Date of birth: 1893
Date of death: 13.8.1921
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Rhoda Clarke née Heptonstall
Service number: 200937 (3153)
When war was declared John Clarke, also known as Jack, enlisted in the army, joining the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was drafted to the 2/4th Battalion which was the reserve battalion, raised to provide replacements for the 1/4th Battalion, a Territorial Force which recruited in the Wakefield area. On 5th July 1915, when his battalion was based at Beverley, Private Jack Clarke married Rhoda Heptonstall of the Star Inn, Lofthouse, at St Mary Magdalene Church, Outwood. At this time he gave his home address as 46, Vicarage Street, Wakefield.
The 2/4th Battalion sailed for France on 13th January 1917, part of the 187th Brigade, 62nd Division. After a month of railway construction work and trench familiarisation exercises, on the 20th February the 187th Brigade went into the line. The German Army was withdrawing to the fortified Hindenburg Line, with the 187th Brigade involved in the pursuit. The Battle of Arras started on the 9th April 1917, with the 2/4th KOYLI in reserve. However the battalion was not required until May, when they were involved in the flanking operations at Bullecourt and later on the Hindenburg Line. In November 1917 the 2/4th KOYLI, in Brigade, was involved in the Cambrai operations when, for the first time, tanks were used alongside the infantry. These operations concluded on the 28th November, with the capture of Bourlon Wood.
On 21st March 1918 the German army launched a major offensive on the western front, forcing the British Army back towards Amiens. At this time the 2/4th KOYLI, with the 62nd Division, was involved in a series of withdrawals, until the enemy advance was stopped. The 2/4th KOYLI, along with all other battalions involved in these withdrawals, incurred many casualties.
After some re-organisation the 62nd Division was transferred to the Marne area, where they were involved in a counter-offensive against the enemy. The Division returned to the Somme Region on 27th July 1918.
In August 1918 the “advance to victory” began, with the 62nd Division involved at the battle of the Scarpe and at the Canal du Nord and Havrincourt, on the Hindenburg Line. In late October the Division was involved in fighting at Selle and at the capture of Solesmes. After the battle of the Sambre, on 4th November 1918, the 62nd Division entered the outskirts of Mauberge. The Division crossed the river Sambre on 9th November and awaited the armistice.
A week after the armistice, the 62nd Division advanced across Belgium and occupied the Rhine bridgeheads. Selected to be part of the army of occupation, the 62nd Division crossed the border into Germany on 15th December and occupied the area around Schleiden.
On the 13th August 1921, when living at Bank Road, Mirfield, John Clarke died and was later buried at Outwood Cemetery. As his death is recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commision as a war death, he may have been transferred to Army Reserve after the war. The name of John Clarke is not included on any of the Outwood War Memorials.
On Private John Clarke’s headstone, in Outwood Cemetery, have been added the names of James and Joseph Archer, who also died in the conflict. Rhoda, the wife of John Clarke, was the niece of James and Joseph Archer.
John Clarke was born in 1893, the son of Robert Clarke and his wife Lavinia, née Atkinson. He was baptised on 20th December 1893 at St Mary’s Church, Wakefield when the family was living at 69, Charles Street. At this time his father, Robert Clarke, was a platelayer at an iron foundry. The family continued to live in Wakefield and at the time of the 1901 census, was living at Mollacres Yard, Wakefield. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Scunthorpe, where his father obtained work as a platelayer at a steel foundry. On leaving school John Clarke also obtained employment at the steel works.