Walter Clarke was born in Barby in 1889. His father was Edward Thomas Clarke, a builder and grocer, and Martha (nee COLEMAN). Both parents were born in Barby but must have spent a brief time in Rugby, as their two elder children were born there. In 1905 Edward Clarke died at the age of 50 and the family moved to Rugby. In 1911 Martha was living at 19 Temple Street with Walter, aged 21 and his brother Edward Thomas, 23, a bricklayer. Walter was employed as a factory hand.
When the war started, Walter was one of the first to enlist on 7th September 1914, at the age of 23 years and 3 months. He was 5ft 5½in tall with brown eyes and dark brown hair. He joined the 6th Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment. This battalion was a mixture of recruits from Dorset, 400 volunteers from London, 400 from Warwickshire and 70 Welsh miners. The battalion was part of the 17th Northern Division which was intended for Home Defence duties, so much time was spent training at Bovington Camp. However by 1915 they were needed in France and Walter arrived in Boulogne on 14th July 1915 and they were soon serving in the trenches near Ypres.
Water Clarke died on 15th November 1915, presumably as a result of sniper fire. His death was reported in the Rugby Advertiser of 18th December 1915:
Pte R Compton, a life-long friend of deceased, in a letter to Mrs Clarke, states that they were talking together in the trench a few minutes before the occurrence. He adds that Pte Carke died almost instantly; he passed away quite peacefully, and never spoke or moved. He was buried right away from the firing line, and the Sergts and men of the platoon sent their sympathy to his friends.
The Captain of his company, in a letter of sympathy to Mrs Clarke, says: “He was a good soldier, and I was sorry to lose him. In your great loss you have one consolation – he died fighting for his country against a cruel, treacherous, and barbarous race, the greatest honour a man can have in this life.”
Pte Clarke, who was only 26 years of age, was very popular with his companions.
Walter Clarke is buried at Birr Cross Roads Cemetery. He was transferred from his original grave at Gordon House No 1 Cemetery on 3rd April 1919 together with three other men from the Dorsetshire Regiment. The inscription on his headstone reads “of Rugby, Warwickshire”
Note: The Commonwealth War Grave Commission gives his date of death as 5th November 1915 – the same date as the death of the other men in the original grave. His Service record and other documents record his death as 15th November 1915.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM