John Edward CLARKE

The Clarke family relationships were a bit complicated, and need some explaining. Essentially Thomas Clarke, born around 1841 in Wymeswold, married twice, and had two families. One family produced the Thomas who died in 1918, and the other produced John. John Edward Clarke (born 1898) was therefore the grandson of Thomas the elder, and the nephew of the Thomas who was killed. His time at the village school shows little formal academic promise – his performance in 1908 was described as ‘weak’ ( a distinction incidentally that he shared with George Orridge, the elder brother of Herbert, and with Foster Simpson) . It is ironic that John and Foster may have been undistinguished at school, but were good enough to put their lives on the line for their country. John did however win some praise at school. Twice he was awarded a prize for Scripture.

The Leicestershire Regiment website says that John enlisted at Loughborough, but it does not say when. Unless he lied about his age, he could have joined in the second quarter of 1916, after his eighteenth birthday. He would have less than a year to live. He joined the 1/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, and was allocated to ‘A’ Company, one of the Territorial units. In May 1917 the 1/5 Leicesters were in an area known as Fosse 10, near Angres, a couple of miles west of Lens and about three miles north of Vimy Ridge. During that month they were in and out of the line several times – it was normal practice for battalions ‘at the front’ to ‘rotate’ in the line and then in Reserve, probably every 4 days or so. During this time there were a number of casualties. The War Diary of the battalion does not always say how many were wounded or killed on a particular day – there was just so much routine shelling going on. We know, however, that in the first week there were 41 casualties. 

At some point, either in the relative calm of the Reserve trenches, or in the constantly-shelled front line cellars, John Edward Clarke was mortally wounded. If he had been so badly wounded that he died in the front lines, then he would probably be buried locally. Instead, he must have been evacuated to a field hospital, probably the 7th Casualty Clearing Station, about seven miles from where he was wounded. In April 1917 it had begun to use the cemetery at Noeux-Les-Mines, and this is where John was laid to rest. He was just nineteen years old.

John’s grave at Noeux-Les-Mines