Sunday, October 19, 2014

7609 Private Richard Clarkson, 2nd Devonshire Regt

Chailey resident Reg Philpott remembers that “Dick; Richard, had a rough time of it.  I don’t know that he was wounded but he had a rough time.” 

Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions him in December 1917, noting Clarkson, Pte R, 30th TRB.  In January 1918 it reports that he is serving with the 3rd Wiltshire Regiment and in July 1918 notes that he is missing.  A few months later in September it notes that he is a prisoner and in February 1919 amends his battalion from the 3rd Wiltshire Regiment to the 3rd Devons; still noting that he is a prisoner.  This information is then repeated up until July 1919. 

There are a number of points to note about the information in the parish magazine.  The 30th TRB (Training Reserve Battalion) was originally the 10th (Reserve) Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment and formed part of the 5th Reserve Brigade.  Similarly, the both the 3rd Wiltshire Regiment and the 3rd Devonshire Regiment were reserve battalions which remained in England throughout the war.  Richard Clarkson certainly would not have been captured whilst serving with either of these units. 

Not for the first time, John Oldaker, headmaster of Newick school, comes to the rescue.  Richard had been a pupil there from 1908 to 1913 and Mr Oldaker made notes of all his old boys.  He also asked them to send him a photograph of themselves.  The one Richard sent appears on this page. 

John Oldaker’s notes for Richard Clarkson read: 

“Enlisted 5th March 1917. 31st Training Reserve Batt, transferred to 2nd Devonshire Regt.  Went to France .  Taken prisoner 27th May 1918 at Pontavert at the Battle of the Aisne. Employed for two months behind the German lines.  Afterwards at Cassel, Limburg and Konningen.” 

Richard was a very young soldier.  He was born in late 1898 or early 1899, his birth recorded at Lewes in the March quarter of that year.  He appears on the 1901 census of England and Wales as two year old living with his family at South Street, Chailey.  Present when the census was taken were Ellen Clarkson (head, aged 39) and her six sons: Thomas Clarkson (aged 11), John William Clarkson (aged nine), James Clarkson (aged eight), Victor Clarkson (aged four), Richard, and Edward Clarkson (aged one month).  All the boys were born in Chailey and John and Thomas would also serve their King and Country during the First World War.  The boys’ father, Thomas Clarkson, is recorded on both the 1891 and 1901 census as working at The Hooke, Chailey.  Aged 43 in 1901 he was born in Goosnargh, Lancashire and is listed as a butler.
My thanks to Simon Stevens for the photograph and information contained within John Oldaker's notebook.

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