CWG: Able Seaman John Clements

Able Seaman John Clements

John Clements was born on 22nd March 1891 in the Lanarkshire town of Airdrie. He was one of seven children to John and Catherine Clements.

There is little concrete information about John Jr’s life. When he left school, he followed his father and two brothers, David and George into the mining industry, working at the New Orbiston Colliery, walking distance from home.

When war broke out, however, John Jr wanted to play a bigger part and – probably to Catherine’s horror – he enlisted in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at the same time as two of his three brothers also joined up.

Information about Able Seaman Clements’ service is scarce. All that can be confirmed is that, in the autumn of 1917, he was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

The base was particularly busy at that point in the war, and John found himself billeted in overflow accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombarded by a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Able Seamen Clements was among those killed. He was just 26 years old.

John Clements’s body, along the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham.

Able Seaman John Clements

John and Catherine’s second son had been killed, but, as the local newspaper reported, there seemed to be more trauma ahead:

Private George Clements, Cameron Highlanders, aged 23… is officially posted missing in recent operations in France. He has seen a long period of active service, and previous to enlisting, was employed in the… Hattonrigg Colliery.

Private David Clements, Royal Irish, the eldest son [of John and Catherine] is in hospital in Yorkshire suffering from ‘gassing injuries’. This is the third occasion upon which he has been wounded; fortunately, he is making a satisfactory recovery. He is 28 years of age and was employed in the… New Orbiston Colliery.

Bellshill Speaker: Friday 14th September 1917

Thankfully, George was found and David recovered and John was to be the only casualty of the conflict for the Clements family.

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