Thomas James Clark was born in Worcester at the beginning of 1853, the oldest of two children to James Clark and his wife Sarah. James was an engine smith and gas fitter, and moved the family with his work, initially to London, then on to the Kent coast.
Documentation relating to Thomas’ early life is difficult to track down; the 1871 census has him listed as a gas fitter like his father, but it is likely that he enlisted in the army fairly shortly after this date.
In 1875, he married a woman called Emily Ann. There life was to take on a grand new adventure as their first child, a boy named after his father, was born in Bombay, India, later that year.
It seems likely that it was Thomas’ military service that took the young family overseas. This was to be the case for at least a decade, as Emily gave birth to four further children in India. James, their fifth child, was born in Bombay in 1884. Their sixth, and last child, Ellen, was born in Gillingham, Kent, ten years later.
Given that the standard time for military service was twelve years, it is possible that Thomas served all of that time overseas, returning to England in around 1887.
Back home in Kent, Thomas is given the commission of Quartermaster in November 1897. By this point, he has been in the Royal Engineers for just under 21 years. He and his family are living in central Gillingham, within easy walking distance of the Royal Engineers Barracks and School of Engineering.
The 1901 census also lists Thomas as Quartermaster for the regiment, while three of his sons are by this time working in the Naval Dockyard as shipwrights and engine fitters.
Ten years later and the family are still living in the same house. By now, and aged 57, Thomas is recorded as a Retired Captain and Quartermaster for the Royal Engineers. He and Emily have been married 36 years, and their three youngest children (now aged 29, 26 and 17) are still living with them.
War was looming by now, although, age 61 when it broke out, it is unlikely that Retired Quartermaster Clark would have been involved in any front line activity. While no military records survive for Thomas, it seems possible that he may have been recalled for a training or administrative role at the barracks nearby.
Any re-commission would not have lasted for long, however, as Quartermaster Clark passed away at home on 10th September 1916. He was 63 years old.
Thomas James Clark lies at peace in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent.
Thomas’ widow, Emily, passed away just two years after her husband. She was also laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery.
Thomas left his estate in the hands of his youngest son, James, who was still living at his parents’ home when they passed away.