Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Second Lieutenant James Henry Fisher Clarke, 7th Battalion, Alexandra Princess of Wales’ Own the Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in action at Friecourt on the Somme.
The only son of a colliery clerk, he was educated at St. Cuthbert’s College in Worksop, King Edward VII Grammar School in Sheffield, and Edinburgh University – he was also a member of the Officers’ Training Corps. Second Lieutenant Clarke received his commission in January of 1915, and was wounded in action on the Western Front in August of that year. He was killed by machine gun fire as he led B Company over the top; all other officers were known to have been killed or wounded.
Second Lieutenant’s father received a letter from Private E. Greenwood: “I should like to say that no gentleman gave up his life for his men more gallantly than he did. On his own initiative he went forward to certain death because he saw the men left without a leader. He was mourned by all those who were left, as not only an officer, but also a true comrade to all his men, and I think he left a void which will never be entirely filled. Only the day before, his platoon sergeant was mortally wounded, and he accompanied him all the way to the dressing station, comforting him as far as possible. When we left, the sergeant asked Mr. Clarke to kiss him, as he had lost both arms. I know how deeply he felt that loss of his Sergeant. We little thought when he re-joined us how soon we were to lose him again. Always kind and considerate to all, he still combined it with the soldierly instinct, which made him a true type of British Officer and gentleman. Now I must close, Sir, knowing how deeply you must mourn. I tender my deepest sympathy in which I am joined by the entire Company. Hoping this letter will in some way appease your natural desire for information, I will close Sir, with best wishes, yours sincerely, Pte. E. Greenwood.” He is buried in the Danzig Alley British Cemetery at Mametz in France.
James, from Nether Hoyland in Yorkshire, was 21 years old.