The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Alfred William (1862 – 1902), Leonora (1857 – 1937), Harold Julius (1893 – 1915)

Grave Number 813

Alfred William and Leanora nèe Lunnon had five sons and two daughters. The family originally lived in Ellesmere Road but moved to Station Road, firstly living at number 25 and then at number 11. Alfred was a Commercial Clerk.

Private Harold Julius Clarke, 11091, 4th Battalion Canadian Infantry  Harold Julius Clarke (1893 – 1915) was born in Berkhamsted on 9 December 1893. He was the second youngest child of Alfred William and Leanora nèe Lunnon.   Harold was just nine years old when his father died in 1902. After leaving school Harold became a Solicitor’s Clerk. He soon decided to try a new life in Canada. He left Southampton on 24 April 1913 on the Cunard ship Ausonia bound for Quebec. He was 19 years old and described himself as a Clerk.

On 13 July 1914 Harold married Ellen May Page in Collingwood, Simcoe, Ontario. He was 20 and gave his occupation as a painter. His bride was 18 years old and was from Ipswich.

Harold enlisted on 14 August 1914 and on 23 September 1914 he signed his attestation papers, at Valcartier, to join the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. His medical examination describes him as five foot nine inches, medium complexion with brown hair and eyes. He had a tattoo mark on his left ring finger. He gave his occupation as a Riveter. He didn’t give a current address and named his mother as his next of kin.   According to his service papers, he sailed from Quebec on the SS Tyrolia on 7 October 1914. However the war diary for his battalion suggest that they left on 25 September.

On 29 October his wife Ellen gave birth to their daughter Winifred Ellen M.

Harold arrived, with his battalion, in Plymouth Sound on 14 October 1914. They moved on to Lavington in Wiltshire, arriving there on 24th October. On 4 November their parade was reviewed by King George, Queen Mary, Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener.

Harold spent the winter of 1914/15 training and preparing for battle. On 8 February 1915 he moved with his battalion to Avonmouth and embarked on the SS Atlantian. They arrived in St Nazaire on 11 February. They then gradually moved through France staying in different billets along the way. Harold’s first experience of the Trenches was on 5 March 1915. They were under constant sniping but did not receive any casualties. Through March and April they alternated between entrenchment, physical training and drill. During this time they were reviewed by General Smith-Dorrien.

By 23rd April the battalion were in Vlamertinghe just outside Ypres. The war diary explains that at “12.30AM, the Battalion moved off, crossed No. 4 Pontoon bridge of the Yber Canal at 4.10AM. 4.30AM Battalion halted at a farm house 1200 yards West of Picklen where the enemy were entrenched. We commenced to advance towards the ridge at 5.25 AM. B Coy leading and occupying a portion of 150 yards frontage, the other Coys followed. Artillery and Machine Gun fire of the enemy very heavy entrenched at 400 yards from the enemy”. “9PM Battalion came out of the action, relieved by East Yorks. Adjutant killed, 2nd in command wounded, 16 other casualties amongst Officers, other ranks 487”.

Harold was killed in action on 23 April 1915. It was his first and only experience of attacking the enemy. His body was never found and he is remembered in the Menin Gate. He was 21 years old. He is also remembered on his parent’s gravestone in Rectory Lane Cemetery.

Harold’s services papers suggest that his wife Ellen was planning to return to England just as she received news that her husband had been killed. There is an interesting comment next to the May overseas payment – initially it says “send May cheque by May 22nd at latest” this is crossed out with a further comment of “This Lady has changed her mind”. A further comments says “letter dated July 16th 15 stating this woman did not go to England”.  However ships’ records show that Ellen and her daughter sailed from Quebec and arrived in London on 22 November 1915, it appears that they moved in with Harold’s mother at 11 Station Road. Less than two years later they returned to Canada arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 21 May 1917.

On 4 December 1918 Ellen married George Henry Taylor in Simcoe, Canada. George was a Farmer and originated from Wandsworth, England.

Harold’s daughter, Winnie, planted a memorial tree for her father in Saskatoon, Saskatchwan, Canada.  Some time later she moved to England. She married Edwin Woolhead in Aylesbury in 1988 when she was 73. She died in Aylesbury in 2005 when she was 90.

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