Two local men died on active service on 25th April 1917. 21-year-old Private Douglas Walker Clarke, 12th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment was killed in action in Salonika, and Private Frederick Perks, 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment was killed in France.
Douglas Walker Clarke was born in Acocks Green on 29th February 1896 and during his lifetime was the only child of parents Walter (a grocer) and Elizabeth (née Walker) who had married in 1895 when they were aged 24 and 20 respectively. After Douglas’s death, his parents went on to have another child. Their second son, Gordon Smith Clarke (1918-1998) was born on 30th October 1918.
The family lived in Lincoln Road, Olton from at least 1901 until at least 1944. Douglas was educated at St Margaret’s School, Olton and went on to become a mechanic in the cycle trade. He joined the Army on 23rd September 1914, serving in Salonika from September 1915.
He has always done well as a soldier, and is a great loss to the company; always so willing to assist in anything and was a most plucky lad. He was killed by shell fire, and died immediately.
Private Clarke has no known grave and is commemorated on the Doiran Memorial near Greece’s Macedonian border. He is also commemorated locally on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church, Olton.
Frederick Perks was born in Shirley in 1897 and was the youngest brother of Albert Perks who had been killed two weeks earlier. Frederick was the seventh son and the youngest of the nine known children of parents George (a farm labourer) and Sarah (née Smith).
Two other brothers – Ernest (born 1880) and William Henry (1884-161) – are known to have served and survived. Albert, William and Frederick all served with the Royal Warwicks, whilst Ernest was a Sapper with the Royal Engineers, having been a railway guard before the war. Another brother, Edward (born 1889), went on to have a son, Albert, born in 1919 and, presumably, named after his late uncle who had been killed in the war. Tragically, Albert (junior), who was a Stoker (1st Class) with the Royal Navy during the Second World War, went on to die of severe burns in 1943 after his ship, H.M.S. Arrow, was caught in an explosion aboard the neighbouring vessel whilst in Algiers Harbour.
The Perks family lived in the Shirley are from at least 1887 until at least 1911. By 1911, they were living in Stratford Road and 13-year-old Frederick was still at school. We don’t know what job Frederick had before enlisting in the Army, nor do we know when he joined up, or when he first saw overseas service. He died of wounds on 25th April 1917 and is buried at Lapugnoy Military Cemetery. He is also commemorated on Shirley War Memorial.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian