Experienced heavy enemy artillery and gas shelling
Wounded and also suffered poisoning
THROUGHOUT the centenary of the First World War, we have been remembering the soldiers from the Loughborough area who lost their lives while serving their country.
Here, with the help of Marigold Cleeve and a small number of researchers from the Loughborough Carillon Tower and War Memorial Museum, we look back at more of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in June 1918.
Everard Bernard Clarke.
EVERARD Bernard Clarke was born in Loughborough in the late spring of 1899.
He was the son of James William Clarke and his wife Emma Teresa (née Cowlam) who were married on 28th July 1880 at the Catholic Chapel, Loughborough.
Everard’s father was a house painter and his mother a dressmaker.
In 1901 the Clarke family lived in Griffin Place, 70 Ashby Square, Loughborough, next door to Everard’s widowed grandmother, Maria Cowlan) but by 1911 had moved to 6 Burleigh Road. Everard had four brothers Arthur, George, James and Frederick and two sisters Mary and Frances. Three other siblings had died young.
Everard’s service papers have not survived but he enlisted in about October 1917 and joined the 2/6th South Staffordshire Regiment as Private 46807. The precise date on which Everard was sent to France is unknown but the 2/6th Battalion received drafts of reinforcements on 10th March and on the 3rd, 4th, 6th and 23rd April 1918 and Everard could have been in any one of these drafts.
On 10th March 1918 the 2/6th South Staffordshires were in reserve and camped at Mory l’Abbaye. From 10th to the night of the 19/20th March the battalion provided large overnight working parties for digging and wiring in nearby defence systems.
On several occasions the enemy shelled areas near the camp and the men were on ‘Stand to’ each day. The battalion then went into the front line trenches in the Bullecourt right sub-sector.
On 21st March, the first day of the German Spring Offensive, the back areas of the front line and the support lines were heavily bombarded with high explosives and gas shells by the enemy.
The enemy then attacked in mass formation and captured the battalion’s front line and headquarters. Twenty-three officers and 600 Ordinary Ranks of the battalion were found to be missing.
After repeated attacks by the enemy over the next two days the remainder of the
battalion was obliged to withdraw to a ridge overlooking Ervillers which they held until relieved by the Suffolks.
The battalion then marched to Miraumont, entrained for Albert, and marched to Bouzincourt. Over the next four days, 25th-28th March, the battalion marched via Beaucourt to Candas, entrained for Auvigny and travelled by lorry to Gauchin-Legal. Here they were billeted in the chateau and on 30th March the battalion and billets were inspected by HM King George V.
On 1st April the battalion marched to Houdain, entrained for Proven, and marched to Watou where training took place until 9th April. On 10th April the battalion marched to Poperinghe, took a train to Quinton Siding and proceeded to a camp near Ypres.
On the following day, after being shelled by the enemy while in the camp, the battalion moved to the support line trenches at Passchendaele.
On 12th April they were ordered to withdraw from the line, return to Wieltze station and entrain for Brandhoek. From Brandhoek the battalion marched via Vlamertinghe and Reninghelst to Locre and on 15th April went into the front line south-east of Bailleul.
As soon as the battalion reached the front line the enemy put down a heavy barrage on the rear lines and launched an attack, forcing the battalion to retreat to a position west of Bailleul. This new position was successfully held despite heavy enemy shelling and machine gun fire until the Royal Scots were able to establish a firm line nearby.
The battalion then moved to Canada Corner Camp, having suffered another 95 casualties. Between 16th and 18th April, while the battalion was in camp, the camp was shelled several times.
On 18th April the battalion marched to Terdeghem, near Steenvoorde, and on 19th to a camp at Elverdinghe. Between 21st and 26th April the battalion was in training at Rousbrugge before moving to Reninghelst on 27th April and occupying the ReninghelstOuderdom reserve line on 28th April.
Here they experienced heavy enemy artillery activity and gas shelling
During the first five days of May the battalion provided working parties for the Royal Engineers, during which time there were a few more casualties. The precise point at which Everard was wounded is unknown but he was taken to hospital in Rouen and died there of his wounds, aged 19, on 1st June 1918.
Everard’s father and mother received a letter from the matron of the hospital concerning the last hours of their youngest son.
The matron said their son received serious wounds in the arms and later developed gas poisoning.
He was taken into the operating theatre and everything possible done to drain off the poison, and she added; ‘During the last few hours, when he realised the end was near, he asked the sister to write to his mother and family and say that everything possible had been done and he was ready to go. He was such a splendid patriot, and everyone who knew him miss him so much’.
Everard was buried in St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, Grave Q. II. F. 16. He is remembered on the memorial in St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Loughborough, and on the Carillon.
Everard’s brother Fred served with the Leicestershire Regiment and Royal Field Artillery and survived the war.
Thomas Pepper was born in late 1880 in Loughborough and baptised on 16th March 1881 at All Saints Church, Loughborough.
He was the youngest son of Henry Pepper and his wife Martha (née Brooks, or Brookes) who were married at Emmanuel Church, Loughborough, on 12th August 1860.
Thomas’ father was a framework knitter of cotton hosiery and the family lived at 3 Court D, Pinfold Gate, Loughborough. Thomas had five brothers William, Harry, Joseph, Arthur and George and two sisters Emma and Mary.
In 1886, when Thomas was five, his mother died but his sister Emma took over the running of the household in Pinfold Gate and looked after her father and the four youngest children.
Thomas’ father died in 1900 and Thomas, who was now an iron turner, went to live with his brother William, wife Alice and family at 27 Rosebery Street. Between 1901 and 1902 he moved to Cobden Street.
Thomas married Elizabeth Selby, who also lived in Cobden Street, on 25th January 1902 at Holy Trinity Church, Loughborough. The couple went to live at 36 Wellington Street and by 1911 had four children Thomas Leonard, Gladys, Elsie and Lilian.
Between 1913 and 1918 they had four more children: Arthur, Eric, Dora and Eva and moved to 109 Station Road.
The date of Thomas’ enlistment is unknown as his service papers have not survived but he was probably conscripted in late 1916.
At the time he enlisted he was working at the Brush Company as a blacksmith’s striker.
He joined the 2/5th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment as Private 3616. He was subsequently posted to the 11th (Service) Battalion (Midland Pioneers) of the Leicestershire Regiment as Private 241292 and is likely to have been among one of the many drafts of reinforcements sent to the 11th Battalion between July and December 1917.
Pioneer battalions were created to provide the Royal Engineers with skilled labour for building roads and trenches, but they were still fighting soldiers. On 1st July 1917 the 11th Battalion was at Mazingarbe where it had been since the beginning of February 1917, completing tunnelling work. Nearly every day during this period there had been casualties among the battalion and hospital admissions were comparatively high. On 2nd July the battalion went by bus to Watou and marched to a camp of pitched tents for instruction until 18th July. On 19th July the battalion transferred by bus to a pitched camp at Dickebusch.
From here they worked on the construction of light railways, track laying, ballasting and grading throughout August and September. In October they moved into skeleton houses in Ypres and began making them into billets as well as taking turns by company at a rest camp in Eecke. At the beginning of November the battalion returned to Béthune, marched to Petit Servins, went by bus to Beaulencourt and marched to tents in Dessart Wood. Work from here included road repairing, digging a pipe trench, filling shell holes, dismantling old dugouts and loading and unloading. On 25th November the battalion moved to Bapaume to work on a broad gauge railway near Havrincourt.
In early December the battalion was billeted in trenches near Ribecourt and then in tents at Etricourt before moving by bus to Hendricourt-lez-Ransart for rest, training and rifle drill until 26th December.
On Boxing Day the battalion moved to Courcelles-le-Comte to begin constructing Nissen huts and cookhouses for a new camp on the Achiet-le-Grand to Achiet-le-Petit road. This work lasted until 19th January 1918, after which the men went to Beaumetz-les-Cambrai and Beugny to lay duckboards, excavate sump holes, deepen trenches, and mine for new dugouts.
The battalion also took over eight Lewis gun posts from the Royal Scots. In February the battalion was tunnelling and wiring, digging drains on the Vaulx-Morchies road, repairing the Vaulx-Lagnicourt road and grading and cutting a railway.
In March the battalion began excavating a tunnel, cleaning and widening a road to Lagnicourt, making dugouts and screens along the Morchies road and constructing a trench railway in Lagnicourt.
This work continued until 20th March, just before the enemy began a Spring Offensive. On 21st March 1918 the battalion was ordered to ‘Stand To’ in the Vaulx-Morchies Line where it suffered a heavy enemy attack. Casualties over 21st and 22nd March totalled 231.
On 23rd March the battalion marched via Bapaume and Achiet-le-Grand to Pioneer Camp, Logeast Wood, and were almost immediately ordered to occupy an outpost position on the eastern edge of the wood.
On the following day they marched to Puisieux-au-Mont and entrained for Doullens. After one night at Mondicourt or the Citadel on 26th March they entrained for Peselhoek or Proven and marched to F Camp.
On 27th March the battalion moved to Ryveld where it remained until 3rd April reequipping and training.
On 3rd April they moved by light railway from Remu Siding to Hellfire Corner and went into billets at White Chateau.
From 4th-15th April the battalion did garrison work and also worked on trenches and the forward roads before moving to Carbine Camp. From here they worked on trench construction and wiring. On 28th April they moved to Hollis Camp, Brandhoek, and were ordered to battle positions in the Vlamertinghe-Hallabast line.
During May the men were occupied strengthening and improving a trench near the Poperinghe road, maintaining and wiring the Vlamertinghe line, demolishing huts in Carbine Camp and salvaging materials, working on an advanced post near Zillebeke and laying duckboarding.
Hollis Camp was shelled twice and men also became casualties while at work.
On 27th May the enemy also began a bombardment and opened an attack.
It is not known when Thomas was wounded but he died from his wounds, aged 35, on 3rd January 1918 and
was buried in Esquelbecq Cemetery, Grave II. E. 14.
Thomas is commemorated on the memorial in the former St. Peter’s Church building, Loughborough, on the Brush Company Memorial in the Carillon Museum, and on the Carillon.
Albert Edward Stevens.
Albert Edward Stevens was born on 30th July 1897 in Loughborough and baptised on 9th February 1898 at St. Mary’s Church, Boulton, Derbyshire.
Albert was the son of Samuel Stevens and his wife Sarah Jane (née Godrich) who were married on 14th September 1895 at St. Mary’s Church, Boulton.
In 1901 the Stevens family was living at 7 Hill Street, Derby, and Albert’s father was a railway labourer, but in 1903 they moved to Quorn and by 1906 were back in Loughborough, firstly at 45 Regent Street and later at 18A Station Street.
In Loughborough Albert’s father was employed as a sawyer’s labourer at an engineering works.
Albert had two brothers Francis and George and four sisters Elizabeth, Emily, Hilda and Winifred. Another sibling Elsie died aged two.
In 1910 young Albert, aged 12, got himself into trouble. He was charged with obtaining by false pretences the sum of 1 shilling from Ada Bishop, the money of Albert Moon, fruiterer, of Churchgate.
Albert was stated to be untruthful but of considerable ability which was misplaced. As Albert had already been under probation for one month the Bench decided to send him to a reformatory school for four years.
Albert was sent to the Northamptonshire Society Reformatory School for Boys, Tiffield, near Towcester.
The industrial training included shoemaking, tailoring and technical drawing.
Physical drill was a regular part of the boys’ routine and part of the dining-room was fitted up as a gymnasium, where air rifle shooting was
also practised. Football and cricket matches were played with other local teams, and a fife and drum band was started.
Before Albert’s years at Tiffield had expired, however, Mr. Burder of Loughborough, for whom Albert had previously done some gardening, arranged for Albert to be released on licence and Albert was bound as an apprentice to Messrs. Bailey and Simpkin, outfitters, of Market Place, Loughborough.
In 1914 Albert unfortunately got into trouble again for stealing money from some pre-payment gas meters in empty houses belonging to Loughborough Corporation.
Mr. Burder, however, once again spoke up for Albert and said that Mr. Bailey, of Bailey and Simpkin, was quite willing to take him back again.
Albert was put on probation for two more years.
On 8th August 1915 Albert enlisted with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) as Ordinary Seaman Z/3046 and sent to a training depot. Three weeks later, on 2nd September, he was transferred to the Royal Marine Divisional Engineers as Deal/5171/S.
The engineer recruits commenced their training at Martin Hill Station, between Dover and St. Margaret’s Bay, before moving to Blandford. On 5th December 1915 Albert was sent with a draft of men to Mudros, a town on the island of Lemnos in the north Aegean Sea and used as an Allied base and harbour in the Gallipoli Campaign.
Albert arrived in Mudros on 26th January 1916 and joined the 1st Field Company of Royal Naval Division (RND) Engineers who had just returned from the Gallipoli Peninsula in January 1916.
In April 1916 it was decided to bring these troops back to France and at the same time command of the Division was transferred from the Admiralty to the War Office. The Division was now renamed the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division.
On 12th May 1916 Albert left Mudros and arrived at Marseille on HMT Ionian on 22nd May. From Marseille the company travelled by train to Pont Remy, detraining on 24th May and marched to billets at Hocquincourt. Headquarters
were at nearby Hallencourt.
The war diaries for the company from May to August 1916 have been lost but the company was presumably attached the 47th Division with the rest of the Royal Naval Division for assimilation into the British Expeditionary Force and training in the Angres-Souchez sector of the front.
On 7th August 1916 Albert was appointed to the position of Tailor (Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services) but after eleven days he returned to the 1st Field Company.
From 1st-16th September 1916 the company was at Calonne, working on the construction of deep dugouts at Calonne and Aix-Noulette, repairing and improving trenches at Calonne, and digging gun pits at BullyGrenay.
On 17th September they moved via Sains-en-Gohelle and Hersin-Coupigny to Bajus. At Bajus there were squad and physical drills, parades and inspections and training sessions until 4th October when the company moved by march and train to a camp near Acheux. On 6th October the company marched on to Mailly-Maillet and again pitched camp.
Work now began in the Serre sector on deep dugouts, on a pipeline, and at the Royal Engineers Park at Beaussart. From 10th October there was additional work in the Redan sector and from 15th October hut construction in the Englebelmer sector. Further work at Englebelmer included marking out assembly trenches, improvements to a pumping plant, the construction of cages for prisoners, putting up trench mortar boards and blocking up disused trenches.
On 7th November Albert was sent to hospital suffering from appendicitis. When he rejoined the Royal Naval Division one month later on 7th December he was sent to the 2nd Field Company.
In January 1917 the company was involved in operations on the Ancre, taking over positions around Grandcourt, and afterwards moved to the area of Martinsart.
On 31st January 1917 the three field companies of the
Royal Naval Division engineers were transferred to the Corps of Royal Engineers in the Army. Albert became Sapper 207783 in the 248th Field Company, Royal Engineers. From 2nd February to 7th March the company was based at Mesnil. During this time they repaired the Hamel-Beaucourt road, Mill Road bridge, and a light railway, erected Nissen huts at Varennes, made shelters for stretchers, strengthened and wired the front line, excavated dugouts, deepened trenches and repaired wagons.
From 8th to 20th March the company was at Val de Maison, on drill and parades in the mornings and working in the afternoons. On 21st March they began a six-day move via Barly, Nuncq, Marest and Nédonchel to Oblinghem where they rested until 2nd April.
On 3rd April the company moved to Rebreuve to repair the Estrée-Couché road and then proceeded to St. Catherine, north of Arras, to mend wells, erect barbed wire in front of the reserve line, build artillery bridges over trenches, and work on the Arras-Bailleul road. Progress, however, was impeded by heavy enemy shelling.
In May the company was constructing and improving camps at Ecoivres. They also mapped out a trench system practice ground. During June the company worked on the front line trench system, making fire trenches, draining the area and extending a tramway.
In July the company was in the Gavrelle sector for work in Oppy Wood.
They also repaired bridges, erected camouflage and improved the back billets and stables. Much of August and September was spent working on the front line trench system and dugouts as well as erecting new divisional headquarters. During the last week in September the company was at Bethencourt in training for active operations.
On 3rd October the company entrained at Savy for Proven and proceeded to Herzeele. Here they erected their own camp before beginning road repair work, digging drains and laying and fixing duckboards. On 23rd
October the company moved to billets by the Yser Canal to lay and fix tramways and repair various points destroyed by shellfire.
On 4th December they moved to Clifford Camp in the back area to overhaul and clean transport vehicles.
On 8th December the company entrained at Hopoutre for Bapaume and marched to camp at Barastre. From here they moved up to Etricourt and then Metz to erect wire entanglements on the reserve line and excavate new front and support line trenches. The communications trenches were also cleaned. This work continued until 23rd January 1918, when the company left Metz for Bertincourt for similar work there. From 21st February -20th March work was completed on the Ribecourt defences and on the defence systems between Trescault and Ribecourt.
When the Germans opened their Spring Offensive on 21st March the company was forced into an almost continuous retreat to Trescault, Neuville, Ytres, Rocquigny and then Le Transloy.
On 24th March they held the line west of High Wood with the Drake and Hawke Battalions of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and on 25th March held the flank position west of the High Wood to Martinpuich road but they were subsequently forced to retire across the Ancre. After destroying a bridge and erecting barricades at Hamel the company moved via Mesnil to Englebelmer.
From 1st-14th April the company dug and wired new front and support lines at Englebelmer before moving to Acheux to work on the divisional headquarters and for training.
On 24th April they began work on the VadencourtVarennes pipeline and on dry weather tracks in the area. In May the company drained, deepened and wired front line trenches and made new communications trenches to the front line and outposts in the Englebelmer and Bouzincourt area. Inter-section reliefs were carried out, with one section kept in reserve at Clairfaye to make a
disinfecting chamber for the ambulance and to clean and paint transport. On 5th June 1918 the camp outside Engelbelmer was shelled by the enemy.
Albert was in a shallow dugout and a shell hit the roof, killing him instantly and wounding two others. He was only 20.
Writing to Albert’s parents, his Major, on behalf of the company and himself, regretted the loss of one who had been a long time with them, and who had done much good work.
Albert was buried the same day in Englebelmer Communal Cemetery Extension, Grave D. 15, the cemetery where
several of his comrades who fell towards the end of 1916 also lay.
The Lieutenant for whom Albert for some time acted as batman, also wrote a message of condolence and sympathy to the family, in which he said: ‘You will miss his cheery letters, and my thoughts go out to you in this sad loss.
“One can only trust that when the day breaks and the shadows flee away we shall all be reunited once more. May God bless and keep you and yours at this time’.
Albert is remembered on the memorial in the former St. Peter’s church building, Loughborough and on the Carillon.
Everard Bernard Clarke
World War One. Army Efficiency Tests. Horses and men in gas masks. September 1917. Photo Daily Mirror
Russian soldiers seen here suffering the effects of poison gas being cared for by members of the Russian Red Cross not far from the front line trenches. Circa August 1915.
Photo Daily Mirror