John Clarke (1890–1956)


Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) 3345 or 3350 5th Battalion D Coy

Photos courtesy Melanie Clarke

John Clarke in WW1

Jack, as he was known, was born and raised at Crich, the son of William and Ellen Clarke. In different records his name was spelt Clark and Clarke. His mother, Ellen, was the daughter of George and Mary Ann Curzon, a well known Crich family. Prior to the war he worked at Ambergate wireworks, as did his father.

Ambergate wireworks

Ambergate wireworks c 1900

In July 1917, he was wounded and taken as a PoW at Gommecourt, on the same day that Luke Coleman was killed in action. Walter Mellows had been taken prisoner at the same time. John was imprisoned at Langenzala. In 1920 Jack married and had a family with Janet Donaldson, the sister of Alex Donaldson and John Donaldson.

John Clarke, Crich Ww1

Studio photo of John Clarke

John Clarkejanet Donaldson

John and Janet (née Donaldson) Clarke

On the Sherwood Foresters record his number is given as 3345, on the PoW records it is 3350.

Newspaper report
He was mentioned in a newspaper report of 1915 about the wounding of William Harrison

Derbyshire Courier, 31 August 1915
Crich Lance Corporal wounded
Lance Corporal William Harrison of Crich, attached to the 2nd Notts and Derbyshire Regiment, in writing home during the past few days tell of his getting wounded in action.
He is now at the Heaton Mersey Auxiliary Hospital (formerly a Wesleyan School) and he writes: "I am feeling very sore after my experiences in the last big battle. The sights of the war get worse, and to see the dead and dying is awful. The battle started about 2.45 on Monday, and the noise of hundreds of guns was absolutely deafening. Our order to advance was smartly obeyed, but we had great difficulty in getting along every yard or so we went some of our chaps were knocked down. Thousands of shells were dropping around, but it didn't matter we kept on and gained for our commander what he wanted. Then I was struck by pieces of shell one in the arm two in the side and again in the abdomen. But I am feeling a bit better now, and we are being very well looked after in hospital. Just as we were going into action I saw Sam Briddon, Jack Clark, Walter Mellors and others shouted to us and wished us luck."
Lance Corporal Harrison came across with 200 other wounded soldiers in the – and was sent to Ducie Avenue Hospital, Manchester afterwards he moved to Heaton Mersey. His brother Private E Harrison of the East Surrey Light Infantry was expected to start for the Dardanelles on Tuesday.

Derbyshire Courier, 26 August 1916
Pte J. Clarke, Crich

Derbyshire Courier 25th of May 1918
Lance Corporal Walter Mellors of Crich Common, who was taken prisoner nearly two years ago has sent home to his parents a photograph of himself taken recently. Judging by the picture he appears to have fared pretty well for food. He was captured on 1 July 1916, the same day that Lance Corporal Luke Coleman fell in action and Private John Clarke was taken prisoner.

Derbyshire Courier, 3 January 1920
The wedding was solemnised at the Parish Church, Crich, last Friday, of Mr John Clarke, of Bennett’s Lane, eldest son of Mrs William Clarke and the late Mr William Clarke, to Miss Janet Donaldson, eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs James Donaldson of the Reservoir. The Rev James Williams1 officiated. The bridegroom served with the Sherwoods during the war and was a prisoner in Germany for nearly two years. The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a Panama violet velvet dress and white velour hat. Miss Tamar Clarke (sister of the bridegroom) and Miss Maggie Donaldson (sister of the bride) were the bridesmaids, and were dressed in saxe blue. Mr George Curzon officiated as best man. Mr and Mrs Clarke are to live at Fritchley.

1The vicar, James Williams had been chaplain to John's regiment (the Foresters) during the war and the bride Janet Donaldson was sister to John and Alexander Donaldson who also served in the forces during the war. Alexander Donaldson married John Clarke's sister Tamar during 1922; she was his second wife.

Sherwood Foresters Record [Courtesy Cliff Housley]
Born 20.7.1890
National Archive Great War medal roll shows:- Enlisted Notts and Derbys
Served in the Great War of 1914-18, Was with "D" Coy
Reported in Red Cross Enquiry List 1st September 1916 as missing 1st July 1916
Derbyshire Courier dated 26.8.1916 shows had been wounded and taken prisoner
POW records show he was taken prisoner at Gommecourt on 1.7.1916 and was held in Camp Lager Langensalsa
Son of Mrs E. Clarke of Crich, Derbyshire

Pow Record
John was wounded and taken prisoner at Gommecourt on 1 July 1917. He was imprisoned at Langensala.
Clarke John 3350, 5 Sherwood Foresters, Gommecourt 1/7/16, Camp Lager Langensalsa, born 20/7/90 Crich; Mrs E Clarke

Langensalza was described as the most sinister camp in Germany.
One ex PoW wrote:

"Think of the conditions of 12,000 men huddled together on a large sized ploughed field so situated that it caught all the water draining from the surrounding hills. Sanitary arrangements on a par with those of the native quarter in an Egyptian town. Food of the vilest and unhealthiest nature for human consumption. Long ramshackle dilapidated barracks to hold 700-800 men with no thought in their construction for comfort and accommodation."

He described the guards at Langensalza as being the most brutal and ferocious that he ever saw.


1891: Crich

Forename Surname Relationship Age Occupation Where born
George Curzon Head 60 General Labourer South Wingfield
Mary Ann Curzon wife 45   Crich
George Curzon son 5   Crich
William Clark son in law 20 General labourer Fritchley
Ellen Clark daughter 21   Crich
Matilda Elizabeth Clark granddaughter 3   Crich
John Clark grandsonson 8 mo   Crich

RG12 piece 2746 folio 88 page 2

1901: Bullin Lane, Crich

Forename Surname Relationship Age Occupation Where born
William Clarke Head 30 Wire Warehouseman Fritchley
Ellen Clarke wife 31   Crich
Matilda E Clarke daughter 13 Cotton spinner, mill Crich
John Clarke son 10   Crich
William Clarke son 7   Crich
Alice Clarke daughter 6   Crich
Tamar Clarke daughter 3   Crich
George Clarke son 11 mo   Crich
Mary A Curzon mother in law 55   Crich
George Curzon brother in law 15 Wire warehouseman Crich

RG13 piece 3231 folio 46 page 11

1911: North View, Crich

Forename Surname Relationship Age Occupation Where born
William Clarke Head 40 Labourer in galvanising wire Crich
Ellen Clarke wife 41   Crich
John Clarke son 20 Wire drawer Crich
William Jnr Clarke son 17 Limestone worker Crich
Alice Clarke daughter 16 Cotton spinner Crich
Tamar Clarke daughter 13 School girl Crich
George Clarke son 11 School boy Crich
Calib Clarke son 8 School boy Crich
George Curzon brother in law 25 Wire drawer Crich

RG14PN20984 RG78PN1251 RD436 SD4 ED13 SN80

1918 Voters List
John Clarke, Bennett's Lane absent on military service

1939 Register: Bowmer Lane, Fritchley
John Clarke snr b.20 July 1890; wire drawer benchman, heavy work
Jane Clarke b.22 December 1890
John Clarke jnr b.26 Deptember 1920; hosiery worker
Derrick Clarke b.18 August 1924; hosiery orker
one closed record