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War Memorials



In Memory of
CLARENCE HENRY AUSTIN
Lance Sergeant 13720
4th Battalion Northumberland
Who was Killed in Action on Saturday, 13th April 1918
Age 23

No Known Grave Panel 19 to 23 & 162
Memorial to the "Missing", Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, West Flanders, Belgium

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
&
Remembered with Honour
Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium1

Clarence Henry Austin was born in Old Basford, Nottingham in 18932, the son of Henry Austin (b. 1867) and his wife Mary Ann (b. 1871, New Radford, Nottingham, née Husbands). After his father died in 1897, Mary Ann married Charles Tipler in 1898 and Clarence went to live with his maternal grandparents, Joseph and Ann Husbands. In 1901, they were at 64 St Peters Street, Old Radford, Nottingham with Joseph working as a lace maker3. By 1911, Joseph, now a widower and a pensioner and Mary Ann, again widowed, together with the 17-year-old Clarence, now a clerk at a wagon works, were living at 8 Pleasant Place, Derby Road, Stapleford, Notts4

When war came in August, 1914, Harry was amongst the first to enlist, signing up in the first month with the Northumberland Fusiliers5 and joining its 13th (Service) Battalion, formed at Newcastle in September 1914, one of 51 battalions raised by the Regiment for service in the Great War. A period of training took the battalion, as part of 62nd Brigade of the 21st Division, to Halton Park, Aylesbury and Witly in Surrey.

It appears that, before enlisting, Clarence had met Lucy Wallis Cullen, the daughter of John Henry and Sarah Jane Wallis6 who lived at 21 Dallas York Road in Beeston7 near to Black's lace factory in what had been Humbers, where it is likely that John Henry, as a plain net lace maker and Lucy, as a slip winder, were employed. They decided to marry before Clarence went abroad, and did so, at Beeston Parish Church on 12 June 1915. Three months later, on 9 September 1915 Clarence left with the battalion from Folkestone as reinforcements to the Expeditionary Force in France, arriving in Boulogne early the next day8.

Within about two weeks, the battalion took part in the assault at Loos during which it took a large number of casualties - 18 officers and 395 other ranks. It was a terrible introduction to the Western Front9.

There followed a period of about eight months when the battalion rebuilt its strength and continued to train for the realities of trench warfare, sometimes taking turns in the front line and - a very big problem - contending with the extreme weather, made much worse by trench living. At the beginning of July 1916 the Battle of Albert - the big Somme battle - was launched and the battalion took its part, albeit split in support of various components of the attack. In the first four days of July, the battalion took casualties totaling 7 officers and 155 other ranks. Soon afterwards on the 11th July, the battalion was in action at Mametz Wood, with some success but a further 9 officers and 325 other ranks were casualties. Nevertheless, the relentless battles continued throughout most of 1916 and, after another hard winter, continued in 1917 during the German retreat to the Hindenburg line.

At some point, it is not clear when, Clarence was transferred to the Regiment's 4th Battalion and too, over the months he was promoted through the ranks reaching the level of Lance Sergeant. It seems likely that the move to 4th Battalion had occurred by the time it faced the horrors of Passchendaele in 1917.

On 21st March 1918, the German Army launched its Spring Offensive from the Hindenburg Line with the objective of ending the war before American troops and resources could tilt the balance towards the Allies. The plan was to smash through the Allied lines, push the British forces into the sea and to cut off their supply lines by seizing the ports. Very heavy bombardments which included gas shells were launched at various points and advancing attacks began to gain ground. Although these attacks were met strongly and with determination, British forces were forced to withdraw, involving strong rear-guard fighting and heavy casualties and, for the moment at least, the new positions were held. The casualties had been high and there was an urgent need to pull together and reinforce the depleted forces. During this period in March, 4th Battalion carried out a support role but, as the month progressed and continuing into the next month, the continual change of orders and re-positioning reflected the desperate attempts that were underway to hold the line against the continuing enemy attacks..10.

On 26th March, the battalion was in the trenches in front of Ashevillers and took part in successful counter-attacks before withdrawing and holding position at Vauviller - a pattern of action, at a number of positions, that it was to experience over the next several days. At the beginning of April the battalion moved to Vironchaux where further reorganisation and re-equipping was possible and this continued after a move to l'Ecleme where a draft of 250 men were taken onto strength. It was noted that these 'included a large percentage of boys under 19'. A further draft of 102 which arrived on the 6th were noted as 'of poor physique and its constituents were all under 19 years of age'. On the 9th, the battalion was in Merville and its surroundings from which it was involved in a number of attacking initiatives. Later in the day, the enemy attacked forcing a withdrawal - a situation which became more urgent over the next several days. Over the month as a whole, casualties totaled 6 officers and 335 other ranks - a number that included Lance Sergeant Austin who was killed in action on the 16th April.

As his body was never identified, Lance Sergeant Austin is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing within the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery of that name. The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of Belgium during the war. On the forward slope of the Passchendaele Ridge is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passchendaele, near Zonnebeke in Belgium. The Cross of Sacrifice is to be found in a central position in the cemetery, at the base of the cross a small patch of the original German Block House can still be seen, contained within a bronze wreath, while on the far side, between it and the memorial wall, is a collection of some 300 graves. These are the original battle-field burials left where they were found after the Armistice. The other some nearly 12,000 graves which stand in parade ground order, were brought in from the surrounding area after the Armistice. The stone wall surrounding the cemetery makes up the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing. On completion of the Menin Gate memorial to the missing in Ypres, it was discovered that it was too small to contain all the names that were originally planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of 15th August was chosen and the names of the UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial instead. The memorial contains the names of 33,783 soldiers of the UK forces and a further 1,176 New Zealanders11.

Lance Sergeant Austin was posthumously awaited the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1915 Star12. His Army financial effects of 27 8s 7d, which included his war gratuity of 23, were paid to his widow on 24 September 1919.13.

On 9 August 1919, Clarence's widow, Lucy Austin, married William Fletcher at Beeston Parish Church. Lucy's mother had died, early in 1919 and, in the following decade, the couple lived with Lucy's father and brother at the family home at 21 Dallas York Road in Beeston. During several occasions during these years, William had periods of work at the nearby Beeston Boiler Company and two sons, Douglas and Norman were born to the couple. After, John Henry Wallis died in 1929, they continued to live at the Dallas York Road address for a few years until moving to live at 2 Stoney Street and started a grocery business. Their daughter was born in 1939. William died in 1951 and Lucy in 1988, aged 92.14.


Footnotes
1The photograph of the Tyne Cot Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Nottingham Registration District in Q3/1893 (Ref 7b 326)
3Radford, Nottingham, 1901 Census, Piece 3182 Folio 205. Joseph Husbands in incorrectly recorded as 'George' Husbands.
4Stapleford, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20846 RD434 SD4 ED25 Schedule 2.
5His enlistment date has been calculated based on the amount of his War Gratuity. His initial attachment to 13th Battalion is recorded as part of his entry in 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' and his medal roll entry.
6Lucy Cullen was born was born on 10 July 1895 at Epperstone, the daughter of Sarah Jane Cullen and was baptised there as Lucy Wallis Cullen with Sarah described as a single woman. It therefore seems likely that Lucy's father was John Henry Wallis whom Sarah Jane subsequently married in Southwell Registration District (of which Epperstone was part) in Q3/1902 (Ref 7b 769).
7Beeston, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20430 RD429 SD3 ED25 Schedule 179.
8The date of his entry into France, which is recorded on his medal card, is consistent with 13th Battalion's date of deployment to France.
9Details of 13th Battalion's deployment between 1915 and 1917 is based on its war diary (available at ancestry.com).
10The account of 4th Battalion's deployment during March and April 1918 is based on its war diary (available at ancestry.com).
11This description of the Tyne Cot Memorial is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
12Details from Clarence's entry in the Medal Rolls - available on ancestry.com.
13Details of the payments are from the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.
14Family details are from standard genealogical sources, including the September 1939 Registration.

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