Eyden, Clarence Alfred. Died 18th May 1918

Alfred Eyden and Sarah Eleanor Mewis, the parents of Clarence were married on New Year’s Eve 1889. The Reverend John Murray Rector of St Andrews parish church Rugby, conducted the ceremony, and unusually eight witnesses appear to have witnessed and signed the Register.

Clarence was born on the 4th November 1890. He was baptized at St Andrews parish church Rugby on the 31st December 1890. December was an unusually warm month that year, with the average temperature being four and a half degrees Celsius or forty degrees Fahrenheit. If the day was indeed fairly mild the whole family must have been in good spirits as they walked to church from their home in Clifton Road.

Having qualified for the Lawrence Sheriff Grammar School for boys Clarence was obviously a boy of above average intelligence. The Census for 1911, on which he can be found, reveals that he was twenty years of age and lived at 165, Clifton Road, Rugby. This was most likely a house provided by the London North Western Railway. The other people also in residence were his Grandfather Richard Mewis aged sixty eight, who worked as a Railway engine driver and his wife Sarah, aged seventy, his father Alfred Eyden aged forty nine, Chief Rates Clerk LNWR Rugby, and his wife Sarah, aged forty four. Clarence was next, and worked as an apprentice for the LNWR at Leamington Spa. Maurice, the younger brother of Clarence was aged fourteen and a scholar at Lawrence Sheriff School. Edith Hughes, age eighteen, a general domestic servant, was also living in the house.

Clarence commenced his apprenticeship on May 29th 1905 at Rugby his salary being £20 per annum. From Rugby he moved on to Brandon, Long Buckby and Leamington Spa. His salary in March 1911 was £50 per annum. His employment at Leamington Spa ceased at the end of March, and on April 3rd 1911 he was transferred to the General Manager’s office Euston where he was employed as the private Clerk to the LNWR General Manager.

The family appears to have been musical: on 23 January 1915, at a ‘Concert for soldiers in the Church House’, arranged by the Entertainment Committee of the Conservative Club, songs were given by Mr. Clarence Eyden.  On the next Sunday, 31 January 1915, his mother sang, and was the soloist at a meeting of the Rugby Brotherhood at the Cooperative Hall with the notice, ‘Soldiers heartily welcomed’.[3]

His parents would later move to Northampton, meanwhile, presumably after his concert appearance in early 1915, Clarence joined up in London, as a Sapper, No.88204 in the Royal Engineers.  It was not long before he was sent to France and his Medal Card gives that date as 8 June 1915.  He was later promoted to be an Acting 2nd Corporal, and it was possibly then that he was renumbered, WR/252025 [possibly standing for War Reserve], and with his ten year’s railway experience, it is perhaps not surprising that he became a member of the ‘Railway Traffic [or Transportation] Establishment RE’.

The Establishment for the Railway Traffic Section, R.E. was 25 Officers and 174 Other Ranks.  3 Officers were Deputy Assistant Directors of Railway Traffic and the other 22 Railway Traffic Officers.  The Other Ranks were made up of 1 CSM, 30 Clerks & 56 Checkers (1 Staff Sgt, 4 Sgts & 81 Rank and File), 74 to act as Porters, Goods Guards, Loaders and Train Conductors (1 Sgt with 73 Rank and File).  The remainder of the unit comprised 13 batmen, 4 cooks and 4 men for general duties.[4]

So crucial was transportation that in the last months of the war, despite a shortage of front line soldiers, men with railway experience were being transferred from infantry units to railway operating companies.

Clarence died of wounds, but it is not known when or where he was working when he was wounded.  Because of his burial in St. Omer, he was possibly working in the St. Omer area, dealing with some aspect of railway organisation.

St. Omer had suffered a severe air raid on the night of 18/19 May 1918 when among other damage, a German air raid caused an explosion at an ammunition dump at Arque – some five miles south-east of St. Omer.  Indeed, recovering the wounded took five hours and 18 Military Medals were subsequently awarded to the female medical and transport staff.  On that occasion a number of men from the Chinese Labour Corps were also killed.  ‘A certain number of houses had been hit and some ammunition dumps and petrol stores and part of the railway line, so it was considered the Germans would think they had had a good night.’[5]

Various records state that Clarence both ‘Died in Action’ and ‘Died of Wounds’, however, his Medal Card notes that he ‘Died’ rather than stating ‘KinA’ or ‘DofW’.  This may imply that …

… some time had passed between … being wounded and dying – the next-of-kin were informed that he had ‘died’, rather than ‘died of wounds’.  Exactly how much time had to pass before this distinction was made is not clear.’[6]

From the dates, it is possible that Clarence was one of the casualties of the bombing of St. Omer, possibly when the ‘part of the railway line’ was hit and had reached hospital in St. Omer where he died that night, 18 May 1918, or possibly the following day.[7]  He was 27 year old.

He was buried in Plot: V. B. 9., at the Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery.  On his gravestone his family had arranged to be inscribed: ‘In Proudest Memory of One “Who Greatly Loved, Who Greatly Lived and Died Right Mightily”

St. Omer is 45 kilometres south-east of Calais and the cemetery at Longuenesse is on the southern outskirts of St. Omer.  St. Omer was the General Headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force from October 1914 to March 1916.  The town was a considerable hospital centre with the 4th, 10th, 7th Canadian, 9th Canadian and New Zealand Stationary Hospitals, the 7th, 58th (Scottish) and 59th (Northern) General Hospitals, and the 17th, 18th and 1st and 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Stations all stationed there at some time during the war.  St. Omer suffered air raids in November 1917 and May 1918, with serious loss of life.  The cemetery takes its names from the triangular cemetery of the St. Omer garrison, properly called the Souvenir Cemetery (Cimetiere du Souvenir Francais) which is located next to the War Cemetery.

Clarence Alfred EYDEN is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; and on the WWI Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque,[8] which reads,

‘In Commemoration of our Brother Laurentians who Fell in The Great War, 1914-1918, Orando Laborando.

His Medal Card and the Medal Roll showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, and also the 1914-1915 Star.

His father received his back-pay of £5-11-2d on 16 October 1918 and later his War Gratuity of £15 on 2 December 1919.  Clarences’s parents appear to have left Rugby before 1918, and later in the CWGC record, Clarence is noted as the son of Mr A. Eyden, of 1 St. Pauls Terrace Northampton.

In the year 1921 the following memorial notice appeared in the Rugby Advertiser:
EYDEN. —- To the ever precious memory of Clarence, the dearly beloved and elder son of Alfred and Eleanor Eyden, who fell in the Great War on Whit Sunday, May 18th 1918. —- And the World passeth away, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.                                                                                                                                            

Clarence’s younger brother Maurice Eyden also joined up.  Reports in the Rugby Advertiser noted.

October 1916 – Maurice Victor Eyden (O.R), younger son of Mr Alfred Eyden, of Northampton, formerly residing in the Clifton Road, Rugby, has been gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment (Steelbacks), after a course of training in the Inns of Court O.T.C.[9]

July 1917 – Second Lieutenant Maurice V Eyden (son of Mr Alfred Eyden), 2nd Northants Regiment, has been promoted to the rank of First-Lieutenant.[10]

July 1918 – Mr. & Mrs. Alfred Eyden, ‘Denaby’, St. Matthew’s Parade, Northampton, have been advised that their younger son, Lieut Maurice V Eyden, 2nd Northants Regiment, reported missing on May 27th, is a prisoner of war in Germany and quite well.  His only brother (Royal Engineers) was killed in France on May 19, 1918’.[11]

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Clarence Alfred EYDEN was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, February 2018. Other information by Charles Partington-Tierney

[1]      London and North Western Railway, Salaried staff register [No 2, pages 1613-2092] – Goods Department.

[2]      London and North Western Railway, Salaried staff register [No 2, pages 1613-2092] – Goods Department.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 30 January 1915.

[4]      Ivor Lee, 8 August 2003, http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/4011-railway-transport-establishment/.

[5]      Diary of the Matron in Chief in France and Flanders, TNA, WO95/3990, http://www.scarletfinders.co.uk/91.html.

[6]      http://www.epitaphsofthegreatwar.com/killed-in-action/.

[7]      The item on his brother in the Rugby Advertiser, 6 July 1918, gave the date of Clarence’s death as 19 May 1918 – the day following the bombing of St. Omer.

[8]      Information from https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/lawrence-sheriff-school-plaques.

[9]      Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2016/10/28/28th-oct-1916-the-boy-scouts-a-record-of-useful-work/, and Rugby Advertiser, 28 October 1916.

[10]     Rugby Advertiser, 14 July 1917, and Rugby Remembers, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/14th-jul-1917-the-rugby-baking-trade-no-more-men-can-be-spared/.

[11]     Rugby Advertiser, 6 July 1918.

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