(Service number )
|First Rank||Lieutenant||Last Rank||Captain|
|Date||7 February 1887||Place of Birth||Temuka|
|Address at Enlistment|
|Occupation||Post Office worker; then in Geological Survey Department.& assistant manager of silver mines.|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin|
|Served with||UK Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||British Expeditionary Force|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Member of the Wiltshire Regiment, commanding the 13th Stokes Light Trench Mortar Battery|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||13th Stokes Light Trench Mortar Battery|
|Campaigns||Western European (Somme)|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
July 1916 - dangerously wounded in the arm and neck, in France.
|Date||30 July 1916||Age||29 years|
|Place of Death||Abbeville No. 2 Stationery Hospital, France|
|Cause||Died of wounds|
|Notices||Press, 4 August 1916; Otago Daily Times, 5 August 1916; New Zealand Tablet, 10 August1916; New Zealand Herald, 25 September 1916|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Abbeville Communal Cemetery, Somme, France|
|Memorial Reference||V. H. 11.|
|New Zealand Memorials||Timaru Memorial Wall; Temuka War Memorial; St Joseph's Church, Temuka (Peter Clarke)|
Peter Clarke was the fifth son of James (deceased) and Mary Clarke, 14 Fraser Street, Temuka. James and Mary had come to New Zealand from Ireland with several children in about 1880. Born on 7 February 1887 at Temuka, Peter was baptised in the Catholic Parish there on 19 February 1887. Mrs Clarke and her family of nine, the youngest just nine months old, suffered a tragic loss in October 1889. James Clarke, senior, who had been employed on the railways and was living at Makikihi, left the house at 5am on a Wednesday morning presumably to do his turn at checking the line, but he didn’t arrive. He had no worries but had been melancholy for the past month, and, from the scant evidence found (a foot in a boot) it was feared he had walked into the sea. He was never again seen. He was described as a temperate, quiet man, a kind husband and father. There was the suggestion of one writer that he may have been another victim of some bullying and unjust treatment that was evident in the railways department. His daughter Mary sought administration of his estate when their mother died in 1925. A few months after this tragedy, Mrs Clarke returned to Temuka where the family had lived previously. In time the surviving family members went their separate ways, many embarking on fine careers.
Peter was educated at St Joseph’s School, Temuka, and at the Timaru Marist Brothers’ School, where he excelled. At the annual musical and dramatic entertainment by the pupils of St Joseph’s held in December 1896, nine year old Master P. Clarke played the part of Baron Valery (tutor to Floromond) in the drama “Talisman”. He was, surely, one of the two Masters Clarke who performed in the pole drill the next year. Probably both Peter and William performed in one or other of the group action songs in 1900, and one in the drama “Whittington and his Cat”. The drama “On Board the Siarra” was acted out most creditably in 1901. Master P. Clarke, as Mr Jones (the kind-hearted passenger per Mail Siarra to ‘Frisco), was good. On the same occasion he played the part of Doctor’s Sec in the cantata “Scot and the Fairies”, and a porter in “Mr and Mrs Brown’s Family”.
Peter Clarke was also prominent on the sports field. Although his Combined Temuka Convent and Winchester football team lost to the Temuka District High School by a try to nil, on 24 May 1902, “Peter Clarke was excellent”. He represented the combined team against Waimataitai at Temuka on 7 June 1902, potting a goal and converting a try to help his team to win. In July the combined team was to play against Timaru Main. Maybe he represented St Joseph’s School in the football match against Temuka District High School on 11 July 1903. While still at home Peter played cricket for Temuka, featuring in a match against Ashburton on 3 February 1904. Temuka lost heavily. Peter was one of their better players in the match against Geraldine on 3 March 1904. Later in March, playing for Old Boys against the District High School, P. Clarke top scored with 15 of the total 24 runs in the first innings. Fortunately the team fared better in the second innings. Clarke was one of the most successful bowlers. His cricket playing continued into 1905. It appears that P. Clarke participated in Morris Tube firing. In September 1904, firing off scratch for a St Joseph’s Club trophy, he gained the third highest score. The following month he won another St Joseph’s Club trophy. Shooting continued throughout 1905, Private P. Clarke was the honorary secretary of the Temuka Rifles Morris Tube Club. As of October 1904 he was serving on the committee of the Temuka Swimming Club. He competed in the Temuka Club’s carnival held on 30 March 1905, with handicaps of 8 in the 50 yards, 10 in the 50 yards back swimming, and 12 in 75 yards event. In June 1905 he represented Temuka at swimming. Also a member of the Temuka Cycle Club, he resigned as the secretary at the end of November 1905, when he transferred to Wellington. His resignation was accepted with regret and he was voted an honorarium of three guineas.
By 1905 he had joined the St Joseph’s Young Men’s Club, being elected treasurer in April, receiving a prize at an early May meeting, winning a prize for the highest individual score in a shooting match at a later May meeting, standing for election (unsuccessfully) in a “mock election” in June, and taking part in the essay competition in July, as well as making a speech in honour of a departing priest. At the mock banquet conducted at the early August meeting, he proposed the toast to “The Clergy” and responded to “The Ladies”. At the late August meeting, Mr P. Clarke was the advocate of the noise and bustle of the city in the debate on “Town and country life”. After a well contested debate, the vote resulted in a win for the country. In January 1906, the club was to lose two prominent members, one of them being Peter Clarke, who had been transferred to Wellington. The club’s best wishes were extended to the two gentlemen, and regret at their resignations was expressed at the annual meeting in February 1906. Although he had already left for Wellington, Mr Clarke received a handsome presentation – a very substantial travelling rug. His brother William accepted on his behalf and returned thanks.
His departure from the position of messenger and letter carrier in the Temuka Post Office for a cadetship in the Te Aro Post Office in Wellington had been signalled in November 1905. The Temuka staff presented him with “a pretty little memento” and the postmaster spoke highly of his capabilities. Master Clarke “carried out his duties in Temuka in a careful and attentive manner, and by his obliging ways became a general favourite.”
On moving to Wellington, Peter joined the local Catholic Club and was active in its literary and sports branches, until his departure for Canada in March 1911. His name was amongst the successful competitors in the tennis tournament held in May 1906. He won the men’s singles and was one of the winning pair in the men’s doubles. His tennis success in Wellington continued. At the Wellington Provincial Lawn Tennis Association’s annual championship and handicap tournament, held at Easter 1907, Mr P. Clarke, representing the Catholic Club, won the men’s handicap singles. “Mr Clarke showed great dash and proved quite superior to his opponents.” He and his partner reached the semi-final of the combined handicap doubles, in which there were thirty entries.
For Christmas 1907 both Peter and William got home from their work in other parts of the country – Peter in the Geological Survey in Wellington and William in the Post Office in Lawrence. “Both look hale and hearty.” (Temuka Leader). At that time their brother, John Michael Clarke, the Alpine climber, was in England.
In Wellington, he became very involved in lawn tennis, playing for the Brougham Hill Club, until his temporary transfer in September 1908 to the Geological Survey camp, where he would probably have played for the Thames Club. Peter came home for the South Canterbury tennis tournament at New Year 1909. He and his Wellington partner reached the semi-final of the men’s championship doubles, losing to redoubtable opponents. Peter also played in the men’s handicap doubles and the combined handicap doubles. In 1910 he carried off the junior championship in the Wellington Provincial tennis tourney. But, in March 1911, by which time he was again residing in Wellington, and was a promising young Wellington player, he intended leaving for England. There he hoped to see some of the All-England championships. Then he would go to Canada to engage in mining geological work and secretarial duties with Dr Bell and Mr Colin Fraser, geologists of the Geological Survey department. He had already been engaged as Dr Bell’s private secretary in several New Zealand surveys, including at Franz Josef. Before leaving he played in the handicap doubles in the West End Club’s handicap tournament.
Peter Clarke had entered the Temuka Post Office as a cadet and before long he was transferred to Wellington, where he was a member of the first staff of the newly opened Te Aro Post Office. He subsequently joined the Geological Survey Department, and on 31 January 1910 left the Government service for a position in an accountant’s office. Dr J. M. Bell, recently resigned director of the New Zealand Geological Survey, Mr Fraser, and Mr Peter Clarke, as private secretary to the geologists, sailed from Wellington for London by the “Muritai” on 26 March 1911. He hoped to visit the principal towns of Great Britain and Ireland before going on to Canada, where he intended later to commence a university career at Queens, Ontario. On 24th Peter was the guest of honour at a farewell entertainment held by the Wellington Catholic Club – a “handkerchief and sox” evening, with competitions, songs, recitations, whistling, and flute solos. Little would he or his friends have thought that this would be his final farewell from New Zealand. Soon after arriving in England, he was on his way to Canada, where Dr Bell was to start a private practice, as well as in London. By April 1912 he had returned to Canada and was in Ottawa. As of April 1914, when he had spent a few weeks’ furlough in England and Ireland, he was assistant manager of a mine on the Cobalt silver field in Ontario.
Peter was in Canada when war broke out. He immediately joined the Officers’ Training Corps at M’Gill University, where he had studied, and going to England in April 1915, he was granted a commission with an English regiment, the Wiltshires, while stationed at Dorchester. Next mention of Peter comes in 1915 when he is engaged in active service. During the war he served as a member of the Wiltshire Regiment, commanding the 13th Stokes Light Trench Mortar Battery. In September 1915 he spent a few days in Ireland with relatives of his parents, before being sent to the front. By December he was at the front, attached to a trench mortar battery. Shortly after arriving at the front he was met by his brother, Mr F. W. Clarke (William Francis), who was with the Royal Flying Corps. This was a dramatic meeting of the two brothers, the two youngest in the family. One day a British aeroplane suddenly descended into the midst of the Wiltshires “somewhere in France”, and to Peter’s amazement out stepped his brother William whom he had not seen since he (Peter) left New Zealand.
Peter enjoyed a week’s leave from the front in February 1916. He was transferred from a reserve to a regular battalion. In May he was appointed to the staff of the 13th Brigade for trench mortars, and the following month was promoted to captain. In June 1916 Lieutenant Clarke was on administrative work with his divisional trench mortars, which he regarded as one of the most fascinating arms of the service. He was engaged on a section of the line on which the tunnelling company had made themselves a name for intrepidity and daring. About this time he spent a few days’ furlough, again visiting Ireland. While in Great Britain, Peter Clarke spent all his holidays and leave in Ireland, visiting his parents’ relatives.
But, at the beginning of August 1916, Mrs Clarke received a cable from the Secretary of War, London, advising that her son, now Captain Peter Clark, had been dangerously wounded in the arm and neck, in France. The following day she received another message stating that he had died as a result of these wounds.
Captain Peter Clarke died on 30 July 1916, of wounds received in the first Battle of the Somme, whilst commanding the 13th Stoke Light Trench Mortar Battery; just 29 years old and after only seven months at the front. He is buried in the Abbeville Community Cemetery, Somme, France – a New Zealand boy who went from Canada to England to enlist to fight the Germans in France. A death notice appeared in the several newspapers, including the New Zealand Tablet; memorial notices appeared in the Timaru Herald of 30 July 1917 and 30 July 1918, and in the NZ Tablet of 9 August 1917, 1 August 1918, 31 July 1919, and 29 July 1920. His favoured saying was “that the limit of one’s gift to one’s country was that of a single life only.”
Peter took a tremendous interest in trench mortars. At Christmas 1915 he wrote “Our own tiny unit did the best week's work it has yet done.” “Go for trench mortars,” was his advice to everyone who proposed getting a commission. In June 1916 he was promoted captain of the 13th Brigade for trench mortars. He was then looking forward keenly to the “much more dashing work to come,” and in a final note received on the 17th July he wrote “before the show which we enter shortly. Everybody is very fit and cheery.”
He was well liked. His bright disposition, his sterling qualities, and his wholehearted co-operation in any work he assisted in made him many warm friends. He was described as “a particularly fine type of the many fine young men whom New Zealand has given to the British Army”, a young man of many talents; physically athletic, intellectually keen and clean-minded, with a tremendous enthusiasm in everything he touched. He was a good sportsman and took a keen interest in all recreational pastimes. Tennis friends in Wellington heard with regret the news of his death and would always honour his memory. He was well known and was “the stamp of a player that attracted one at once by his play, . . . . he had all the makings of a champion in him. He was one of those quiet lads, that could always be given advice, and eagerly sought it; in fact he was a general favourite. He was a clean-living, manly youth in every walk of life.” Some poignant comments were made by Peter to tennis club mates. Soon after becoming a soldier, Peter spoke of the cancellation of some three years business engagements (as assistant manager of silver mines) so that he could enlist. “But, he wrote, so many are making sacrifices, and after all the limit of one’s gift to one’s country is a single life. A career doesn’t count for much anyhow, when it is a question of Imperial good.” And in his last letter a few weeks before his death – “It is a great feeling to be fighting certainly towards victory. If one is part of the number that must go under to ensure the right issue, well that’s part of the game.”
His mother received a cable thus: “The King and Queen deeply regret the loss you and the army have sustained by the death of Captain P. Clarke in the service of his country. Their Majesties truly sympathise with you in your sorrow.” What loss Mrs Clarke was to suffer – her husband in 1889, a son in the South African War and two sons in World War I. In January 1917 she advised the Base Records (NZ) Director that she had received advice from a London shipping agency that they were forwarding her son’s belongings, but she had moved from Temuka to Invercargill. Mrs Mary Clarke died in 1925 and is surely buried in a very simple grave in the Temuka Cemetery. Her son Peter’s name is inscribed on the Temuka War Memorial, St Joseph’s Church Temuka Memorial and the Timaru War Memorial.
Mrs Clarke, Fraser Street, Temuka, reported the Temuka Leader of 30 April 1921, has just received from the British Government a beautiful bronze plaque, in memory of her son, Peter, who was one of the gallant young men from the district who lost their lives in the Great War. The plaque is about 5 inches in diameter, on the face being a representation, in relief, of Britannia, with trident, and holding a laurel wreath over the name, Peter Clarke. Circling the memorial is the inscription, “He died for Freedom and Honour .” Accompanying it was the following autograph letter from the King: -
“I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War.
“GEORGE, R. I.”
The memorial was on view in a shop window for a few days.
Peter Clarke was a brother of James Clarke who died of disease in Egypt in 1918, of John Michael Clarke (Jack), the noted alpine guide who returned to New Zealand, and of William Francis Clarke who served in the Royal Air Force in World War I. Both Jack and William were on active service at the same time as Peter, while James was in training at Featherston. An older brother Daniel Clarke was killed in the South African War. Mrs Mary Clarke died on 19 April 1925 at her home of many years in Fraser Street, Temuka. She had suffered a great deal since coming to New Zealand – her husband dying in 1889, her son Daniel in the South African War, sons Peter and James in World War One, and her youngest daughter Elizabeth in 1923 when her child was just a few months old, and two other sons fighting in war. A photo of Captain Peter Clarke was printed in the NZ Tablet of 7 September 1916; another is held by Auckland City Libraries (Heritage Images). The name of Lieutenant Peter Clarke, British Contingent, was recorded in the Roll of Honour printed frequently in the Temuka Leader. In Memoriam notices for Daniel, James and Peter – “Sons of the late James and Mary Clarke, Temuka.” – were inserted in the Otago Daily Times of 23 April 1945. By this date there were only five survivors of the family – Mary and Margaret (both living in Dunedin), John, Patrick and William.
The St Joseph’s Church, Temuka, Memorial, an “exceedingly beautiful” monument to the memory of those who had fallen in the war, was unveiled after a Memorial Service on 25 April 1922. During the service appropriate music was provided by the choir and an excellent address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Kennedy. Four months later the Temuka Borough memorial was unveiled before a very large gathering in the domain, including Temuka Territorials and Cadets, Temuka and Geraldine returned soldiers, the Temuka Pipe Band, the Salvation Army Band, the children of the district schools, national and local dignitaries, and local folk. Opening proceedings, the Mayor said “We regret that this occasion has arisen, but having done so we must look back with pride at the actions of those who rose to the call of the Motherland, which was in peril. Many of those brave boys who left these shores did not return, and we have erected this memorial to their memory, . . . “ Following hymns and scripture readings, His Excellency the Governor-General formally unveiled the monument and the local M.P. read out the names inscribed thereon.
On Anzac Day, 1927, a Requiem Mass was celebrated at St Joseph’s Church, Temuka. The celebrant preached a very stirring sermon based on the Book of Wisdom (Chapter III, Verses 2-5). He pointed out that the Gallipoli campaign and later “gigantic episodes” would remain for all time a wonderful symbol of the age-old courage of men. He reminded the lads present that the enormous sacrifices made by the soldiers of New Zealand and other parts of the Empire were helping them to have brighter and better lives, and that all should render thanks to God, who had delivered them out of the hands of the enemy. They had gathered to commemorate the landing at Gallipoli and also to set aside the day to show their deep and grateful acknowledgement of the services of the men who had fought and died for them on other fields of the great battle-front. “The light of immortality that flashed from the abandoned tomb of the risen Christ lingers on in every mound of Flanders mud and clay, the gullies of Gallipoli, the sands of Palestine and Egypt, on the quiet churchyards in English villages and on God’s acres in New Zealand.. . . . And to-day, before God’s altar, we remember them with the love we bore them and the pride we shall have in them,” he concluded. Before the Dead March was played by the organist, the names were read of those from the Temuka parish who had died “on the field of honour” – among them that of Peter Clarke.
Base Records - Defence Department (Archives NZ ref. AABK 22525 W5725 B.R. 37/1140) [24 July 2015]; CWGC [23 March 2014]; Temuka Through the Years: an informal history (Compiled by Temuka History Book Committee, 2009) [accessed 14 October 2013]; Evening Star, 24 October 1889, Daily Telegraph, 24 October 1889, Timaru Herald, 25 October 1889, 9 November 1889, 5 February 1904, 4 March 1904, 30 November 1905, 2 March 1916, 30 June 1916, 8 July 1916, 2, 4 & 10 August 1916, 7 November 1916, 30 July 1917, 30 July 1918, South Canterbury Times, 9 November 1889, Free Lance, 22 February 1908, 18 August 1916, Temuka Leader, 14 January 1890, 19 December 1896, 18 December 1897, 15 December 1900, 17 December 1901, 27 May 1902, 7 & 19 June 1902, 26 July 1902, 11 July 1903, 6 February 1904, 29 March 1904, 2 April 1904, 22 September 1904, 4 October 1904, 4 October 1904, 18 February 1905, 14 & 30 March 1905, 13 April 1905, 11 & 25 May 1905, 10 & 15 June 1905, 13 & 20 July 1905, 3 August 1905, 11 & 28 November 1905, 7 December 1905, 17 & 27 February 1906, 26 May 1906, 25 April 1907, 14 December 1907, 5 January 1909, 15 January 1910, 12 January 1911, 9 March 1911, 11 April 1911, 2 April 1912, 21 May 1914, 6 January 1917, 3 March 1917, 30 April 1921, 26 April 1922, 12 August 1922, 26 April 1927, Evening Post, 12 September 1908, 21 January 1911, 7 March 1911, 7 & 12 August 1916, 25 October 1916, New Zealand Herald, 25 January 1911, 12 June 1911, 25 September 1916 [x 2], Dominion, 7 & 25 March 1911, Taranaki Daily News, 22 March 1911, Press, 1 April 1912, 29 June 1916, 4 August 1916 [x 2], 8 November 1918, 28 April 1925, Southland Times, 7 & 30 July 1915, Auckland Star, 29 September 1915, Star, 30 September 1915, Otago Daily Times, 27 December 1915, 29 February 1916, 17 June 1916, 10 July 1916, 5 & 7 August 1916, 6 November 1916, 23 April 1945, North Otago Times, 29 February 1916, 17 June 1916, 9 September 1916, Colonist, 15 August 1916, Otago Witness, 16 August 1916, NZ Tablet, 24 December 1897, 27 July 1905, 10 August 1905, 31 August 1905, 11 January 1906, 22 February 1906, 30 March 1911, 6 April 1911, 10 August 1916, 9 August 1917, 7 September 1917, 1 August 1918, 31 July 1919, 29 July 1920, 17 May 1923, 13 May 1925 (Papers Past) [14, 15 & 28 October 2013; 13 & 15 November 2013. 11 February 2014; 09 March 2014; 17 June 2015; 24 July 2015; 18 October 2015; 19, 20 & 21 February 2016; 26 June 2016; 01 & 03 June 2018; 01, 02, 13, 14, 15, 17 & 18 June 2019]; Photo (Auckland Cities Libraries - acknowledgement Auckland Weekly News, 28 September 1916) [14 October 2013]; First World War postal service (nzhistory.net.nz) [18 October 2015]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [25 October 2015]; Temuka Baptism Index (Catholic Diocese of Christchurch CD held by the South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [19 April 2015]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.ai) ; Probate records for James senior, Mary senior and Mary junior Clarke, Margaret Donaldson née Clarke, Elizabeth Donaldson née Clarke (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [20 February 2016; 10 & 11 June 2019]; Records pertaining to Daniel Clarke, 1617 SA War [28 October 2013, ff.]; Auckland Weekly News, 28 September 1916 (Photo – Auckland Council Libraries. Record ID – AWNS-19160928-46-3) [14 October 2013]
- CLARKE Brothers - newspaper extracts (pdf, 22.6 KB updated 20-Jun-2019)
- CLARKE Peter - newspaper extracts (pdf, 57.6 KB updated 20-Jun-2019)
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
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