Joel Lee CLARK
Rank: Private
Number: 36652
Unit: 12th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 13 April 1918
Age: 27
Cemetery: Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Belgium

Joel was a Yorkshireman. His father, James, worked as a stonemason and was married to Annie. Joel was born in Huddersfield but, in 1901, when the Census was taken, the family was living at 6 School Street in Dalton. Joel had three older brothers - Fred, Ernest and Harry and a younger sister, Ada.

Sometime between June and August 1912, Joel married Violet Blaketone in the Newcastle upon Tyne area. They probably set up home in the Stockport area as Joel is known to have enlisted into the army in the town and, after the war, Violet was living at 85 Manchester Road, Heaton Norris.

Joel's on-line medal entitlement records at the National Archives suggest when he first joined the army, he was allocated to the Cheshire Regiment. His service number, 48429, indicates this was probably in the spring of 1916. At some point, whilst overseas, he was transferred to the Labour Corps. This may have been at a time when his health made him unfit for front line duties in the trenches. In due course, however, he was returned to fighting duties and was transferred to the KOYLI.

On 9 April 1918, the Germans launched the second phase of their spring offensive in what would later be officially designated as the Battle of the Lys (after the nearby river). The next day, Joel's Battalion was moved by bus to near the French town of Bailleul and they then marched to take up a defensive position astride the road between Caestre and Estaires ready to support the retreating troops.

About 3pm on the 12th, the position came under increasingly heavy artillery and machine gun fire and it became necessary to withdraw a short way to the village of La Couronne where they dug in on a stronger defensive line with other units.

The Regimental History describes the events on the 13th. At 8.30am, there was heavy machine gun fire, followed by an attack by the German infantry. On the left of the Battalion position, the men beat off four attacks, but finally the Germans managed to get into the trench system under cover of mortar fire and this forced the men to fall back.

About 1.30pm, the companies on the right came under enfilade machine gun fire and the Germans managed to break the line. These men had no choice but to retreat but this exposed the left hand companies who then became virtually surrounded. Under constant pressure, the whole Battalion was finally forced out of its position and took up a new line at La Becque farm. After a while this position also became untenable and the men were again forced back to reserve positions being held by Australian troops in the Rue de Bois.

The History recounts that 19 officers and 510 other ranks had gone into action and, of these, 12 officers and 260 men became casualties - dead, wounded, missing or prisoner.

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