John CLARKE
Rank: Private
Number: TF/204542
Unit: A Company, 23rd Battalion MIDDLESEX REGIMENT
Date of Death: 1 October 1918
Age: 21
Cemetery: Hooge Crater Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium

Nothing is known of John’s life except that the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission show him to be the son of Mrs Mary Clarke, 44 Gradwell Street, Edgeley.

Little is also known about his military service, although some can be deduced from his service number. The number is one of a range issued to the Regiment’s 7th Battalion, and six-digit numbers were not issued before 1917. It can be assumed, therefore, that he was not abroad before the beginning of 1917 and that there was some reason for him to later transfer to the 23rd. This may have been after recovering from wounds or illness and, on his return to duty, the 23rd was more in need of replacements.

By the end of September 1918, the Allied forces had been making steady advances. Although there would be much hard fighting still to come, the War had only six weeks left to run. During the morning of 1 October, John and his comrades took up positions at “America Wood” near the Belgian village of Ten Brielen (approximately 20 kilometres south east of the town of Ieper – then Ypres). At 4pm, the Battalion received orders to resume the advance that had been under way for some days. 23rd Middlesex was to deploy and attack further to the south east, the nearby railway line from Menin being the objective. The Regimental History takes up the story:

The march began ¼ mile south west of Tenbrielen, but the movement was under the direct observation of the enemy at Wervicq, who at once opened fire with his heavy artillery. Although the road was congested by other troops the Middlesex arrived at America Corner. Here, however, the enemy’s hell fire became very heavy and the Battalion deployed and changed direction south east. The commander of the leading company was wounded and the other two subalterns being in the rear of the Company, no one knew the plan of attack excepting the former officer.”

The German artillery fire continued to be extremely heavy and there would have been complete chaos had not the Company Sergeant Major rushed forward and taken charge of the two leading platoons. The men were not able to make further progress and the Battalion “dug-in” for the night approximately halfway between Gheluwe and Wervicq. John was amongst the 10 men killed duringthe day. Another 77 were wounded.

   
           
   
     
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