CWG: Private John Clarke

Private John Clarke

John Clarke was born in Devon on 28th June 1881, the son of Edward and Mary Ann Clarke. Sadly, little documented information remains on his life, but from what does exist, a semblance of his life can be pieced together.

Edward and Mary Ann lived in the village of Ashcombe in their later years, although it seems that John had been born closer to Exeter. At some point before October 1915, he married local woman Rhoda; they did not go on to have any children.

When the First World War broke out, John was working as a farm labourer. He signed up, joining the 7th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. His enlistment papers confirm that he had already been volunteering for the 8th Battalion of the same regiment. They also note that he stood 5ft 6ins (1.68cm) tall, weighed 140lbs (63.5kg) and, intriguingly, that he was of poor physical development.

Private Clarke’s time in the army was not destined to be a lengthy one. In January 1916, he was admitted to the Canadian Red Cross Hospital in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, suffering with neuralgia. A couple of months later, he was admitted again, this time with influenza.

Shortly afterwards John’s military service came to an end. He was dismissed as medically unfit due to a gastric ulcer; his final day in the army was 30th March 1916, and he had served for 175 days.

At this point, Private Clarke’s trail once again goes cold. He passed away on 3rd December 1918 – more than eighteen months after leaving the Devonshire Regiment – although there is no documentation to confirm the cause of his passing. He was 37 years of age.

John Clarke was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Nectan’s church in Ashcombe, Devon.

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