Sunday, September 07, 2014

Captain William Tidswell Towers Clark MC, Machine Gun Corps (formerly Coldstream Guards)

William Tidswell Towers-Clark was born in Scotland in 1886. He was the son of James and Annie Towers-Clark of Wester Moffat, Lanarkshire. 

The Towers-Clark surname was a relatively new one. William Tidswell’s grandfather, William Towers, a prominent JP in Scotland, had inherited Wester Moffat from his cousin, Dr William Clark in 1859. One of the conditions of the inheritance was that William was to bear his surname and so William Towers became William Towers-Clark and passed this name down through the generations.

William Tidswell Towers-Clark was a career soldier who first appears in the London Gazette on 3rd May 1907 as a “Gentleman Cadet from the Royal Military College” who is about to become a second lieutenant with the Coldstream Guards. Two and a half years later on 2nd November 1909, The London Gazette announced that he was to be a lieutenant. On 12th August 1914 the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards arrived at Southampton and embarked for France aboard SS Olympia and SS Novara. The following day it arrived at Havre and went straight to a rest camp. Lieutenant W T Towers-Clark (Machine Gun Officer for the battalion), is noted in the war diary.

Little is currently known of his movements over the next nine months. In October 1914, Chailey Parish Magazine noted that he was serving his King and Country but by 30th June 1915 the London Gazette was reporting that Captain W T Towers-Clark of the Coldstream Guards was to be seconded to the Machine Gun Corps as an instructor at one of its training centres. It is unclear whether this training centre was in the UK or abroad. He was certainly back in England in September because on the 14th of that month he married Helen Frederica Elizabeth Foster Harter (born circa 1890/1891), the daughter of George Lloyd Foster Harter and Frances Geraldine Coke.

In January 1917, the parish magazine reported that William Towers-Clark had been awarded the Military Medal (correcting this in December 1917 to Military Cross). On 1st May 1917 the London Gazette reported that Captain W T Towers-Clark MC, who had been a temporary major, had relinquished that roll, effective from 16th April 1917. Three months later on 27th July 1917, The Gazette again reported that he was to be an assistant instructor at the Machine Gun Corps – School and Admin Group and was to remain seconded from The Coldstream Guards.

On 28th November 1917 his brother in law, James Collier Foster Harter (born 24th May 1889) was killed in action in the Middle East and would later be buried in what is now Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel.

On 14th February 1918, William ceased to be employed as an assistant instructor and presumably joined a unit of The Machine Gun Corps. The London Gazette issue of 31st May 1918 reports: “Machine Gun Corps. Captain W T Towers-Clark MC (C Gds) to be 2nd in command of a Bn and to be acting Major while so employed.” The “effective from” date is recorded as 20th February 1918. He was promoted to temporary major with the Machine Gun Corps on 14th June 1918 and for purposes of pay was graded as GSO 2nd Grade. He relinquished this temporary rank on 23rd June 1919 on ceasing to be employed with the Corps.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes a 20 year old Lieutenant John William Towers-Clark killed on 1st July 1916 whilst serving with the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers and this man is almost certainly a nephew of William Tidswell’s.

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