This biography of Charles Edward Clarke appears on this blog one year after the centenary of his death in 1917. He is listed on the Rugby Memorial Gates as G E Clarke and has only recently been identified.
Charles Edward Clarke was born in Barby, Northants and baptised there on 6th May 1894. His father was Joseph, a labourer born in Stretton on Dunsmore and his mother Eunice Hannah (nee Burnell). Joseph and Eunice were married in Southam on 15th Jul 1890.
In 1901 the family were living at 2 Hibberts Cottages in Barby, where Joseph was a farm stockman. By 1911 the family had moved to Pailton. Joseph was a labourer for the County Council and sixteen year old Charles was a farm labourer. Charles had an elder brother James and two sisters Lilly and Sophia plus a younger brother Omer.
When war broke out, Charles Edward Clarke was working for the London and North Western Railway in Rugby. He is listed in the Rugby Advertiser of 3rd September 1914 as one of the many men from the Locomotive Department, who had enlisted.
He joined the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (no. 4447) but was later transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (Private, no. 20233). According to his Medal Record he arrived in France on 6th May 1915.
The Duke of Corwall’s L.I. (D.C.L.I.) served in France, where they took part in the second battle of Ypres, until late 1915. They were then sent to Salonika, arriving there on the 5th Dec 1915 and were engaged in various actions against the Bulgarian Army.
Bulgaria was coming under the control of Germany and Austro-Hungary and French and British troops were sent to the area to protect Serbia from attack. Between December 1915 and July 1916, the British Salonika Force was entrenched in a line of defence about 20 miles from Salonika. They then moved up the Struma valley. The autumn offensive captured over 400 square miles of territory including Karajakois (30 Sep – 2 Oct), Yenikoi (3-4 Oct) Tumbitza Farm (17 Nov and 6-7 Dec) but were unable to capture the Serbian town of Monastir.
The D.C.L.I. spent time road making and building entrenchments before attacking Bulgarian held villages below Seres. Casualties were not great; the main enemies were mosquitoes and malarial fever. In spring 1917 the river flooded and troops retired to the hills. They made frequent excursions across the Struma river and although unable to make a significant impression on the Bulgarian position, they succeeded in their primary objective of preventing enemy forces moving west of the Vardar.
In the whole campaign, British losses were 3,875 other ranks killed or died of wounds, 3,668 died of disease. Private Clarke died of heart failure on 20th August 1917. He had been engaged on transport duties for several months and was found dead in his tent an hour after he had been seen in his usual duties.
His Platoon Officer wrote that he was “one of the most popular men in the Battalion and liked by everyone.”
Charles Edward Clarke was buried in Struma Military Cemetery.
He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the 1915 Star.
As well as the Rugby Memorial Gates he is remembered on the Rugby Steam Shed Plaque and the Pailton War Memorial.
Charles’ elder brother, James who died on 25th Sep 1915 is also listed on the Pailton Memorial but not on the Rugby Gates.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
Information about Charles Edward Clarke and the Salonika Campaign found at http://www.ww1wargraves.co.uk/ww1_cemeteries/memorials_pailton.asp