Archives provinciales du Nouveau-Brunswick

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

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Clarke, Charles Edward

Gunner 90228
28th Battery, Canadian Field Battery
5th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery


Gunner Charles Edward Clarke was born on October 20, 1897 in Saint John, New Brunswick. His parents were Whitney and Lavina A. Clarke. Charles also had two brothers Ray and Clarence, as well as a sister named Ada Blanche Clarke. Growing up, the family lived at 21 Dorchester Street in Saint John before moving to Fredericton. While records do not indicate reasons for moving away from Saint John, pay documents confirm that Whitney, Charles’ father, had left Lavina a widow at some point prior to Charles’ service and that one of his brothers had left Canada with an infantry unit in the summer of 1916.

Records suggest that Charles lived with his sister, his brother and his mother at 589 York Street in Fredericton and that his family would move to 366 Saunders Street at some point during or after the war. Prior to his enlistment, Charles had been employed as a shoemaker and his attestation indicates he was unmarried. According to the Daily Gleaner, three years before he was enlisted to fight in the war, he had “joined the George Street Church and had been very active in youth work in the church, and was a general favourite”. Without any prior military experience or training, on March 30, 1915 Charles formally enlisted with the 28th Canadian Field Battery in Fredericton. His attestation reveals that he was 18 years old, stood five feet seven inches tall and had blue eyes and brown hair. Although Charles would write letters home to his mother, his legal next-of-kin, he would never return to see his family again.

Wartime Experience

On June 12, 1915, Gunner Clarke arrived in Shorncliffe, England along with his unit, the 28th Field Battery, before spending the next six months with numerous units for training. It would be at Shorncliffe where he would complete most his training before being transferred to the 8th Howitzer Brigade on October 1, 1915 at Otterpool and then with the 6th Howitzer Brigade before leaving for France on January 18, 1916. Just 5 days before leaving for France, January 13, his service form reveals him missing from his unit for an evening, likely one last opportunity to relax before heading to the Front. On May 22, 1916, he was taken on strength by the Canadian 2nd Division’s 5th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. Charles would spend the next year with the 2nd Division in Belgium and Northern France. On April 25, 1917, after the successful capture of Vimy Ridge, Charles wrote to his mother from the area of Vimy to tell his mother about what was happening.

“Dear Mother, just a few lines again to let you know that I am well. I received your parcel O.K and was much pleased to get it. The cake was in great condition when it reached here. I intended writing before, but we have been awfully busy lately. We have to work all day and are out most every night with ammunition until the small hours of the morning, so you see we don’t get much time to ourselves. I am sorry to have to tell you that Cleve York has been killed. I was one of the burial party; we buried him today. I have not seen Jim for about a month, but will try and see him soon. I was not far from Cleve when he was killed, and I think his death was caused by the shock of explosion from a Hunsnell, as we could not find any marks on his body. We have been getting very poor rations, but these last few days they are better. Of course, there is no short age of food, but there are so many different things to come up to the line that the transports and Army Service Corps have about all they can handle. Well, mother dear, this is certainly an awful war, but we are all in hopes it will end this summer, as we do not like to spend another winter in this country, as you know it is a lot worse here in winter. How are Roy and Viola? Tell them both to be good and we will soon be home to see them. Well, mother, I really must close for this time.

Lots of love to all… Charlie or, “Deacon”, as the boys all call me.

P.S – I am glad to tell you that I am still trusting in God and I feel sure he will take care of me. Charlie.”

According to his circumstances of death form, on May 4, 19 year-old Charles Edward Clarke was killed in the vicinity of Vimy, just north of Arras. The notification of Charles’ death came to his mother, Lavina, the same day she received the letter he had written home.

Lest We Forget

Gunner Charles Edward Clarke is buried in La Targette British Cemetery, Neuville – St. Vaast, France. It is a small village in the north of Arras, France and is located on the south – west of the Neuville – St.Vaast. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the La Targette British Cemetery, formally known as Aux – Rietz Military, was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield in April 1917 and contains 638 First World War burials, 41 of them are unidentified. There are also three Second World War burials and 2 of which are unidentified.

*This biography was researched and written by Sam Lam & Sadie Warren, Grade 8 students (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.