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War Memorials



In Memory of
WILLIAM WALTER CLARKE
Private 4965
1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who was Killed in Action on Wednesday 21st November 1917
Age 29

No Known Grave Panel 99 - 102 & 162
Memorial to the "Missing", Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, West Flanders, Belgium

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
&
Remembered with Honour

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium1

William Walter Clarke was born in Nottingham in 18883, the youngest of five children of Frederick (b. c1858) and Mary (née Woodroffe c1859) Clarke2. Up to some time before 1911, the family lived at 68 & 70 Alfreton Road, Nottingham where Frederick traded as a hairdresser. In 19013, he was being assisted by his two eldest sons, Frederick Woodroffe Clarke (b. 1881) and John Henry Clarke (b. 1882). Their daughter, Florence Mary (b. c1885) was working as a clerk in a lace warehouse and the two youngest Herbert (b. c1887) and William Walter were not yet working. During the next decade, probably in 1905, Mary Clarke died4 and other family members married and moved elsewhere such that, by 1911, just Frederick and William were boarding together at 80 Trafalgar Street, Nottingham5. By that date, both father and son were working as hairdressers.

Unfortunately, there is a large amount of uncertainty about the details of William's army service. This is caused by the existence of two files of Service Records - one of which is amongst Army Pension files - both of which appear to have elements relating to William Walter Clarke who was born in 1889 as well as other elements relating to a William Clarke who was born in 1881. As this latter soldier had married in 1901, when the former William was aged 13, served in East Yorks Regiment and the Labour Corps during the war, survived and re-enlisted with the Royal Fusiliers in 1919 before final discharge in December 1920, it is clear that documents in the files which appear to relate to the latter soldier should be excluded from this account6.

On that basis, it appears that William Walter Clarke enlisted in August 19147 with the Sherwood Foresters and, after initial training, was attached to 1st Battalion on 1 May 1915 and joined it in France on 18th May 19157. As part of that Battalion he was to take part in various actions on the Western Front during the remainder of 1915. In 1916, it took part in the Somme battles during which William was injured in the knee, requiring several days treatment by the Field Ambulances. In early 1917 it took part in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, before involvement in the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres - generally known as Passchendaele - on the 31st July 1917, when it faced terrible conditions with high levels of casualties. The battalion went on to take part in later stages of the battle which finely ended when Passchendaele Ridge was taken on the 6th November8.

Nevertheless, heavy shelling continued throughout the 19th November and the days that followed, when the battalion was deployed holding the line in the sector just north of Passchendaele Ridge. During this period the battalion suffered about 90 casualties. Private Clarke was one of those killed9.

As his body was never identified, Private Clarke is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing within the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery of that name. The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of Belgium during the war. On the forward slope of the Passchendaele Ridge is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passchendaele, near Zonnebeke in Belgium. The Cross of Sacrifice is to be found in a central position in the cemetery, at the base of the cross a small patch of the original German Block House can still be seen, contained within a bronze wreath, while on the far side, between it and the memorial wall, is a collection of some 300 graves. These are the original battle-field burials left where they were found after the Armistice. The other some nearly 12,000 graves which stand in parade ground order, were brought in from the surrounding area after the Armistice. The stone wall surrounding the cemetery makes up the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing. On completion of the Menin Gate memorial to the missing in Ypres, it was discovered that it was too small to contain all the names that were originally planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of 15th August was chosen and the names of the UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial instead. The memorial contains the names of 33,783 soldiers of the UK forces and a further 1,176 New Zealanders.10.

Private Clarke was posthumously awaited the 1914/15 Star, the Victory Medal and the British Medal11. His Army financial effects of 20 8s 9d were paid to his father, as sole legatee, on 25 February 1918. His father also received his War Gratuity of 15 on 9 November 191912.

By this time, Frederick was living at 50 Windsor Street, Beeston12 having previously lived for a while at 152 Station Road, Beeston13.


Footnotes
1The photograph of the Tyne Cot Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth date of 1 November 1888 was recorded when he was baptised at St Matthew's Church, Nottingham on 2 February 1889. His birth was registered in Nottingham Registration District in Q4 1888 (Ref 7b 287).
31901 Census, Piece 3185 Folio 151.
4Her death, aged 46, appears to be that registered in Basford Registered District in Q2/1905 (ref 7b 128. The certificate has not been seen.
51911 Census - Piece 20628 RD430 SD4 ED36 Sched 233
6Amongst other detail, the other 'William Clarke' is recorded as having served previously as a special reservist in 4th Battn Sherwood Foresters, had been discharged having served his time and had reenlisted on the 15 August 1914. His occupation was given as 'town carter'. He had married Florence Peach on 5 August 1901 and they had one daughter, Ellen (Known to have been born in 1902). At the time of the 1911 census he was detained in Bagthorpe Workhouse, Nottingham (Piece 20672 RD430 SD5 ED42 SN9999), his wife was living at Birches Lane, South Wingfield, Derbyshire (Piece 20982 RD436 SD4 ED11 Sched 19) as 'housekeeper' to a local coal miner and the daughter Ellen, aged 9, had been sent to the Industrial School for Girls at Thorparch, near Wetherby, Yorkshire (Piece 25970 RD490 SD1 ED30 Sched 9999). Clearly, none of this is applicable to William Walter Clarke, the subject of this memorial.
7The date of his enlistment has been calculated based on the amount of his War Gratuity.
8This account of the deployment of 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters is based on its entry in the Forces War Records website (www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/319/sherwood-foresters-nottinghamshire-and-derbyshire-regiment)
9This account of the Battalion's deployment during November 1917 is a summary from its War Diary (available at ancestry.com).
10The description of the Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org) His age at the time of his death was 29, not 26 as recorded.
11Private Clarke's medal awards are recorded in the Medal Rolls and on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com.
12Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.
13The Windsor Street address was given when Frederick completed Army Form AFW5080 for payment of the Gratuity. He was still at that address in 1921 (Electoral Roll). The Station Road address appears on Private Clarke's Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial page.

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