Bertie John Clark (occasionally ‘Clarke’) was born and bred in Springfield. He worked as a horseman, joined the army and died of wounds received at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. His family home was in Coval Lane by the end of the war. A brother also lost his life in the war.
CLARK, BERTIE JOHN,
Private, 9th (Service) Battalion, Essex Regiment
The 1901 census recorded nine year-old Bertie living with his parents, grandfather and three siblings at Knotts Croft, (later number 56) Arbour Lane, Springfield. The property was one of a terrace of twelve, now demolished, which stood on the western side of Arbour Lane in front of Old Court, the then County Police Headquarters. Bertie’s father was employed as a labourer in a gravel pit – perhaps one of George Bolingbroke’s pits.
A decade later Bertie, his parents and three siblings were recorded by the 1911 census still at the same address. George’s father remained a labourer in a gravel pit, while Bertie was a horseman in a brewery. A 1913 street directory listed George’s father still at 56 Arbour Lane.
Bertie lived and enlisted at Chelmsford and served as Private 12673 with the 9th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment, a ‘New Army’ battalion that had been formed at Warley in August 1914. It was attached to 35th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division. Bertie landed with his battalion at Boulogne, France at the end of May 1915.
A month later the 12th (Eastern) Division, including Bertie’s battalion, took over a sector of the front line for the first time at Ploegsteert Wood. In September 1915 it participated in the Battle of Loos.
In July 1916 Bertie’s battalion participated in the Battle of the Somme, seeing action in the attack of Ovillers on 1st July 1916. It is possible that Bertie sustained the wounds that were to subsequently kill him during that action. He died from wounds on 12th July 1916. He was aged 24. He is buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France (grave: VIII. D. 114). Boulogne was one of the chief hospital centres for military casualties.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission recorded his battalion as the 4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment, which was in England when he died.
Bertie is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, on the Springfield Parish Memorial at All Saints’ Church, and by the Chelmsford Parish Great War Memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral. He was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal.
Bertie’s brother was killed in action on 23rd August 1918.
The 1918 register of electors listed Bertie’s parents at 3 Willow Villas Coval Lane, Chelmsford (renumbered as 95 Coval Lane in 1927). His mother was still there in 1929.
Bertie was born in Springfield in 1891, the son of George Clark and Emily Clark (nee Fincham). His father had been born in Willingale Doe or Shellow Bowells in 1862; his mother in Boreham in 1859.
Bertie’s parents had married on 24th May 1885 at Springfield All Saints’ Church. At the time George’s father was a 23 year-old labourer living in Springfield. His bride was a 25 year-old widow who had previously been married to a Mr. Stubbings. In 1891 Bertie’s parents had been resident in Arbour Lane, Springfield.
Bertie was baptised at Springfield Holy Trinity Church on 6th March 1892. The church was also the venue for the baptisms of his six siblings: Alice Mary Clark (1887 – 1967), Frederick George Clark (1889 – 1890). Beatrice Emily Clark (1894 – 1901), Lillian Maud Clark (1895 – 1972), George Edwin Clark (1897 – 1918) and Florence Agnes Clark (1903 – 1974).
He also had a half-sister, Louise Fincham, born in 1879 in Springfield. All the children were born in Springfield.
Bertie’s mother had lived in Arbour Lane since at least 1881 and in 1891 had been living there with Bertie’s father, her elderly father and her daughter.