Private 5566 John Henry Clarke

Died of Wounds on Sunday, 18th October 1914, age 32.
Buried in Grave 19. I. B. IO. at City Of Paris Cemetery, Bagneux, Hauts-De-Seine, France.

3rd Bn., Coldstream Guards. 4th (Gds) Brigade of 2nd Division.

Husband of Mrs F. Clarke, of 2, Dale Street, Toll End, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: West Bromwich, Enlisted: Great Bridge, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 12th August 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library, and St. Paul's, Golds Hill memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/258206/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
22 Brick House Lane, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Richard Clarke (37, Smith's Striker, born West Bromwich), his wife Emily (36, born West Bromwich), and their 3 children: John H. (15, Tube Works Stamper, born Tipton), Mary E. (11, born Tipton), and Richard (1, born Tipton).

In 1911, John's parents, Richard and Emily, were living at 96 Brickhouse Lane but there was no sign of John himself. As John went abroad on 12th August 1914 it is likely that he was already a serving soldier, so he could have been with his regiment in 1911.

According to the Coldstream Guards records, John's address at the time of his death was 96 Brick House Lane, West Bromwich.

Personal Data

None Available.

Action resulting in his death

Pte John Clarke was one of the first of the British Expeditionary Force to land in France on 12th August 1914. He would have seen the first British action at Mons, and taken part in the 200-mile retreat from Mons. This retreat ended at the Battle of the Marne from the 5th to 12th September when the German advance was checked within 25 miles of Paris, and the Germans were then forced into retreat.

Given that John was treated in Paris, it is likely that he was wounded at the Battle of the Marne. He was treated at the Lycée Buffon in Montparnasse, Paris, and during his time there was visited by Mrs Jessie Grove who wrote to Pte Clarke's wife. John died from his wounds and was buried in the City of Paris Cemetery at Bagneux, the funeral service was attended by Mrs Grove.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 21st November 1914
The great admiration of the French people for the British soldiers, and the sympathy of our allies towards the wounded, is evidenced in a letter which has been received from France by Mrs F. Clarke, of 95 Brickhouse Lane, Great Bridge, Tipton, the widow of a brave soldier who has died in France as a result of wounds received while fighting for his King and country. Private Clarke, of the Guards, was a furnaceman at the work of Messrs John Spencer Ltd., Wednesbury, and was popular amongst his fellow workers, and well known in Wednesbury and Tipton, and through the courtesy of his bereaved widow, to whom the sympathies of many go forth in her grief, we are able to publish the following beautiful letters.
59 Boulevard Victor,
Porte de Versailles,
Paris, France.
My dear Mrs Clarke,
I am broken-hearted for you, for I must tell you your good, brave husband is dead. My husband and I went regularly to see him in the Buffon Grammar School here, which has been transformed into a hospital. Dear Mrs Clarke, I feel so sorry for you, but it will be a little consolation to you to know that your good husband was ready to go to the "Blessed Land" where there will be no more pain. He was very brave, but he was so badly wounded that it is a mercy he is at rest. A very kind Church of England clergyman visited him often, and the poor boy had one of the best doctors in Europe; but all was in vain. God has taken him. I feel terribly sorry, for I always called him "my pet soldier" and he called me "sister", and he reminded me so very much of a very dear brother of mine who was drowned in New Zealand, that I took a great liking to him. He was so pleased to get a letter from you, and asked me to read it, and on Thursday last he told me that he was expecting a letter from you. I wish I could tell you all.
Your dear husband will be buried on Thursday, and we shall go; and dear Mrs Clarke, I shall always go to the cemetery and put flowers on his grave, and on those of the other brave boys who have given their lives to defend their country from the tyrannical Germans. It is a terrible war, but it had to come, and, oh, what sadness everywhere.
I am going off now to see some English wounded, who are now convalescent, and are going to England tomorrow. When you feel able to, I shall be very pleased to have a letter from you. We live out here, and I must tell you the French are very kind to all English soldiers. I come from Scotland, and my husband from London, so the soldiers are always glad to see us and talk a little. Remember dear Mrs Clarke, that your husband would have suffered all his life had he been spared, and , so sad thought that it is, it is better that he is at rest. Now I must go off to the hospital. Believe me, with deepest sympathy, for you in your great sorrow.
Yours very sincerely
Jessie Grove.

From the same address and under date November 3rd, Mrs Grove writes:
"I sincerely trust you are all bearing up under this terrible sorrow. My husband and I feel for you and all your family, and I only wish I could look in and have a little talk with you. You might kindly send me your photograph, and tell me if you have any children. It will soon be a fortnight since your dear husband was buried. He is amongst many other brave English boys, and the French have made their graves look like an English garden. It is custom here to go the the graves of friends on All Saints Day, and the day after, and lay flowers on them, and on Sunday there were crowds of people when my husband and I went to Bagneux cemetery. It is quite outside the town. The wreath which we bought with the money sent by your dear husband's chums was very beautiful, made of large white chrysanthemums and Parma violets. My husband translated the memorial card into French, and I tied it on the wreath with the others. In today's Continental 'Daily Mail' there is a notice of it, and I am sure you will like to read it, my husband is having copies sent to Mrs Minnis to distribute.
"The funeral was at 8.30am on Thursday, the 22nd October, and was very simple and touching. The Rev. Mr Hurst, who always visited your dear husband, held a very pretty Church of England service, first at the hospital and then at the grave. Many French ladies followed, and some of the nurses, thenFrench soldiers with their arms reversed; and wih us were two Salvation Army members - a very nice lady and gentleman. The latter photographed your dear husband's grave, so I hope by now you have received a photograph.
The coffin was covered with the Union Jack, and the City of Paris sent a wreath of laurel, tied with the French colours. On the top of the Union Jack were placed palm leaves and a white cross, which I made for your dear. On the French colours, in letters of gold, was written "Homage to our defenders".
Dear Mrs Clarke, I can assure you your dear husband sleeps in a sunny land, and the French will never forget what our brave men have done, I am afraid I shall make you sad, but still I know you so well you will like to be told all. On the day before he died I took him two handkerchiefs, but he would scarcely take them, saying "I don't like to spoil them." Poor boy! I feel sure he knew he was dying, for he told me he felt very ill. I kept stroking his head, and he smiled to my husband so sadly! He called me "sister" that day too, he always did. I asked him had he written to you, and he said "Yes". He was expecting a letter.
The Rev. Mr Hurst told me he knew he was dying, and was quite ready, and dear Mrs Clarke, I kissed him on the brow for you as I always did."
Yours very sincerely
Jessie Grove.

Tipton Herald December 5 1914
Mrs Grove from Paris who had visited Pte Clarke in hospital and attended his funeral came to England and visited Mrs Clarke.