Lance Corporal, 16058, 1st Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, killed in action, 14th April, 1917, aged 20 (war memorial says 8th (Service) Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, died 13 April 1917)
Born at Belton in early 1897, John was the son of Arthur Harrison and Annie Clark, both of whom were also from Belton. There is no record of the couple being married and as Arthur is described as single on the 1911 census perhaps they never did? In 1901 Annie and her three children are recorded as visitors to Arthur’s father’s house in Church Town but in 1911 John, aged 14, is living with his father in Ealand. Like his father, John was a farm labourer and prior to enlisting was in service to Thomas Belton in Amcotts.
John enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment at Epworth in March 1915, which was around the time of his 18th birthday. Presumably he initially joined the 8th Battalion, hence the inscription on Ealand War Memorial, however on 9th September 1915 he arrived In the Balkans as a reinforcement for the 6th (Service) Battalion following their losses at Sulva Bay.
Evacuated from Gallipoloi with the 6th Lincoln’s in December 1915, in Egypt in January 1916 John caught enteric fever and was sent back to Britain. Following his recovery he was transferred again, this time to the 1st Lincoln’s serving on the Western Front.
On 9th April 1917 the 1st Lincoln’s were in reserve with the 62nd Brigade when the Second Battle of Arras began. Supporting 64th Brigade as they attacked the Hindenburg Line south of Heniel during the First Battle of the Scarpe, they received orders that evening for an attack the next morning on the German trenches ‘from a point about half-way between the Cojeul and Sensee Rivers to the Henin – Heninel road’.
The outlook for the attack was not promising. The ground infront of the German trenches was protected by masses of barbed wire, covered by machine guns sited in concrete bunkers. When the artillery barrage failed to cut the wire it was even less so. As the Official History reports ‘Great, but useless, bravery was shown by these battalions in their attempts to get through’. With very few passages through the wire, they were easy targets for the machine gunners. Many men tried to force their way under it, again only to be shot down as they emerged on the opposite side.
The next morning it all proved to be worthless as the Germans had evacuated their positions and the 1st Lincoln’s walked through the wire and into the Hindenburg Line. The following days, the 13th-14th April, they supplied carrying parties for the 12th Northumberland Fusiliers as the battle moved on further east along the Hindenburg Line. They were relieved on the night of 14th April for billets in Beaufort.
Altogether in the Battle of the Scarpe, the 1st Lincoln’s lost 181 men, 171 of them in the futile attack of 11th April. Among them was John Clark. He is buried in Cojeul British Cemetery.
Here John’s story takes a very strange twist. Although the Epworth Bells mentioned that a J Clark of Crowle had been named as a casualty, it ran a pictorial story on the death of John Edwin Harrison of Ealand. In 1919 when his family placed a memoriam for him in the Crowle Advertiser he was still referred to as John Edward Harrison.
John is also commemorated on Belton War Memorial. A memorial service was held for him at Belton Chuch on 7th July 1917.