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© Barns Green - A Local History of The Great War 2014
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Charles (Charley) Clarke (1889- 1918) – LCpl 371256 2 nd /8 th  Bn London Regiment (Post Office Rifles). Charley   Clarke    was   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   1 st /8 th    Battalion,   London Regiment and a second  battalion, the 2 nd /8 th  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   1917    but   the   men   of   the   Battalion   were awarded a total of 40 gallantry medals. Charley   Clarke   survived   all   of   this   but   on   the   6 th    February   1918      the   2 nd /8 th    were   absorbed   by   1 st /8th   Bn   and   after   some    rather convoluted   reorganisation   became   part   of   58 th    Division   ,   174 th    Brigade.   In   this   role   in   March   1918   they   were   involved   in   the   Battle   of   St Quentin   during   the   German   spring   offensive.   On   the   21 st    March   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   22 nd    a   massive   German attack   began   and   although   the   Rifles   and   the   other   Regiments   fought   bravely,   the   order   to   fall   back   was   given   on   the   25 th .   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) 22 nd /23 rd  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 Fallen
The    2 nd     Battalion    initially    served    as    a    reserve    regiment,    supplying reinforcements   for   the   1 st    Battalion,   but   in   January   1917   the   2nd   Bn   also moved    to    the    front    line    in    France.    Charley    went    with    the    regiment disembarking on the 4 th  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.
Post Office Rifles on parade