in England working with children who had lost their fathers in World War II. They would be known as Clayton Volunteers. Later, Tubby created a reciprocal program where young men from Great Britain would serve in youth programs in the United States. They would be known as Winant Volunteers, named after Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, the American ambassador to Great Britain during World War II. I again met Tubby when he was in the sates during my senior year in high school. His influence did not end there.
When I was a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, I spent six months deployed aboard ship in the Mediterranean. Our first liberty port was Palermo, Sicily.
I attended church services at the Anglican Chapel in Palermo. I invited the pastor and his wife to have supper with me in the wardroom of our ship. The Reverend Dye and his wife told the story of how he was educated for the ministry through Toc H, and how they had pastored an Anglican church in Germany until they were dispelled by the Nazis. They left as refugees with all their earthly possessions remaining in Germany.
As a seminarian, I directed a summer program for youths in the Cordoza Ghetto of Washington, D.C. I had a Winant volunteer from Edinburg, Scotland working with me. Following ordination, I lived in Hammond, Louisiana where I was visited by a Winant volunteer. I took him crabbing one evening at Manchac, between lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas. What I did not realize was that youths from Great Britain have no immunity to mosquitoes. At dusk, the mosquitoes swarmed, and the young Winant volunteer was covered with horrible whelps.
Tubby Clayton was a remarkable person, positively influencing many lives. It has been said that Toc H was a blend of the YMCA and a Rotary Club. In addition to the establishment of these homes of camaraderie and the creation of the reciprocal volunteer programs, Tubby served forty years as the Vicar of All Hallows church in London and as the chaplain to the queen mother.