Whilst Noel's name is commemorated locally on the Heaton Mersey Memorial, he does not appear to be included on the nation's Debt of Honour Register held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He died at home (3 Lord Street) on 12 November 1918, the day after the Armistice was signed. (SEE UPDATE AT END OF BIOGRAPHY)
Noel had previously been discharged from the army after he had been gassed. As well as his service medals, he was awarded the Silver War Badge in recognition that he had been invalided out. Men would often wear it to demonstrate that they had already "done their bit".
The primary cause of death, recorded on his death certificate, is "Effects of poison gas and acute influenza". A secondary cause was bronchopneumonia. Men who died after discharge and who died before 1922 due to war-related causes are still entitled to be included in the Debt of Honour Register. A copy of the death certificate has now been forwarded to the War Graves Commission with a request that it includes Noel in the Register.
In the late spring of 1892, his parents, Robert Clayton and Mary Greenway, married at St John's Church, Heaton Mersey. Noel was born the following year. When the national census was taken in 1901, the family was living at 6 Cross Street, Reddish and Noel now had three sisters - Gwendoline, Martha and Beatrice.
On 2 April 1914, Noel joined the pre-War Territorial Force, enlisting into the local 6th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. His service papers still exist at the National Archives and these show him to then be living at 43 Alldis Street, Great Moor. He was working as a labourer for a Mr William Smith. His medical examination shows him to have had a good physical development and good vision. He stood just 5' 5" tall. Noel was mobilised with the rest of the Battalion when War was declared and, on the same day, he was promoted to lance corporal. However, whilst the Battalion was waiting at Shrewsbury to go overseas, Noel was discharged from the army due to ill health.
He re-enlisted on 12 may 1915, this time joining the Royal Field Artillery as a driver and was posted to 120th Brigade. On 21 September, whislt still in training, he was promoted to Bombardier - the artillery equivalent of a corporal. He went overseas on active service on Christmas Day 1915 but soon fell ill again with acute bronchitis. He returned home and was admitted to a military hospital on 23 March 1916, where he stayed until 16 June. The medical report later confirmed he had reported sick with pains in his chest. He had lost weight and was sweating considerably at night. He easily got short of breath. Bed rest was prescribed but with little significant improvement Noel was again discharged from the army on 9 March 1917.
He took up civilian employment back in Stockport as a carrier's carter. The following year he married Harriett at St George's Church. She had been married before. In 1911, Harriett Burgess married Gerald Clarke. He also died of gas poisoning in 1917. The home she shared with Noel, 3 Lord Street, was the home she had shared with Gerald. She married for a third time in 1924 to Joseph Kitchen.
Noel was buried at 3.45pm on 16 November. His grave (reference F68) once had a headstone as the base still exists but, at the time of writing in 2006, there is no sign of it. Presumably if his name is accepted for inclusion in the Debt of Honour Register, the Commission will consider erecting one of it usual headstones to replace whatever was there.
UPDATE JANUARY 2007: Commonwealth War Graves Commission confirmed that Noel will be included in the Debt of Honour Register. Nearly 90 years after his death, his sacrifice will now be officially recognised. "They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, not the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them".
Noel Clayton 1893 - 1918. Not Forgotten.
(Further updated: February 2008)