Charles Frederick Clarke was born on the 14th April 1869 to James and Jane Clarke. James was born in Suffolk, but moved to London, where he found work as a watchman (guarding the city streets at night). Jane was from Essex, and the couple went on to have five children, of whom Charles was the middle child.
Charles was set on a life of adventure, joining the Royal Navy in 1887, for a period of twelve years. During this time, he served on eleven vessels, working his way up through the ranks from Boy to Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman, Leading Seaman and eventually Petty Officer.
In October 1895, he married Lydia Rogers, a sailor’s daughter from Portsmouth. The couple would go on to have nine children, eventually settling in Sussex.
When his naval service ended in 1899, Charles enlisted again. Within six years, he had achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer, and in March 1909, after 22 years’ service, retired from active duty. He was obviously well respected, however, and was selected to serve on the staff of the Royal Naval Recruiting Office in Portsmouth. His service records suggest that he resigned from this role on 14th April 1914.
It seems that Chief Petty Office Clarke took on a role on the vessel HMS Zaria. This was a ship that was requisitioned by the Royal Navy, which acted as a patrol ship, guarding the coastal waters around the UK. While details are scant, Charles certainly served on board for a couple of years, and he died on board, from causes undisclosed, on 16th December 1916, at the age of 47 years old.
Brought back to West Sussex, Charles Frederick Clarke was laid to rest in the Broadwater Cemetery in Worthing. This was where Lydia was now living; she was buried in the same grave, when she passed away eight years after her husband.