CWG: Private Frederick Cleave

Private Frederick Cleave

Frederick Cleave was born in Chudleigh, Devon, early in 1899, and was one of nine children to Charles and Eva Cleave. Charles worked as a waggoner – for a grocer, according to the 1901 census, and for a stonemason in the 1911 one.

There is little specific information about Frederick’s early life, and even details of his military service are only evident from a contemporary newspaper report of his funeral:

The funeral took place at the cemetery on Tuesday afternoon of Private F Cleave of the 1st Devon Regiment, son of Mr and Mrs C Cleave of Woodway Street, who died at Fermoy Hospital, Ireland… from disease contracted on foreign service… He joined the Army in 1915, and served through the war in France, and afterwards in the Russian Expedition.

Western Times: Friday 14th January 1921

The report suggests a couple of things. Firstly, Frederick was underage when he enlisted – he would have been 16 years old. He would also have been involved in some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict: the 1st Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment fought at the Somme in 1916, Arras and Ypres in 1917, and Lys, the Somme and the Hindenburg Line in 1918.

The Russian Expedition mentioned was part of the Allied attempt to intervene after the country’s civil war – actions that were to prove unsuccessful.

Fermoy Military Hospital was part of the British Army’s barracks in the County Cork town; it is likely that Private Cleave had contracted one of the lung conditions running rampant across Europe in the immediate aftermath of the First World War – influenza, tuberculosis or pneumonia. He passed away on 4th January 1921 at the age of 21 years old.

Brought back home, Frederick Cleave lies at rest in the cemetery of his home town, Chudleigh, Devon.

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