Clements, Frederick C. Died 24th Oct 1918

Very little was found initially to connect Frederick C CLEMENTS to Rugby – until he was found remembered on his brother’s CWGC headstone in the Clifton Road Cemetery.

He was the son of Charles Edwin, [b.c. 19 April 1866 in Wing, Buckinghamshire] and Mary Ellen, née Lee, Clements [b.c. 1865 in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire], who were married on 28 December 1891 at Saint Andrew’s church, Rugby.

It would seem that Mary Ellen and her parents, Frederick who was born in Hillmorton, and Jane Lee had lived in Rugby at least from 1864 when Mary’s sister, Minnie, was born there and in 1871 and 1881, when they were living at 768 Old Station, Rugby.  In 1881, Mary Ellen was 21.  Mary Ellen would return to Rugby in 1893 to have their first child, Eustace E Clements.

Frederick, also known as Freddy, was born in 1897 in Roade St Mary, Northamptonshire, and the family were still living there in 1901, with children: Eustace E Clements, 8; Dorothy Clements, 6; Freddy Clements, 3; and Oscar Clements, 2.

Before 1911, the family had moved to Rugby and in 1911 were living at 33 Winfield Street, Clifton Road, Rugby.  Charles was working as a Railway Signal Fitter for the LNWR.  Young Frederick was 13 and still at school, whilst his elder brother, Eustace, now aged 18 was at work, as a ‘fitter’s apprentice’, also with the LNWR.

It is possible that Frederick later worked at BTH as three F Clements are remembered as having served: –
Clements F. Commercial Stores Rugby
Clements F. Export Dept., Rugby Private Royal Warwick – [the correct Regiment].
Clements F.C. Drawing Office Rugby Sapper Royal Engineers

However there is only a ‘CLEMENTS, Frank’ recorded on the BTH memorial, who could have been any of these – and perhaps this was how Frederick or Freddy was known!

There is a Medal Card for a Frederick C Clements, in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and a CWGC entry and information that match – it may not be any of the F or F C Clements of BTH above.  However the listing found on his brother’s memorial confirms that he is the appropriate soldier to be remembered.

Frederick probably enlisted in Rugby, as Private No.307487, in the 2nd/7th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.  He would later be promoted to Corporal.

The 2nd/7th Battalion of the RWR was formed in Coventry in October 1914 as a second line battalion, and together with the Birmingham recruited 2/6 Battalion became part of 2nd Warwickshire Brigade, 2nd South Midland Division in the Northampton area.  They moved to Chelmsford area in March 1915.  In August 1915 they were redesignated as the 182nd Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division, and went to train on Salisbury Plain in March 1916.  They landed in France on 21 May 1916.[1]

Frederick’s Medal Card has no date when he went to France, suggesting that this was after 1915 as there was no necessity to prove the need to award a 1915 Star.  His six figure army number seems to be a later one, so that he may have gone to France anytime after early to mid 1916.  However, as he was not born until 1898, unless he lied about his age, he would not have reached the necessary age of 18 until sometime in 1916.

Frederick could have been involved in a number of actions in 1916 to 1918, and details of the 61st Division’s war can be found in the War Diaries and on the web.[2]  That said, from 1916 the 2/7th RWR were active in many campaigns and further details can also be found on the interactive maps on the Web.[3]

Actions included the attack at Fromelles, a diversionary attack during the Somme offensive (19 July 1916); operations on the Ancre at Grandcourt following the halt to the Somme offensive (11 January 1917); the German retreat / strategic withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line (14 March 1917); the Battles of Ypres –  Pond Farm (18 August 1917); the Battle of Langemarck (18 August 1917); the Battle of Cambrai, German Counter-Attacks (1 December 1917); the Battle of St. Quentin at the opening of the German Spring Offensive, ‘Operation Michael’ (21 March 1918); the various Battles of the Lys – the Battles of Estaires (11 April 1918); Hazebrouck (12 April 1918) and Bethune (18 April 1918)

In October 1918 as part of the final advance in Picardy and the Battle of the Selle (24 October 1918) when a night attack by Third and First Armies took high ground to the east of the River Selle and having allowed time for the supporting heavy artillery to catch up, all three British Armies were able to continue their advance, taking nearly 20,000 prisoners in one week.  61st (2nd South Midland) Division transferring to XVII Corps, Third Army in mid-October.

During the night of 23 / 24 October the Division relieved 19th Division east of Haussy to continue the advance across the River Écaillon (L’Écaillon) the following day.  The 2/7th Warwicks had just come from a few days in billets at Rieux (south of Cambrai) and moved towards the village of Sommaing with the objective to take the village.[4]

However, whilst his fellow 2/7th Battalion comrade, from Rugby, Harry Oldham, who was Killed in Action on 24 October 1918 was buried nearby in the Canonne Farm British Cemetery at Sommaing, Frederick Clements who died on the same day, was buried near to Berlin. That cemetery includes a great many casualties ‘concentrated’ from smaller cemeteries in Germany, many associated with prisoner of war camps or work camps. Towards the end of the war, the British blockade was leaving the Germans short of food, and in turn the prisoners were on starvation rations.[5]  Earlier wounds, poor food and the cold led to considerable numbers of deaths in these camps.

This would suggest that Frederick had been captured some time, perhaps a considerable time,  before 24 October 1918, during one of the Battalion’s earlier actions, and then been transported back to a German POW camp, where  he later died on 24 October 1918.  He was probably buried in the local POW camp cemetery.  It was these smaller cemeteries that were concentred to the Berlin South-Western Cemetery, at Stahnsdorf.

Frederick Clements is now buried in the Berlin South-Western Cemetery, Brandenburg, Germany, in grave reference: X. C. 3., being one of 1175 casualties.  The cemetery is in the village of Stahnsdorf which lies approx 22kms south west of Berlin and approx 14kms to the east of Potsdam.

Frederick was awarded the Victory and British medals.  He is remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and also in Rugby’s Clifton cemetery in plot J192, on the CWGC headstone of his elder brother, Gunner Eustace Edwin/Edward Clements  Service Number, 1679, who died soon after his younger brother on 12 November 1918, aged 24, and was buried in Clifton Cemetery, Rugby.  The inscription included on that headstone reads: ‘Also in Memory of 307487 Corporal F. Clements Royal Warwickshire Regt. 24.10.18.’

It was that inscription that allowed Frederick Clements and his family to be identified.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Frederick C Clements 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 Rugby Family History Group, November 2017.

[1]      http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk, supplemented by info from http://battlefields1418.50megs.com/regiment012.htm.

[2]      http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/61st-2nd-south-midland-division/

[3]      https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/maps/units/4736/182nd-infantry-brigade/27th-battalion/

[4]      http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/ – together with quote from War Diary, available on Ancestry.co.uk.

[5]      Van Emden, Richard, Prisoners of the Kaiser, the last POWs of the Great War, Pen & Sword, 2009; ISBN: 978-1-848840-78-2.

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