Cecil Herbert Clark
Serial No. 2883
Cecil Herbert Clark - Information
Cecil was born in Razorback on the 24th of November 1884 to James and Annie Clark. Raised in Picton, he later attended Business College, relocating to 16 Terry St in Rozelle. He then supported himself working as a painter. When the casualty lists from the Somme Offensive were published, many felt that it was their duty to join up. Cecil was no different, signing up at the Royal Showground Camp in Sydney on the 11th of September 1916. He commenced his training in Sydney, eventually becoming a Private with the 59th Battalion. He was then sent overseas, leaving Sydney on the 3rd of November 1916 onboard the HMAT Afric.
The Afric sailed to Plymouth in early January 1917, the troops were shuffled off, and marched out to the 15th Training Battalion in Hurdcott. After further training, Cecil was transported to France via Folkestone in March. He was marched out to Etaples and taken on strength to the 59th Battalion at the end of the month. In April, the unit defended gains made during the Second Battle of Bullecourt against the Hindenburg Line. For a few days in July, he attended a Corps Pigeon School. Cecil and his mates then fought during the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium. It was a bloody attack, with every movement hindered by heavy rain and mud. The 59th slugging it out at Polygon Wood in late September. Cecil survived through the carnage, and was marched out to the 2nd Army Sniping Field School on the 29th of November. He was there until mid December. The following month, he was granted a furlough to Paris. He was then luckily granted ‘Blighty’ leave in the UK from the 20th of February until the 10th of March.
When Cecil returned to the lines, his unit was facing the onslaught of the German March Offensive. Specially trained storm troops ploughed through the Allied lines. The Australian Corps, whom were resting out of the lines, were brought in to break the tide. The 59th Battalion were moved to a defensive position near Corbie. Here, they participated in counter-attacks at the village of Villers-Bretonneux stemming the German advance. Running out of steam, against stiff resistance, the Germans retreated to the safety of the Hindenburg Line. Giving chase wasn’t easy, the men hitting determined vanguard units. After biting back bits and pieces the Allies launched their own campaign with a series of assaults; including the most successful, the Battle of Amiens on the 8th of August. On the 15th of August, Cecil was approaching a dugout at about 3pm, when he was hit by a shell. Due to the complete devastation of the blast, inquiries were made into the event. Between December and January 1919, witnesses were questioned. A Court of Enquiry concluded that he was killed in action by artillery on the 15th of August. Cecil had been buried near Guillacourt, and was then laid to rest in Heath Cemetery in Picardie in France. Sadly, the Clark family were subsequently informed that Cecil was killed. It was a terrible loss which had been compounded by another. Cecil’s cousin, Frank Doust, had also been killed in August 1918.