Unit: 141 Company
Service Number: 46644 (Formerly: 18922, Lincolnshire Regiment)
Date of Death: 2 December 1917 – Died of wounds
Age: 22 years
Cemetery / Memorial: ORIVAL WOOD CEMETERY, FLESQUIERES
Grave / Panel Ref.: II. A. 31.
George was born in Leadenham, Lincolnshire, in the June quarter 1895, the son of William (Agricultural Labourer) and Harriet Jane (née Hooton) Clarke. Sometime in the next two years the family moved to Ruskington where a younger brother, Joseph was born. (see Footnote below)
By 1901 (Census RG 13/3047) the family had moved to ‘The Lodge Cottages’, Ashby de la Launde, Lincolnshire. In 1911 (Census RG 14/19616) the family were at the same address and George was working as a “Labourer on a Farm”.
After George’s death, on 30 April 1918 George’s mother, Harriett Jane, received the total of his effects amounting to £10 7s. 8d. (£10.38 – a relative value of about £750 today ). In November 1919 she received a further amount of £9 10s (£9.50 – about £630 today) as a War Gratuity.
With effect from 6 November 1918 Harriett was awarded a combined Pension of 10s per week for her two sons (£0.50 – about £35 p.w. today), George and Joseph, who had also been killed in action on 20 November 1916. (see Footnote below) At that time she was living at 170 Heythorp Street, London, SW18.
After the War the CWGC recorded George’s parents living at High Street, Leadenham, Lincolnshire. Father, William, died, aged 65, in the June quarter 1932, and his widow, Harriett, in the June quarter 1939, aged 72.
George does not seem to have lived in Ruskington for any length of time apart from the period either side of his brother’s birth. For this reason his name does not appear on any of Ruskington’s ‘official’ War Memorials. (see other commemorations below)
George initially enlisted in The Lincolnshire Regiment (Private 18922) at Lincoln, before transferring to the Machine Gun Corps and being posted to the 141st Company. His Service Papers have not survived but his Medal Index Card indicates he did not enter France until after the end of 1915.
The 141st Company was formed on 2 December 1915 in 141st (5th London) Brigade, 47th (2nd London) Division.
Shortly after formation of the MGC the Vickers Gun became the standard weapon used. The gun weighed 28.5 lbs. (13 kgs.), the water for cooling it 10 lbs. (4.5. kgs.) and the tripod on which it stood a further 20 lbs. (9 kgs). Bullets were carried in a canvas belt which held 250 rounds, this would last the team 30 seconds as the gun fired 500 rounds a minute.
The gun required a team of four – two to carry the equipment and two spare men.
In 1916 George’s Company fought during the German attack on Vimy Ridge and captured High Wood during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, Battle of the Somme. Also The Battle of Transloy Ridges and the attacks on the Butte de Warlencourt.
In 1917 they were in action in The Battle of Messines, The Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) and The Cambrai Operations, where they captured Bourlon Wood and fought against the German counter-attacks of 30 November to 3 December, where George lost his life.
At Bourlon, the Germans suffered many casualties. British units displayed reckless determination; one group of eight British machine-guns fired over 70,000 rounds against the German advance. Maybe George was one of this group. He was on of 7 men of the 141st Company to be killed during the 4 days before the German attack was repulsed.
The CWGC Concentration of Graves Report shows that George was originally buried in Grave I.B.157, Flesquières Chateau British Cemetery, which was near the Havrincourt road and just outside the Chateau grounds. It was used by fighting units from November 1917 to March 1918. He was re-buried in Orival Wood British Cemetery on 9th April 1930.
George’s younger brother, Pte. 40379 Joseph CLARKE, served with the Worcestershire Regiment and was killed in action on 20 November 1916.