Battlefield Tour  - The Somme and Ypres Salient, October 2016

In October the Upper Sixth visited the battlefields of northern France and Belgium.  We visited various monuments and cemeteries during our short trip, but whilst these monuments convey the incredible scale of sacrifice, one has to remember that the names carved in the limestone pillars and arches all have a story.

The story I often reflect on is that of my great grandmother’s first husband, Marcus Broardfoot Clark. He is buried in Belgium at Hooge Crater Cemetery, which I visited with a small group of Welbexians during the trip. As we gathered by the grave, I told Marcus’ story, only about a mile from where he was killed on the Ypres Salient.

M B Clark was born in 1893 as a youngest son. He studied Medicine at Glasgow University in 1909 and was close to graduating by the outbreak of war in August 1914.  He was a keen member of the University Officer Training Corps and decided to volunteer on the 9th of November. The London Gazette records list him as 2nd Lt on the 28th November. His position as a student of medicine meant that he was under no obligation to fight. He joined the famous 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and was present at the battle of Loos during September 1915. Following the battle he was invalided home.

 As you can see in the two photographs Marcus was a handsome young man and must have been quite a striking figure in his highlander uniform! He met my great grandmother and married her on the 1s  August 1917, before returning to Belgium on the 8th August 1917, not knowing that he would be killed within six weeks of his marriage. He was then attached to 2nd Battalion A&SH as acting captain. During the battle of Passchendaele while in command of his company during an attack near Polygon Wood on the 25th of September he was killed in action. Captain Clark’s company held their position for two days, though surrounded by the enemy, and received the special thanks of Sir Douglas Haig for their courage and tenacity.

Marcus was a gallant soldier, leading his company with great bravery, repelling repeated German assaults and dying in the service of his country. It is important for us and future generations not to forget the sacrifice men like Marcus made, stepping into the breech in their country’s hour of need. Whilst tragedy of the First World War was horrific in its scale, it was not necessarily futile as they died protecting an ideology and identity that we still hold dear. Looking to the future we should seek to uphold the values those men died protecting, and immortalise their memory in the way we conduct ourselves.

Douglas Mileham

Nelson

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