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Archives provinciales du Nouveau-Brunswick

Les soldats de la Grande Guerre : Projet de biographies historiques sur les soldats de Fredericton

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Clark, John Thurston

Gunner 1257781
9th Battery, Canadian Siege Battery
53rd Canadian Siege Battery (13th Brigade)

Background

Gunner John Thurston Clark was born on March 13, 1899 in Fredericton, New Brunswick to William G. and Harriet Clark. John grew up at 82 Waterloo Row with his brother, Alden, and sister, Esther. Documents reveal that his father and mother were married in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 25, 1894 and John would be the second born behind his older sister and younger brother. His father would be mayor of Fredericton for approximately ten years and his grandfather was Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick for a time.

According to records, John would become a student at Fredericton High School and belong to the local 3rd Canadian Regiment, although without any prior active service, before enlisting in Saint John, New Brunswick on July 26 with the 9th Canadian Siege Battery. Private Clark was 19 years of age. His attestation papers claim that he stood five feet ten inches tall, weighed approximately 158 pounds, that he had a fair complexion, with blue eyes, and light brown hair. John belonged to the Baptist faith and was unmarried at the time.

Wartime Experience

According to his service record, it is likely that John was with his unit training for about a year before leaving Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 4, 1917, arriving in Liverpool, England on March 15th. While his service record does not indicate what ship he was sailing on, other enlistments from Fredericton with the 9th Siege Battery, including Walter McAdam and Alan Wetmore, were arriving at the same time with the same unit making it likely that John was arriving with others from Fredericton. After training in England for three weeks he was transferred with the 8th Canadian Siege Battery to France as a reinforcement unit, arriving April 19 just after Canadians had taken Vimy Ridge. During this battle more than 10, 600 Canadians were killed or wounded as all four divisions fought together for the first time. Vimy Ridge lasted four days with the first 2 days claiming the highest number of casualties.

A month after arriving, a report in John’s service record on accidental or self-inflicted injuries reveals he had broken his wrist as a result of falling down a set of stairs the morning of May 19 at approximately 7:30. The report indicates that “his foot slipped and he fell headlong to the ground… he then started to faint when Corporal Murnaghan came along and laid him down pouring water on his face… until he was taken to hospital”. Gunner Shuttuck, one of the witnesses, saw John coming down the stairs and within 3 feet of the ground his foot slipped and he fell to the ground. According to Shuttuck, John would try to get himself up, brushing off dirt, before he started to faint because of the fall. The report would indicate no blame on or disciplinary action would result. By May 24, he was in a military hospital in Glasgow, Scotland before being shifted south to Whitley where he would be discharged in July and sent to an artillery reserve battalion.

According to the Daily Gleaner, “after he recovered from the accident he went back to France with a mortar battery and was involved in all engagements until the signing of the armistice in November of 1918”. As well, John would be part of the Army of Occupation in Germany before returning to England, and then returned to Canada on June 18, 1919. He would arrive a little less than a week later, June 25, before being discharged from service on July 10, 1919 and arriving home in Fredericton the same month. Newspapers indicate that he never recovered from the effects of being gassed during his war service and would go to Battle Creek Sanitorium for a few months. He would return home but would be confined to his bed until his death two years later on October 17, 1921. John was only 22 years of age.

Lest We Forget

John Thurston Clark is buried at the Fredericton Rural Cemetery located at 395 Woodstock Road in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The funeral service took place at 82 Waterloo Row and was presided over by Rev. G. C Warren and Rev. J. H. MacDonald. His funeral notice states that he “held a high place in the esteem of his schoolmates, with his comrades in the army and the public in general, and throughout the city there was great regret of his passing”.

*This biography was researched and written by Nikol Mino & Celeb Francis, Grade 8 students (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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