1st, 2nd & 9th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers,
From Clanbrassil Street, Dublin,
James Clarke a career soldier before the war, attested for the Royal Dublin Fusilers at Naas in July 1899 aged 18.
Departing for South Africa in June 1900, James spent the next two years fighting the Boer war with the Dubs’, receiving the Queens medal with clasps Orange Free State, Cape Colony & Transvaal.
James returned from South Africa in November 1902 and went on to serve for a further nine years, with the regiment, most of it abroad on garrison duty in places such as Malta, Egypt & Sudan. He completed his 12 years with the colours in July 1911 and was transferred to the army reserve.
On his service papers James’ character was described as indifferent. He appeared 13 times on the regimental conduct sheet throughout his service, mainly for drunkenness!
He returned to Dublin and lived with his mother Mary at 29 Lower Clanbrassil Street where he worked as a General Labourer, until the outbreak of the First World War, when he was called up from the reserve, being posted to the 2nd Dublin Fusiliers, as part of the 4th Infantry Division, which were brought over from England in September 1914 and placed around the town of Le Cateau. Their objective was to provide a rear guard force that would cover the retreating BEF.
On the 30th of March 1915, according to his papers, James was wounded by a Gunshot Wound to the hand..
Recuperating for 4 months James was then posted to the 1st Battalion in July 1915, going overseas again in August, this time to the Dardanelles, as part of a draft of reinforcements to a battalion that had been virtually wiped out after 4 months in Gallipoli.
The 1st Dublins and the rest of the 29th Division were moved to Suvla to reinforce the British force there. On 21 August the Dublins took part in another attempt to take Scimitar Hill and after the battle, the Suvla front-line became static, with no more major attacks being attempted. In this one day of fighting, the British suffered 5,300 casualties out of the 14,300 soldiers who participated, James managing to come through unscathed.
The Battle of Scimitar Hill was the last offensive mounted by the British at Suvla during the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I. On 1 January 1916, the 1st Dublins left Gallipoli for Egypt with the rest of the 29th Division and the last remaining British troops left Gallipoli on 9 January. The ironic thing was that the evacuation of Gallipoli by the Allies was, arguably, the most successful part of the campaign. The Dublins had suffered heavily, nearly all of the just over 1000 men of the 1st Dublins who had landed at Helles in April had been killed, wounded, experienced disease or were missing, but further carnage was to await them in France.
Posted to the 9th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in August 1916 as part of the 48th Brigade, 16th Division. James was part of the attack on Guinchy on September the 9th, where he was to go over the top again.
Zero hour for the attack was set at 4.45pm on 9 September. At the last minute orders were dispatched delaying the attack for two minutes to allow for a final intense bombardment of the German lines, but only the 47th Brigade received the order in time. The 48th Brigade launched its attack on time, and was hit by German counter battery fire.
The 48th Brigade captured 200 prisoners during the advance into Ginchy, but suffered heavily casualties during the fight, amongst them two of the six battalion commanders, Lieutenant-Colonel H. P. Dalzell-Walton of 8/ Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Captain W. J. Murphy of 9/ Royal Dublin Fusiliers. A series of further battles would soon push the front line away from the village.
The battalion was in the support trench which it had dug, with orders to take the second objective and consolidate. 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 1 section Machine Gun Company. 1 section 156 Company, Royal Engineers, 8th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 1 section Machine Gun Company, 1 section 156 Company Royal Engineers.
At zero hour (4.45pm) the line advanced under the artillery barrage on the first objective, each battalion assaulting with 4 companies in the front line, on a frontage of one platoon, platoons at 40 yards distance.
First Phase. Right Battalion (1st R.M.F.). At the onset very heavy Officer casualties were suffered. The right company experienced considerable opposition owing to the inability of the 8th R.M.F. to advance. This company was therefore wheeled to the right and dug in. Owing to the shortage of officers the other companies lost direction and went on beyond their objective. Left Battalion (7th R.I.R.) closely followed by 7th R. Irish Fusiliers reached the first objective with slight resistance & with very few casualties.
Second Phase. Right Battalion (8th R.D.F.) advanced to the second objective at 5.25 p.m. and gained it without encountering very serious opposition. Left Battalion (9th R.D.F) advanced to the second objective at 5.25pm but suffered very heavy officer casualties in doing so. Captain W. J. MURPHY (commanding) being killed as the battalion reached GINCHY. The battalion, owing to the loss of officers, carried on beyond the second objective and had to be brought back, also owing to the fact that 55 Division had not come up. The left flank had consequently to be brought back slightly. The line gained was then consolidated.
Casualties to the 9th battalion were 209, James being wounded from a Gunshot wound to his left hand.
James seen out the rest of the war without incident, mainly serving with the 1st & 9th Battalions, before transferring just before the wars end, to the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was finally demobbed on the 27th February 1919 and returned once again to his mother in Lower Clanbrassil Street in Dublin. Interestingly his character which was described as “indifferent” during his earlier period of service, is now mentioned as “Very Good” during the period of the First World War.
James served a total of 17 years, fighting for his king & country and responded twice to Britain’s call to arms, serving on three continents.
I am proud to be the custodian of his 1914 Star with Bar and Victory medal, which were awarded for his service in the Great War 1914 – 18.