“For most conspicuous bravery (near Pozieres, France). He was detailed with his section of bombers to clear the continuation of a newly-captured trench and cover the construction of a “block”.

After most of the party had become casualties, he was building a “block” when about twenty of the enemy with two officers counter-attacked. He boldly advanced against them, emptied his revolver into them and afterwards two enemy rifles which he picked up in the trench. One of the officers then attacked him with the bayonet, wounding him in the leg, but he shot him dead. The enemy then ran away, pursued by Acting Corporal Clarke, who shot four more and captured a fifth.

Later he was ordered to the dressing station, but returned next day for duty.”

– Victoria Cross Citation, Acting Corporal Lionel ( Leo ) Beaumaurice Clarke, 2nd Bn, Eastern Ontario Regiment, Canadian Expedionary Force, Near Pozieres, Somme, France, 9 September 1916

A Victoria Cross

Sunday September 22

We had a long visit with Richard today. Richard is Colin’s downstairs neighbour (August 25 Post). Richard’s dad Charles, served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Charlie was in the same Battalion as his brother Leo. It’s a very interesting story…

Lionel (Leo) Beaumaurice Clarke

Leo Clarke was born in Waterdown, ON and later settled in Winnipeg, MB. He enlisted in the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion, CEF and arrived in England in 1915. Soon after, he transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Eastern Ontario Regiment to be with his brother (Charlie)

Relieving the Australians on the Mouquet Farm Front the Canadian 2nd Battalion was ordered to attack on the south side of the Albert-Bapaume Road. Their objective was the German front trench astride the railway leading to Martinpuich. The fight continued on a front of 500 yards and more than 60 German prisoners were taken. However, the line was continuously bombarded by the German artillery and there were several German counter attacks which were fought off.

It was during these actions that Leo won his Victoria Cross, The British Empire’s highest award for valour.

On October 11, 1916, during the Battle of The Somme, Charlie and Leo’s battalion was ordered to secure the newly captured Regina Trench. Leo was crouching in a captured German trench when a large shell landed, caving the trench in on top of Leo and burying him completely. Charlie, using a German entrenching tool, dug his brother out. Leo was paralysed, his back and spine crushed by the weight of collapsed dirt. Charlie helped carry him to the hospital but he succumbed to his wounds on October 19th, 1916. He died not knowing that he would be awarded the Victoria Cross

In the spring of 1917, Clarke’s VC was presented to his father by the Duke of Devonshire—the first time the VC had been presented in Canada and by the governor general—before a crowd of 30,000.

He is buried in Etretat Churchyard, 16 miles north of Le Havre, France.

In 1925, Winnipeg’s Pine Street was renamed Valour Road, in honour of the city’s three VCs, Leo Clarke among them. The other two were Frederick William Hall and Robert Shankland. In Clarke’s memory also, a memorial plaque was erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation at Waterdown on the grounds of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch on Hamilton Street.

Amazingly, those three Pine Street men lived not just on the same street…but on the same block. Pretty cool.

Even more cool…Charlie survived the war and went home to his family…which included a son named Leo (after his brother) and young Richard…who is here today, sharing this wonderful story with Wendy and I

Richard is a very interesting man. He is a Psychologist. He came to the study in his late thirties, after a marvellous career with Scouts Canada, and at a time when the field of Psychology was being influenced by some radical new ideas about the mind and it’s capabilities.

Lately, Richard has been researching deeper into his family history, which if I remember correctly, includes English Royalty. He shared some of the story of his Grandfather….(and please forgive me for any errors)

As a young lad, H.T. Clarke left school and went to sea as one of several young apprentices on a large, three masted sailing ship. He was in a convoy of four ships carrying coal to Australia and returning with Linseed Oil. There was an enormous storm and H.T.’s vessel barely survived…in fact, one of the other four ships, County of Aberdeen, didn’t…and was lost at sea.

After being forced by health issues to cease being a seafarer, H.T. became an employee of the ‘Imperial British East African Company’ and in 1889 landed in Mombassa, on the East Coast of Africa. The company had received their charter from Queen Victoria only the year before so Rick’s grandfather was one of the company originals.

This was the time of Stanley and Livingston (i presume)…great adventurers and gentlemen of strong moral fibre. Which was a good thing because Africa at this time was a center for the slave trade. Tribes, at war with each other, would sell off enemy captives to Arab slave traders who re-sold these people at public auctions in the markets of coastal towns.

The Imperial British East African Company, like the Hudson’s Bay Company (damn you The Bay!), represented the Law and Order of The British Empire. Slavery was frowned upon (“we do not approve”) and many slaves were freed by the IBEA company employees…on one occasion, H.T. confronted a whole gang of slavers on their ship, he smote the ringleader with a mighty blow and freed the slaves

At one point, H.T. was responsible for the safety and welfare of seven thousand freed slaves, many of whom chose to stay and work for the company.

After leaving the employ of the IBEA Co. (because he had some tropical fever and wasn’t expected to live), H.T. married, fully recovered his health and then went off to South America to work for a diamond mining company (with many more swashbuckling adventures).

(not an actual pic of H.T.)

Finally, in 1903, he settled in Canada and raised his family, which included Richard’s father Charlie…and Uncle Leo.

And the wheel turns. What else can you say but…amazing.

Wendy and I also had an opportunity to visit with Deva, Richard’s feline companion. She is beautiful, exotic and very refined

It was a wonderful and intriguing evening. Richard, thank you for sharing it with us

We honour their service

Goodnight all

Moose and Wendle



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