F.H Clark M.B.E, Shell Shocked Corporal to Home Guard Captain
Frederick Henry Clark was born in 1881 in Lismore, New South Wales to James Clark [1851-1929] and Emma Edwards [1858-1919]; Frederick was the fourth eldest child out of 13 children! Of those 13, 7 were males and able to serve and of which all but 2 did - out of those 5, 1 was killed and a handful who were able served in the Boer War. It does appear that Frederick served in the Second Boer War, evidenced by pictures of him, but I have been unable to find a definite record of his actual service - but it is likely that he was either of the following;
No.18 Cpl Frederick Henry Clarke of ‘C’ Company, New South Wales Bushmen under Captain K.M Wray.
No.3281 Tpr Frederick Henry Clark of the 3rd New South Wales Bushmen
Frederick was most probably 3281 Clark of the 3rd NSW Bushmen as the men from that particular contingent were awarded the Kings South Africa Medal as well as the Queens South Africa Medal, which Frederick bears in the Second World War - the former [C Coy NSW] only bore the Queens South Africa Medal. Either way, Clark was with the Lismore Rifles during the period of 1902-1913, as well as joining the local Rifle Club and Volunteer Corps for a short spell. As 1906 came along, so did his marriage to Amy Australia Zions in Sydney. Their first child was Amy Clark who was born and died in 1908; Harold Frederick Clark followed after Amy in August 1910, then Raymond Norman Arthur in April 1913. \By the time of Raymond’s birth in 1913, Clark was working as a builder. At the outbreak of the First World War, his brother Edward immediately enlisted. As time went on, his brother Charles would enlist in early 1915. Frederick was Mayor of Randwick in New South Wales and held a recruitment meeting in Randwick in March 1916, and leading by example he resigned as Mayor and enlisted himself!
Records state he enlisted on March 20th, 1916 at the Showgrounds in Sydney, New South Wales [No.5334]. Having prior Boer War and Militia experience he was immediately sought out for promotion as an Acting Sergeant with the 13th Reinforcements for the 17th Battalion; he was later allotted to the 14th Reinforcements on May 1st. After another 3 months of training, Clark embarked with his draft on the A18 Wiltshire from Sydney on August 22nd, 1916. He disembarked in Plymouth on October 13th. That same day, Clark and his draft were marched into No.3 Command Depot on October 13th, then on November 5th his draft was sent to No.5 Training Battalion where his temporary rank of Sergeant was revoked. This demotion from T/Sgt to Private was short-lived as he was sent on an Infantry Course at Tidworth on November 20th where he was appointed to Temporary Corporal. On January 24th, 1917 Clark was promoted to substantive Corporal. He was with No.5 Training Battalion for a good portion of 1917 and only by July 23rd was he proceeding overseas to France. The following day, he was in Havre. By August 1st, he was with the 17th Battalion in France. On September 25th, Clark was appointed Sergeant after Sergeant Riddington was wounded on September 20th. On October 3rd, Frederick’s brother Lieutenant Edward Clark[e] of the 3rd Battalion was Killed in Action; Edward had served in the Boer War [lied about his age] and served as a police officer in-between the wars and was among the first to enlist in August 1914. On October 8th late at night, Clarke’s Battalion moved to a place called Poelcappelle near Broodseinde Ridge; all companies were on standby at 4:30am. At 5:20am, the barrage opened up on No-Mans land and the Companies followed behind. Captain MacKenzie and Captain Allen were wounded almost instantly and a subaltern was killed. As the Battalion reached a place called ‘Defy Crossing’ the companies on the left flank were taken by surprise and fired upon, but somehow the members from the two companies captured an odd 50 German Prisoners.
Despite this, the attack pushed on and after capturing Decline Copse, it was realized that British troops on the far left flank were yet to be seen. It was soon decided to hold Decline Copse, utilizing the 5 captured German machine guns. It is worth noting that most or indeed all officers of the battalion had become casualties, and they were all effectively under the command of a Sergeant Raitt who would be promoted to Company Sergeant Major the following day for his actions. After 4 hours, the 17th withdrew to Defy Crossing where they came into contact with the British troops on the left flank. Shortly afterwards, the 6th Brigade on the 17th Battalion’s right withdrew from their position and advanced the path that the 17th Battalion had cleared, only to be stopped by enemy fire. At 3am on October 10th, the 45th Battalion relieved the 17th after 22 hours in action. An entry on Clark’s record on October 9th shows that he was diagnosed with Shell-shock, an issue that was rather ignored by the public during that time period but in recent times has been recognized as post-traumatic stress disorder. It is unknown to what lengths his shell-shock was but it is known that a shell exploded and buried him and another landed dangerously near him killing others. Either way, he was reverted to Corporal and evacuated to blighty on October 27th. 3 days later, Clark was admitted to the 3rd General Hospital at Oxford whilst still listed as a Sergeant. After quite the spell in England, Clark embarked on March 30th, bound for Australia. On April 15th, 1918 Clark arrived back in Australia, away from the horrors in France. Exactly a month later on May 15th, Sergeant Frederick Henry Clark was discharged at 2nd M.D after 2 years of service.
Frederick Clark embarked from Sydney on March 18th, 1919 on the Osterley [Orient Line ship] and arrived at his destination on April 30th; England. By the time he had arrived in England, Frederick stated that he was an architect but by 1925 he was in Battersea, Surrey as a Contractor and Timber Merchant. On April 14th, 1926 Frederick left Southampton on the Majestic, bound for New York; he lists his occupation as an Architect. On arrival to New York, he traveled to San Francisco then onto Suva, Fiji then onto Sydney on the AMS Sonoma. In 1931, his wife Amy gave a decree of ‘judicial separation’. In 1934, Frederick was living in Woolwich at the Falconwood Hotel with his son Raymond. On November 6th, 1935 Frederick left Southampton bound for New York. Records state that from New York, he intended to move to Australia but this does not appear to be so as he seems to have had a ‘defacto relationship’ with Florence Alice Henderson [1902-1982] and was back in the Falconwood Hotel in Woolwich by 1936. By 1939, he was in Kent, away from Woolwich.
Falconwood Hotel, the property that Clark owned.
In the wake of the breaking of the Maginot Line, it was recognized that the Germans may possibly push the British out of France and thereafter invade England. The Allies were losing their foothold in Europe and had a portion of its army and allies in the Middle East. Any sort of home defense was in disarray - that is, ill-equipped and no proper chain of command. On May 14th, 1940 the Secretary of State for War Anthony Eden, a decorated veteran of the First World War made a speech over the wireless, he said the following;
‘Since the war began, the Government have received countless inquiries from all over the Kingdom from men of all ages who are for one reason or another not at present engaged in military service, and who wish to do something for the defence of their country. Well, now is your opportunity. We want large numbers of such men in Great Britain, who are British subjects, between the ages of seventeen and sixty-five, to come forward now and offer their services in order to make assurance doubly sure. The name of the new Force which is now to be raised will be 'The Local Defence Volunteers'. This name describes its duties in three words. It must be understood that this is, so to speak, a spare-time job, so there will be no need for any volunteer to abandon his present occupation. When on duty you will form part of the armed forces, and your period of service will be for the duration of the war. You will not be paid, but you will receive uniform and will be armed. You will be entrusted with certain vital duties for which reasonable fitness and a knowledge of firearms is necessary. These duties will not require you to live away from your homes.’
Local Defence Volunteers; later Home Guard
I am unsure when Clark [pictured] joined the Local Defence Volunteers [rather, LDV] as accurate records were not kept. Either way, by August 1940 the LDV was the Home Guard [changed July 22nd] and he was a member of the Addington Home Guard of the 4th ‘Chislehurst’ Battalion. It is generally thought that the Home Guard saw little to no action, as we know, the Germans never invaded nor sent any raiding parties - however, the 4th Battalion would see action! On August 18th, 1940, a platoon of 20 men under Captain Clark and his 2iC Lieutenant Miller [another First World War veteran] from the 4th Battalion sighted a low flying Dornier 17 bomber during a bombing raid on Biggin Hill flying at tree-top height. Lieutenant Miller recalled the following; “I gave the order to fire. We pumped 180 rounds towards the belly of the bomber. When it came down and the crew stepped out alive, they looked rather arrogant.” The question of who shot down the bomber has been an interesting but rather obvious question to answer. The pilot of the Dornier recalled he was under fire from defenses on the ground and a spitfire on his 6 o’clock; it is also stated in other accounts that ‘ack-ack’ guns were firing at the aircraft aswell. Either way, the hail of bullets from every direction led to the left wing catching fire, forcing the Dornier to make a hurried, yet adequate landing. In Captain Clarke’s own words from a British Pathe newsreel - ‘I am very proud.. to be the commander of this battalion, being the first of the Home Guard, to bring down an enemy machine in the defense of England'
By 1944, it is assumed he was discharged from the Home Guard as he was appointed a Member of the British Empire whilst he was living at ‘Beechwood’ on Yester Road, Chislehurst for ‘his part in a scheme for providing part-time war-work in private houses’. An entry reads "Mr. Clark came to England from Australia 25 years ago, and served in the Boer war and Great War. He was captain of Sidcup Golf Club for some time. and is a member of Chislehurst Golf Club”. By 1945, Clark was a member of the British Legion - Australia’s equivalent to the Returned & Services League. In 1949, Clark was back in the land of the Kangaroo in Narrabeen in New South Wales, living with his ‘defacto wife’ Florence Henderson. However, by August 1950 Clark was working as an Architect at the RAF Club, Pall Mall in London. On October 6th, 1950 Clark was a First Class Passenger aboard the RMS Orcades bound for Sydney. He returned back to England shortly thereafter but was leaving England once more aboard the Strathnaver bound for Sydney once again on July 2nd, 1953. He was listed as Lieutenant Colonel F.H Clark. In 1954, he was a Company Director living at 25 Holbrook Avenue at Milson’s Point, North Sydney. His son, Raymond, a Royal Naval Volunteer Lieutenant during the war died in Woolwich on February 6th, 1956 aged 43. In 1958, Clark was at Kensett Avenue, Leura, New South Wales working as a Director for a Company. On April 15th, 1959 in Leura, Frederick Henry Clark MBE died at the age of 77.
DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL
Frederick Clark was filmed in 1940 for a British Pathe Newsreel concerning the Dornier his unit had shot down by small-arms fire. He is shown wearing a DCM, QSA, KSA and the First World War Pair. He was listed as ‘Captain F.H Clark MBE, DCM’ by 1945. There is no evidence that he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal throughout his service.
Edited by tankengine888
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