William (known as Willie) was born in 1889 at Belton, the son of William and Annie Clark. Both his parents were from Belton, where his father was a farm labourer. In 1911 William was working as waggoner for Jane Beechcroft at her farm, Severall’s House, Low Levels near Sandtoft. When he married Lily Dennis of Medge Hall in 1912 he included the extra ‘e’ in his surname. The couple lived at Carr-house, Belton before moving to Bletcher’s Cottage, Medge Hall. Lily’s elder brother, Walter Dennis was killed in action in 1915.
William enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment at Epworth in November 1914, arriving in France on 27th July 1915. In July 1916 the 2nd Lincoln’s had been involved at Albert on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and like most other battalions that day, suffered heavy losses and were withdrawn from the front to rest and rebuild. By the end of the month they were in trenches in the Loos area but moved back to the mud and devastation of the Somme again in October.
On the 20th October the 2nd Lincoln’s took over the trenches, known as Gusty Trench and Misty Trench, near Lesboeuf’s, captured at the Battle of Le Transloy Ridge. Here they were subjected to heavy artillery shelling and the threat of possible counter-attack. So in order to push home the advantage gained at Le Transloy, on the 23rd October the British decided to raid the German trenches, known as Zenith Trench opposite. At the same time as the German infantry decided to attack theirs!
The assault was originally timed to begin at 9.30 am., but owing to fog was postponed until 2.30 pm. At 2.30 pm. a creeping barrage fell and, keeping close up to the screen of fire (several men who got too close were wounded by shrapnel), the 2nd Lincoln’s advanced to the attack. They had only advanced about ten yards, when the massed ranks in the trench opposite began volleys of rifle fire. The fusillade was so heavy that the first wave of the Lincolnshire’s (A and D Companies) was as the Regimental History records it ‘shot down almost to a man’, only one section reaching their objective. The second wave, now coming under violent machine gun fire as well as the rapid rifle fire, also failed to cross No-Man’s Land. As the Regimental History records it once again, ” By about 5 p.m., the information available (to the Brigadier) was to the effect that the 2nd Lincolnshire appeared to have been wiped out.”
Not quite wiped out but the 2nd Lincoln’s still suffered terrible casualties that day. Prior to going over the top their strength had been 16 officers and 470 other ranks. They came out of the action having lost 13 officers and 272 other ranks. Among the casualties was William Clark. He is buried in Combles Communal Cemetery Extension.
The original certification for his grave also gave his surname as Clarke, but this was amended to Clark for the final memorial. The report of his death in the Crowle Advertiser has both versions. It is believed his widow Lily remarried in 1919.
William is also remembered on Belton War Memorial.