Fa­tal wounds at the Somme

The Timaru Herald - - COMMENT&OPINION -

Build­ings, Ar­cade, Ti­maru, en­abling him to of­fer his ser­vices as a teacher of singing and pi­anoforte to the peo­ple of Ti­maru. He proudly gave no­tice that his ex-pupils were scat­tered over the whole world and that many had gained dis­tinc­tion. At the same time he re­tained his Fair­lie con­nec­tion, vis­it­ing there on two days a week. In Ti­maru, his stu­dents con­tin­ued to suc­ceed in ex­am­i­na­tions.

Early in 1915 Clarke ac­cepted the po­si­tion of con­duc­tor of the choir of the Sa­cred Heart Church, Ti­maru, hav­ing pre­vi­ously con­ducted the Catholic church choir at Fair­lie. But, a few months af­ter­wards he was ac­cepted for ac­tive ser­vice with the Can­ter­bury Bat­tal­ion.

Maybe his last lo­cal per­for­mance was at the Fair­lie Or­ches­tral So­ci­ety’s con­cert on Septem­ber 23, 1915, where he was ‘‘in cap­i­tal voice’’ and de­served his en­core. On Oc­to­ber 18, 1915 he was part of South Can­ter­bury’s quota which headed for Tren­tham, but only af­ter play­ing the piano at a farewell for a Fair­lie sol­dier. He de­parted on the ‘‘Maun­ganui’’ on Jan­uary 8, 1916, des­tined for Suez. He em­barked for France just two months be­fore his death.

Clarke died of wounds re­ceived in ac­tion on Septem­ber 17, 1916, wounds which pen­e­trated the ab­domen, in the first bat­tle of the Somme. In a let­ter re­ceived by a rel­a­tive shortly af­ter his death, Pri­vate Clarke wrote of the im­pend­ing en­trance of his bat­tal­ion into the sec­ond stage of the big push, which he said he did not ex­pect to sur­vive. He was buried in Der­nan­court Com­mu­nal Ceme­tery Ex­ten­sion, Somme, France.

Pri­vate Clarke left no will. His plaque and scroll were sent to his mother. He was one of six sons of Mar­garet Clarke, only two of whom were liv­ing at her death in 1923 – Con and Pa­trick. Those known were John Pa­trick, Cor­nelius Joseph (Con), Pa­trick Joseph and De­nis. John died in 1903, aged 34 years. His brother P. J. Clark was with the hospi­tal ship Ma­heno in charge of the tele­graph depart­ment (1916); he died in 1935. And an older brother, Cor­nelius Joseph Clarke, en­listed with the Aus­tralian Forces in Au­gust 1916 in New South Wales, only to be dis­charged in Jan­uary 1917 as med­i­cally un­fit. He was a so­lic­i­tor in New South Wales for many years, and died there in 1940.

Pri­vate De­nis Clarke was buried in the Der­nan­court Com­mu­nal Ceme­tery Ex­ten­sion, Somme, France.

His name is in­scribed on the Ti­maru War Memo­rial, the Fair­lie War memo­rial, and on the Hok­i­tika War Memo­rial.

— Teresa Scott

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