Charles (Charley) Clarke (1889- 1918) – LCpl 371256 2nd/8th Bn London Regiment (Post Office Rifles). Charley Clarkewas the eldest son of Frank and Fanny Clarke and was born in 1889. He was single, living with his family in Selmeston, and working as a postman at the time of the 1911 census.Charley Clarke answered a “call to arms” by the Post Office to its staff and signed up for the Post Office Rifles in March 1915. As a Territorial Force the regiment had a history dating back to 1868 but the existing force was redesignated the 1st/8thBattalion, London Regiment and a second battalion, the 2nd/8th Londons, was formed in September 1914 and this was where Charley was posted.More than half of their fighting force was lost at the Battle of Wurst Farm Ridge in September 1917but the men of the Battalion were awarded a total of 40 gallantry medals. Charley Clarke survived all of this but on the 6thFebruary 1918 the 2nd/8thwere absorbed by 1st/8th Bn and after somerather convoluted reorganisation became part of 58thDivision , 174thBrigade. In this role in March 1918 they were involved in the Battle of St Quentin during the German spring offensive. On the 21stMarch the division was south of St Quentin close to the Oise river and village of La Fere, having been given the order to protect the canal and river crossings. Starting at 4.30 am on the 22nda massive German attack began and although the Rifles and the other Regiments fought bravely, the order to fall back was given on the 25th. Heavy casualties were sustained in this action including some 300 other ranks killed, wounded and missing. Charley Clarke was one of the dead, his record states “presumed” (dead) 22nd/23rd March.For his service he was awarded the British War and Victory Medals, and with no known grave he is remembered at Pozieres Memorial, on the War Memorial at Selmeston and on the family memorial in the churchyard of St Nicholas, Itchingfield.
The 2ndBattalion initially served as a reserve regiment, supplying reinforcements for the 1stBattalion, but in January 1917 the 2nd Bn also moved to the front line in France. Charley went with the regiment disembarking on the 4th February 1917.Although often regarded as amateur soldiers the PO Rifles soon developed a reputation for bravery and tenacity and became known as “the terriers of the trenches. ”I thought"said a Divisional General, on parade after an attack, "you were a lot of stamp lickers, but the way you fought…, you went over like a lot of bloody savages".They first saw action in the Second Battle of Bullecourt in May 1917 and fought at Ypres and Passchendaele suffering tremendous losses.