October 11th 1916

AG Clarke

Lieut. Geoff Clarke (Rifle Brigade) was killed on the first day of the battle on the Somme. Further to what we were able to post at the time, a Sergeant P. Blunt has most kindly written to the family with further details:

28/9/16 “Well, as you know, on July 1st our Battalion was told off to attack a certain  part of the German line.

Lieut. Clarke, who was then our Battalion Bombing Officer, had rather a tough job and it was while going over towards the 3rd German line that I came across him. He was then slightly wounded, but refused all assistance and would insist on keeping going. He was again wounded, rather badly this time, but still refused all help and insisted on us to get along.

That was the last I ever saw of him; he was then lying in a trench hole. During the fighting and excitement that followed, I lost touch with him, but was told by a man who has since been killed that he saw a shell pitch into the hole that Lieut. Clarke lay in and he saw a body blown into the air.

When we returned from the third line, I went and looked for him, but could not see him anywhere…”

This is most painful reading for all those of us who knew him so well.

 

July 11th 1916

AG Clarke

2nd Lieut. Geoffrey Clarke (Rifle Brigade)

It is with particular sadness that I have to give you the news of the death of Geoff Clarke. His brother, Capt. “Bim” Clarke (10th Gurkhas) received the telegram on July 7th and the notice of Geoff’s death is in the Times this morning.

Geoff, who was first thought to have been killed on July 2nd, was in fact a casualty of the initial attacks on July 1st. The Redan Ridge, north of Beaumont Hamel, was the objective of the 4th Division, which included Geoff Clarke’s Rifle Brigade. Although it must have been hoped that the bombardment of which we have read in the newspapers had obliterated the German defences, this does not appear to have been the case in this instance. When their time came to advance, The Rifle Brigade was repulsed with heavy losses.

Geoff was one of the few to reach the second line of German trenches, though twice wounded on the way. A fellow officer has kindly written to the family to explain the circumstances of his death:

“He led his bombers well on to his objective under a heavy fire before he fell, wounded, into a shell hole. One of our bombers dressed his wounds and Geoffrey continued to throw bombs into the enemy trench till he was killed by a Boche bomb.”

Geoff was the son of my predecessor, Rev AE Clarke, the first headmaster of the OPS. Geoff was only aged 3 when his father died and I have known him all his life. He boarded at the OPS, in the house run by his mother. He won scholarships to Winchester and then New College, Oxford.

He spent five years as an assistant master at the Royal Naval College at Osborne and then two years in Bethnal Green, helping to found Boys’ Clubs and studying the social and economic conditions. ‘A Text Book of National Economy’ resulted, for use in schools.

In 1914 he had attempted to enlist, but was rejected on medical grounds. He therefore undertook a course of physical training, first for Home Service and shortly after for General Service in the Royal Fusiliers (Public School Brigade). He obtained promotion to non-commission rank, and later received a commission in the Special Reserve 5th Rifle Brigade.

The last time I saw Geoff was at Tonbridge in 1915. He ‘spotted’ me in the Ford, and we had a pleasant lunch together and a long talk about old times and about the war.