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William Lionel Clark Enlisted in July 1915

This photograph is of my paternal grandfather William Lionel (Len) Clark at 22 years of age. He served 5 years as a reserve sailor aboard HMS Dart (1910-1915) and saw active service from 12 August 1914 to February 1915 in New Guinea. He then enlisted in the Australian Army at Leongatha in Victoria on 5 July 1915 – 24th Infantry Battalion (1-8 Reinforcement) – and left for war on the HMAT Afric A19. His service number was 3688. As far as I know, he never spoke of the War.

William Lionel Clark enlisting in 1915

The 24th Battalion (1-8 Reinforcement) began reaching Egypt in July / August 1915. In September, the 24th Battalion went on to fight for 16 weeks at Lone Pine, Gallipoli. However, the HMAT Afric A19 left Melbourne on 5 January, 1916 and on arrival in Egypt (24/2/1916) my grandfather was transferred to the 8th Battalion and then into the 14th Battalion. Like many Australian soldiers, he already presented with repeated bouts of dysentery that revisited throughout the War.

The 14th Battalion arrived in France on 14 July, 1916.

From then until 1918, the battalion took part in [two and a half years of] bloody trench warfare. Its first major action in France was at Pozières in August 1916. Along with most of the 4th Brigade, the battalion suffered heavy losses at Bullecourt in April 1917 when the brigade attacked strong German positions without the promised tank support. It spent much of the remainder of 1917 in Belgium, advancing to the Hindenburg Line.

In March and April 1918, the battalion helped stop the German spring offensive. It subsequently participated in the great allied offensive of 1918, fighting near Amiens on 8 August 1918. This advance by British and empire troops was the greatest success in a single day on the Western Front, one that German General Erich Ludendorff described as “..the black day of the German Army in this war…”.

The battalion continued operations until late September 1918. At 11 am on 11 November 1918, the guns fell silent. In November 1918, members of the AIF began to return Australia for demobilisation and discharge.Australian War Memorial

At the end of the War my grandfather was a Sergeant in 14th Battalion.

I remember my father telling me repeatedly that his father hammered one thing into his son’s brain about the War. He said “Never volunteer for anything”. Because everybody who volunteered died.

People have scoffed when I said that anecdote to them in the past. I can only say, tread in my grandfather’s footsteps and you may well have told your sons the same. Volunteerism is much easier when it’s not a daily sacrifice of lives.

William Lionel Clark earned the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

My grandfather was a hard man. He died at 78 years of age when I was aged seven. He lived in Innaloo Street, Waverly (in Launceston, Tasmania) and he always scared the living pants off me. I carry his middle name.

Battle Honours of the 14th Battalion AIF: Landing at Anzac, Anzac, Defence of Anzac, Suvla, Sari Bair, Gallipoli 1915, Egypt 1915-16, Somme 1916-18, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines 1917, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Arras 1918, Ancre 1918, Hamel, Amiens, Albert 1918, Hindenburg Line, Epehy, France and Flanders 1916-18 – Egypt, Gallipoli, Western Front

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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