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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 203478
1st Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
Who Died on Sunday, 27th October 1918
Age 20

Plot IV Row D Grave 9
Belgrade Cemetery, Namur, Belgium

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Belgrade Cemetery

Belgrade Cemetery, Namur, Belgium1

Edgar Clark was born in Coleorton, Leicestershire in 18982, the third of five children of Oliver Clark (b. 1871, Thrussington, Leicestershire) and his wife Alice (b. c1874, Coleorton, Leicestershire née Marson). In around 1900, Oliver and Alice moved with their family, from Coleorton, Leicestershire to Long Eaton, Derbyshire, where Oliver had found employment as a furnace man. In 1901, they were living at 20 Upper Brook Street, Long Eaton with their four oldest children, including the two-year-old Edgar3. Another daughter was born in 1902 and, in 1908, tragically, Alice died, aged only 34. In the following year, Oliver married Mary Coulson and their son was born in the following year4. By 1911, the family had moved to live at 23 Thorneywood Road, Long Eaton with Oliver working as a stoker at the Council's electricity works. Edgar, aged 13, was still at school5 Soon afterwards, the family moved to Beeston, to live at 4 Portland Street where, it appears, they were to live for the rest of Oliver's life and where two more children were to be born in the years up to 19176.

It wasn't long after war began in 1914, in March 1915, that Oliver enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters - and Edgar was to follow later that year. As Oliver was then aged over 43 and therefor over the age limit, he declared himself age 41 years 5 months and was accepted, joining 3rd Battalion and, very soon gaining promotion to Corporal. He was posted to France in February 1916 and spent about three months in Le Havre at the base camp and at 'Cinder City' there, probably in a support role. However, his general health had begun to deteriorate - in particular his knees were giving trouble - and, after treatment and assessment in hospital, he was discharged as physically unfit in February 19177.

Either encouraged or inspired by his father, Edgar also enlisted, with the Territorial Force and was immediately embodied for active service with the Sherwood Foresters, in November 1915, despite the fact that, aged 17, he was too young to do so. Taking a similar approach as his father, he declared his age to be 19 year and 8 months and was duly accepted. After initial training with 3/7th Battalion, he was posted the France in July 1916 and a month later joined 1/6th Battalion at the front and faced conditions such that, in October, having reported sick, he was admitted to 2nd General Hospital suffering from pneumonia and trench foot and was returned to England for treatment and recuperation. In July 1917, he was returned to France and posted to 2/5th Battalion in time for the Third Battle of Ypres - known as 'Passchendaele' - with its terrible casualties and atrocious conditions. On the 26 September 1917 he was wounded - a gunshot wound to his right shoulder - and was again transported through the casualty evacuation chain, via 1st General Hospital, again to England for treatment and recuperation8.

By the end of January 1918, he was back in France and posted to 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters, part of 24th Brigade of 8th Division and, for the first few weeks, settled down to the routine of front-line defence. But, on 21st March, 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 objective 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. For its part, 1st Battalion was defending a section on the west bank of the Somme and fought resolutely to defend and to attempt to destroy a bridge which the enemy was threatening to use as a crossing in its attack. For several days, the battalion held that bridge and also held fast against enemy troops that had crossed by another bridge. By the 26th the battalion held a frontage of over a mile, including St Christ-Briost and the river crossings but were eventually driven back by very superior enemy forces. Faced with an impossible position, the battalion was ordered to withdraw to the town of Misery, about 3 kilometers to the rear. Now surrounded on all sides, the battalion charged through the enemy troops, taking its wounded along with it and was able to stabilise on a new line. The operation had been costly in casualties but earned the battalion high praise and congratulation from the Divisional Commander9.

At some point, probably in the action's final day, it appears that Private Clark was taken prisoner by the German forces. Many such prisoners were made to undertake heavy work by the enemy, often with little food and inadequate accommodation. In these circumstances, disease was rife and many died as a result. Although there appears to be no record of the detail of Private Clark's treatment as a prisoner or the circumstances and date of his death, it was officially declared that he had died by 27 October 191810.

Private Clark is buried in Belgrade Cemetery at Namur, Belgium. Namur was attacked by the Germans on 20 August 1914; the forts were destroyed by heavy artillery, and at midnight on 23-24 the garrison was evacuated. The town then remained in German hands until the end of the war. Belgrade Cemetery contains 249 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, most of them dating from the ten months when casualty clearing stations were then posted to Namur after the Armistice11.

He was posthumously awaited the Victory Medal and the British Medal12. His Army financial effects of 39 7s 8d, which included a War Gratuity of 17, were paid to his father, as sole legatee, on 11 August 191913.

It appears that Oliver and Mary continued to live at 4 Portland Street up to Oliver's death in 1939, aged 67. Mary and her son Eric then went to live at 57 Mona Street, Beeston, close to the Beeston Boiler works where Eric worked for many years. Mary died in 1954, aged 77 and Eric in 1997, age 7914.

1The photograph of Belgrade Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Ashby de la Zouch Registration District (of which Coleorton was part) in Q3/1898 (Ref 7a 101).
3Long Eaton, Derbyshire, 1901 Census, Piece 3210 Folio 58. Sidney's full siblings were : Dora Louisa (b. 1895), Alfred Baden (b. 1900) and Alice (b. 1902).
4Alice's death was registered in Shardlow Registration District (of which Long Eaton was part) in Q4 1908 (Ref 7b 312). Oliver married Mary Coulson on 23 March 1909. Their son, John Oliver, was born on 5 February 1910.
5Long Eaton, Derbyshire, 1911 Census, Piece 20837 RD434, SD4, ED16, Sched 52.
6This address was declared in Oliver and Edgar's Army Service records in 1915. Oliver and Mary's second child, Christine Gwendoline (1915-1918), and their third, Eric (1917-1996), appear to have both been there.
7Oliver's enlistment date, postings and discharge are from his Army Pension Record - available on ancestry.com.
8Edgar's enlistment date, postings, medical episodes and mention of his prisoner of war status are from his Army Service Record - available on ancestry.com. For some reason, his father was recorded at the time of his enlistment as 'Arthur Clark' although other documents in the file correct this to 'Oliver'. Early service numbers of 5265 and 20632 are recorded
9The account of 1st Battalion's actions during March 1918 is based on its war diary.
10This assumption appears in his Medal Roll entry.
11This description of Belgrade Cemetery is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
12Details from Edgar's Medal Card and his entry in the Medal Rolls - available on ancestry.com.
13Details of the payment are from the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.
14Details of the family in the post-war period are derived from standard genealogical sources including the 1939 Registration and Electoral Rolls.

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