A Peter­bor­ough war story

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - YOUR TELEGRAPH -

Barely a fam­ily was un­touched by the hor­rors of the Great War, but one Peter­bor­ough fam­ily, the Clarks of Welling­ton Street, suf­fered al­most unimag­in­able grief and heart­break. Five of the fam­ily’s sons served their coun­try on the front line but only two came home, and they were badly in­jured. Ian Porter, who lives in York­shire, has re­searched the his­tory of his Peter­bor­ough fam­ily and the sac­ri­fices they made. As the coun­try pre­pares to mark the cen­te­nary of Ar­mistice Day, here in his own words, is his fam­ily’s war story.

“At the out­break of war in Au­gust 1914 Ge­orge and LucyAnn Clark were liv­ing in the fam­ily home of 147 Welling­ton Street, Peter­bor­ough. They were par­ents to two daugh­ters and seven sons; Ge­orge, Charles, Fred, John-Robert, Jim, William and Harry.

The open­ing of the hos­til­i­ties saw the re­call­ing of John Robert to the colours. He had been with 1st Bat­tal­ion The Bed­ford­shire Reg­i­ment since 1907 and was now a re­servist.

His old bat­tal­ion were im­me­di­ately de­ployed from Ire­land to Bel­gium where they fought at the Bat­tle of Mons, John-Robert was in­stead or­dered to re­port to Land­guard Fort at Felixs­towe, as an in­struc­tor, to help train the new re­cruits now en­list­ing in their droves.

Fred had left the Lin­colnshire Reg­i­ment in Septem­ber 1913 hav­ing served the full 12 years with the army in In­dia and lat­terly Aden and had found em­ploy­ment with the Post Of­fice as a lines­man work­ing on tele­graph ca­bles.

At the start of the war how­ever, he re-en­listed, join­ing the 3rd and then 1st Bat­tal­ion the Northamp­ton­shire Reg­i­ment. He was de­ployed to France on 12th Novem­ber 1914.

The youngest of the Clark brothers, Harry, a baker by trade, joined the Northamp­ton­shire Reg­i­ment on 31st Au­gust and was sent to 3rd Bat­tal­ion for train­ing. The next brother to join up was Charles, who had served with 1st Bat­tal­ion Northamp­ton­shire Reg­i­ment from 1896 but was dis­charged in 1901 as med­i­cally un­fit and re­turned home from In­dia.

By Au­gust 1914 he was liv­ing in Grimsby, mar­ried with five chil­dren yet moved back to Peter­bor­ough to join the 8th Bat­tal­ion home ser­vice bat­tal­ion as a store­man, not be­ing fit for mil­i­tary ser­vice.

The fifth Clark, Jim, en­listed 19th Jan­uary 1915 and joined one of Kitch­ener’s pals bat­tal­ions, lo­cally known as Whitsed’s Light In­fantry af­ter a lo­cal coun­cil­lor of that name, who had been in­stru­men­tal in its for­ma­tion. This later be­came part of 7th Bat­tal­ion the Northamp­ton­shire Reg­i­ment.

On Kaiser Bill’s birth­day, 29th Jan­uary 1915, Fred was now an act­ing Sergeant and was in the line at Cuichy, Pasde-Calais, when the Ger­mans at­tacked the Northamp­ton­shire’s trenches.

Some 25 men were killed or wounded, Fred los­ing his life in their suc­cess­ful de­fence of the po­si­tion. Although buried lo­cally, Fred has no known grave and is com­mem­o­rated at the Le Touret Memo­rial a few miles dis­tant.

Mean­while Harry was now on his way to Fred’s Bat­tal­ion ar­riv­ing in France fully ex­pect­ing to meet up with his el­der brother but was in­stead met with the des­per­ate news of his loss when he joined them on the 3rd of Fe­bru­ary.

Harry’s tour of ac­tion was to be cut short as he was wounded at the Bat­tle of Au­bers Ridge 9th May 1915, the black­est day in the his­tory of the Northamp­ton­shire Reg­i­ment, suf­fer­ing 984 ca­su­al­ties across the two bat­tal­ions.

Harry was evac­u­ated to Kent where he met and mar­ried his wife Elsie in 1915, still serv­ing in the army in Eng­land un­til 1919 and liv­ing in the county un­til his death in 1974.

Jim saw ac­tion at the Bat­tle of Loos with his reg­i­ment at­tack­ing the Ger­man trenches, where he threw a jam tin bomb (an im­pro­vised grenade) into a Ger­man de­fen­sive po­si­tion only to have it thrown back at him caus­ing wounds to his arm and the loss of an eye.

He was also sent back to Kent and served in var­i­ous units at home un­til be­ing debed mob at the war’s end. Jim died at home in Star Road in 1936 at the young age of 49.

In De­cem­ber 1915, ahead of con­scrip­tion be­ing in­tro­duced 1916, William, a garner den at the city park, en­listed into the 1/6th South Stafford shir Reg­i­ment. William mard mar­ried his fi­ancée Maud in June 1916 be­fore join­ing his Bat­tal­ion the Somme in July.

The el­dest of the Clark brothers, Ge­orge Culpin, was con­scripted at the age of 40 in Fe­bru­ary 1917, serv­ing in home de­fence units un­til Dem­ber De­cem­ber 1918.

Ap­prox­i­mately 60 per cent of all World War One ser­vice’s men records were lost to fire in the Blitz in 1940, and so this makes it dif­fi­cult to know the ex­act move­ments of many men, and this is true of John­bert Rob Clark.

By 1917 he was serv­ing in France as a Cor­po­ral with the 8th Bat­tal­ion Bed­ford Reg­i­ment and on the evening of the 21st of June he was out on a pa­trol in front of the Bri­tish line and was killed by a shell. He left a wife Sarah

and a son Al­bert Ernest. He is buried at Philosophe Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery close to Hul­luch where he fell.

William con­tin­ued to fight in France, but on May 1st or 2nd 1918 his bat­tal­ion came un­der gas shelling at Gorre and about 90 per cent of the unit were in­ca­pac­i­tated.

William was moved to a dress­ing sta­tion and then to one of 22 hos­pi­tals lo­cated at Eta­ples, south of Boulogne where he died from wounds, a phrase mean­ing from the aw­ful ef­fects of the gassing, and now lies at rest in the Eta­ples Bri­tish Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery.

All of the brothers were killed or wounded within a few miles of each other.

Ge­orge­andLucy-An­nClark were not alone in their ex­pe­ri­ence of loss come the day the guns fell silent in Novem­ber 1918, but few had the mis­for­tune to have five sons see ac­tive ser­vice, two be­come badly wounded and three make the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice in the name of free­dom.

May the self­less duty of the Clark brothers’ gen­er­a­tion never be for­got­ten.’’

Ian also pro­vided this pic­ture taken in late 1914 some­where in Peter­bor­ough. He said “I sus­pect the lo­ca­tion would be some­where in the East­gate area that was de­mol­ished in the 1960s & 70s but would be grate­ful for any in­sight that read­ers may be able to of­fer. From what I know the peo­ple on the pho­to­graph are from left: Not Known, Not Known (although the cap badge is ei­ther East Lancs or Suf­folk Reg­i­ment), Not Known, William Clark, Harry Clark, Charles Clark, John-Robert Clark, Fred Clark. Seated is Ge­orge Clark, the brothers’ fa­ther (Ian’s great grand­fa­ther). The miss­ing brothers are Ge­orge Culpin (could be one of the un­knowns although not the uni­formed Sergeant) and Jim (he joined 19th Jan­uary 1915). Below is a pho­to­graph of Jim from the Peter­bor­ough Ad­ver­tiser.

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