Clark, John

Name of Researcher / Enw’r ymchwylydd: Peter Redfern Metcalfe

Name of Memorial / Enw’r gofeb: Flint Town

Name / Enw: Clark, John

Regiment/Catrawd: 10th (Service) Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers

Service Rank and Number / Rheng gwasanaeth a rhif: Company Sergeant Major No 15522

Military Cemetery/Memorial / Fynwent milwrol: Thiepval Memorial, Somme

Ref No Grave or Memorial / Rhif cyfeirnod bedd: Pier and Face 4A

Country of Cemetery or Memorial / Gwlad y fynwent neu gofeb: France

Medals Awarded / Medalau a ddyfarnwyd: China Medal 1900, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal; he received recognition for distinguished service in the Field on the 2nd and 3rd March and 30th April 1916

Date of Death: 16th August 1916

Date and Circumstances of Death / Dyddiad ac amgylchiadau marwolaeth:

Killed in action in France on 16th August 1916

Flint-John-Clark-001

Many thanks to J H Hughes who sent us this photograph of John Clark. J H Hughes’s father was half brother to John. Six family members paid homage to him at the Thiepval Memorial in August 2016. It was a moving and memorable occasion for them.

John ( Jack) Clark was born on 2nd June, 1876 at Platt Bridge, Wigan, Lancashire. He was the only son of John Clark and Jane ( Jones).
It is not known where John senior was born but Jane was born on 16th April, 1856 in Tunstall, Staffordshire.

They married 16th May, 1875 at St Mary’s Parish Church, Flint. John was the son of John Clark, miner, and Jane the daughter of William Jones, miner.

John senior was accidentally killed on 17th May, 1876, aged 23, whilst working at the Bamfurlong Colliery, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire, belonging to Messrs Cross, Tetley, and Co., Limited, by a roof falling upon him. An inquest was held at Abram, Lancashire and a verdict of accidental death was returned. He was buried in the All Saints Churchyard, Hindley, Lancashire.

Mrs Clark re-married at St Mary’s Parish Church, Flint on 20th October, 1878, to bachelor John Hughes, of Chapel Street, Flint, who was employed by the United Alkali Company’s works, Flint.

By 1896 Mr and Mrs Hughes had had eight children together and were living at 8 and 10 Chapel Street. Jack was now employed as a chemical labourer in the town, and Mrs Hughes was a grocer and shopkeeper in Chapel Street.

Sometime in the 1890s Jack joined the army and served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in China during the Boxer Rising of 1900. He was awarded the China Medal.

On the 10th October, 1903, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Barton, Lancashire, Jack married Jane Chapman of Patricroft, Lancashire, and was now employed as a tool grinder with an engineering company.

In 1905 they had a daughter named Bessie, then in 1906 Edith was born but sadly, in 1911, Bessie died. They were now living at 36, Reginald Street, Patricroft, Lancashire, but were soon to move to Flint, where they lived at 12, Chapel Street, and Jack was working as a commission agent.

Jack re-enlisted with the 10th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers (RWF) on 14th September, 1914, at Ferndale, Glamorganshire. He was one of the ‘pensioned soldiers’ who proceeded to Wrexham for the purpose of training recruits. He remained at the Wrexham Depot some time, and when the Battalion with which he was concerned left for France on the 27th September, 1915 he journeyed with it. His service record stated that on enlistment he was 5 ft 51⁄2 ins tall, fresh complexion, blue eyes and fair hair.

On 24th September, 1915 he drew up a will in the presence of Corporal Mitchell, of St Domingo Vale, Liverpool, and Sergeant George Bowen, of Rhos-Robin, Wrexham, both of the 10th RWF, and sent the documents with the following moving letter to his half-brother Mr William Henry Hughes, of 34, Hardy Street, Peel Green, Patricroft, Manchester:

Barrona Bks
Aldershot
26/9/15

Dear Will
I am writing hoping these lines will find you in the enjoyment of perfect health as they leave me at present.

Well old fellow the day has come & tomorrow (Monday) at 4.30 pm we leave here for France. If you care to follow our movements in the papers you can do so by the number of the division & the Brigade. Our Divisional number is 25 & we are the 76th brigade so by watching those numbers you will know when we have been in action. Now I have made out my will & I have made you executor of it & should anything happen to me I want you to see that Jennie gets everything. I want you to keep the will yourself. I shall have to get it signed by the doctor before I send it. I am very busy as you will understand so you will please excuse this short letter. Good bye old chap it may be we may never meet again. These are strenuous times, these are times of sacrifice, the weeding of the gold from the dross.

If this bit of dross goes under, the world I dare say will be all the better for it, but before that happens I shall have done my little bit for the salvation of the country I love. Gallant little Wales, keep your eye on the old home see to it that the grand old people, (whom we have the honour to call Father & Mother never want for anything & if I die tell them from me that to me there is no man I know nobler & grander than my Father & no woman so loving so tender & self sacrificing as my mother & I loved them dearly always. God bless you all, my brothers, my sister, & may your lives be pure, full of love & full of real true life follow after righteousness, shun evil, & your reward will be true happiness here & now. I would like to say a lot but have not the time. Give a helping hand to dear old Jennie & little Edith her burden is a very heavy one be kind & gentle with her & do all you can to turn her mind from me. What a fine pal she’s been to me. What a gem for a man to possess. How I have missed her love & tenderness. See to it Will lad that her & her child never want for anything. & now I will close knowing that the sacred burden I have laid upon you will be faithfully borne & I shall go overseas knowing that whatever happens you my brother will do your duty by my loved ones. God be with you always is the prayer of your loving

Bro John

Four months later he wrote a very touching letter to his daughter Edith:

Dedicated to my darling daughter Edith

Jan 25) 16

My darling Edith I am writing just a line to let you know I received your pretty post card, and appreciate it so and the lovely lines upon it, brought the tears to Daddys eyes as I pictured you my darling, with the lovelight in your eyes with my photo standing near you were trying to let me know how you wish me safely home again because you love me so. And how each day you miss me, and how each night you pray God bless my Daddy at the war and bring him home someday. Your Dad will keep that post card darling always very near his heart and not for all the riches in the world with it would part. So I want you to be brave and good, always kind and true and help your mother all you can and nothing will you rue for her heart is often sad dear lass, for she misses daddy too. So for Daddys sake just do for mum, the best in you to do. Be obedient, helpful, cheerful, then God will hear you pray and bless your Daddy at the war, and bring him home someday. I know you don’t quite understand, just why I came away but someday you will know it was, to break a tyrants sway just for a scrap of paper for we had given our word and Britains word is sacred and trusted o’er the world. So Daddy wouldn’t stay at home to fight I had to go to save old England’s honour, as Britons ought to do. The task is heavy darling but grows lighter when you pray God bless my Daddy at the war and bring him home someday. But I want you to remember, that your Daddy went to war not because he was ambitious, or loved the cannon’s roar, for he loathes the cruel monster, which has caused such grief and woe. But honour called and duty so your Daddy had to go to fight for home and beauty, dear old England great and free. And for you my little darling and your mother so you see I couldn’t help it could I. So just tell God when you pray to bless your Daddy at the war and bring him home someday. And now my darling Edith this letter I must close with fondest love and heaps of kisses for my little rose. And every night ere I lay down I will to God commend my little lass and mother and the cause which I defend so we’ll live in hope my darling that the day will not be long when victory crown’s our efforts and we sing the victors’ song and Dad comes marching home again no more from you to stray. Our reunion blessed and hallowed, by our little darling’s prayer.

In early March 1916 Mrs Clark received a letter from her husband which passed through the Field Post Office in France on 29th February, and stated that he was in the best of health and spirits. He was hoping to obtain leave of absence in the course of a short time in order to visit his family and relatives in Flint. He wrote:

The famous choir of the 10th Battalion gave another concert on Saturday night, but these concerts make one sad because every time there is someone missing. Dear young Corporal Jack Roberts was missing this time. He has gone to his eternal home. He was hit by a piece of shrapnel and died in my arms. Ben Davies, of Flint Mountain, was also killed. I was hit, but it only tore the sleeve of my coat. God has indeed been good to me, and I am thankful.

Continuing, he exhorts his wife and relatives not to worry about him, for he believed he was performing the greatest work of his life. It was hard, it was cruel, but it was necessary, for life would be intolerable for the world if Germany won. The Germans must be beaten at all costs, and would be beaten; but the price must be paid. But, he prayed to God the end was not far off, for the sacrifice of young life was terrible.

As a throb of affectionate remembrance of Corporal Roberts* he attached to his letter the following verses which he composed:

He fell and died,
Jacky, with his cheery and winsome smile,
In my arms he died.
Yes, he’s dead, died doing his duty
For King and Home and beauty,
For Justice, Hope and Liberty,
Jacky died.
Yet, Jacky lives,
In the eternal arms of Jesus, resting awhile,
Jacky lives,
And we’ll meet again in the morning,
When we hear reveille sounding,
His martyr’s crown he’s wearing,
Jacky lives.

*Corporal John Edward Roberts, of the 10th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, was killed in action in Flanders on 17th February, 1916. aged 23. He was the son of John and Susannah Roberts, of 3, The Grove, Holywell. He is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

Company Sergeant Major Clark received recognition for distinguished service in the field on the 2nd and 3rd March, 1916, and when he was on short leave of absence to his home he placed into the procession of his step-father and mother a letter written by the Major of the Battalion, which was as follows:

To CSM John Clark

It had been my intention to present this Card to you on Battalion parade. I appreciate your feeling in the matter, and I wish to congratulate you most heartily on your Distinguished Conduct on the Field and to congratulate you on its recognition by the “Divisional General.”

Company Sergeant Major John Clark was killed in action in France on 16th August, 1916. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France (Pier and Face 4A). He is also remembered on the Flint Town memorial and on a stone pot on his wife’s grave at Peel Green Cemetery, Eccles, Manchester (Plot 6562, Section C2).

He was awarded the 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

When news reached Flint that he had been killed the following letters were received by his mother:

Wesleyan Methodist Church,
Central Buildings,
Westminster,
London, S.W.

7th October 1916.

Dear Mrs. Hughes,
I have just heard, from the Rev. A. Shipman, of the great loss you have sustained in the death of your son, Coy. Sergt.-Major John Clark. I deeply sympathise with you. May the Comforts of the Loving Spirit of God abound to your heart.

Yours is indeed a heavy loss, and I am afraid that your heart will be well-nigh broken, but it is when the heart is breaking, and our need of Christ is greatest, that He Himself come near to us blessing. He Who bore our sins also carries our sorrows, and I am sure that His Presence and Voice will bring comfort to you.

I am trying to secure some particulars from the Front as to the manner in which your son was killed.

In deepest sympathy,

Yours sincerely,
J. H. Bateson (Rev.)

Secretary, Wesleyan Army and Navy Board.

27th October 1916

Dear Mr. Shipman,

You wrote to me some little time ago concerning Co. Sergt. Major John Clark of the R.W.F.

I have now heard from the chaplain concerning him. He writes as follows:-

“His company made an attack on the way to Guillemont on 17th August. Shortly after going over the parapet Sergt. Major Clark was wounded in the leg. His Captain (Capt. Hale) told him to return. But he preferred to go on towards the German trench. Before he got there he was hit by a bullet in the head and died. He was buried later by our Pioneers. This would be where he had fallen and so, I fear, this makes it somewhat difficult for his dearonestogetaphotographofthegraveintheusualway……….Iwasveryfondof Sergt. Major Clark and so were all that knew him. He showed much sympathy with me in an effort to arrange a service, and was present whenever his duties would allow him. I have every confidence that sudden death meant sudden glory to him.”

Will you kindly pass on the information to his mother?

Please express to her my deep sympathy with her in her sorrow; but how proud she must feel of such a son.

With kindest regards, Yours sincerely,

J. H. Bateson.

Grosvenor Manse,
Mold,
28th October, 1916.

Dear Mrs. Hughes,

The enclosed letter, which you may keep for your own, reached me this afternoon. With Mr. Bateson, I am very sorry that the report of your son Sergt. Major John Clark’s death is confirmed; but it is some relief to be no longer in doubtful suspense. You now rank with many thousands of mothers who have lost their sons in defence of their country and for the sake of GOD’s righteousness. If they had not fought for us, our dear land would have been overrun by a barbarously cruel enemy, our women would have been outraged, our children and old folk tortured and massacred. From all these horrors, by the grace of GOD, we have been delivered through their bravery and courageous endurance. The cost is tremendously sorrowful; yet it was worth while. We who benefit by their sacrifice cannot be too grateful, not only to the men who fight and fall, but also to the wives & mothers who gave them up on our behalf.

Just now your heart will be too sore to think quietly or reason calmly, but in time to come you will acknowledge that it was better for them to have gone and not return, than never to have gone at all. The world has never known anything equal to this Great War; may GOD grant that the like of it may never be known again!

Any persons who have declined to take any part in the conflict, whether by serving in the Army & Navy or by letting their dear ones serve, will live to be ashamed of themselves and to be objects of public reprobation. You are not among these; you gave your son for GOD, King, & country; for righteousness, truth, & mercy. Be thankful to have had such a son and to have made such a sacrifice.

Be sure also that the precious life, though cut short, has not been wasted. All who lay down their lives in the faith of Jesus Christ, for love of GOD and neighbour, will continue their lives in a better world, where sin & sorrow, suffering & death, have no place. Let us, by patiently running the appointed race and by looking into Jesus, win that world for ourselves. The card enclosed exactly expresses my conviction in this matter. Be comforted, & live as Jack would have you live.

I write as a father who has lost his eldest and his youngest son, each aged 25, one of whom was killed by accident on the railway. I know & I sympathise.

Will you kindly allow Mrs. Clark to read this?

I am,
Yours sincerely,

Arthur Shipman.

John’s mother Jane died on 12th June, 1920 aged 64, and her husband on 22nd May, 1941, aged 90.

Company Sergeant Major Clark’s widow, Jane, did not marry again and died on 13th December, 1956 at 31, Sydney Street, Flint. She was buried in Peel Green Cemetery, Eccles, Manchester, with daughter Bessie.