Bamburgh bell-ringer killed in Great War to be commemorated

The war memorial beneath the castle at Bamburgh.
The war memorial beneath the castle at Bamburgh.

A commemorative peal is to be rung next month to mark the death of a bell-ringer from Bamburgh who was killed during the First World War.

Bamburgh Heritage Trust carried out a project for the centenary of the conflict to find out the stories of those who died and has mounted a number of exhibitions throughout the last few years.

William Joseph Clark with his sister Hannah Hole (nee Clark).

William Joseph Clark with his sister Hannah Hole (nee Clark).

By the end of the war, almost every household had been touched by tragedy.

One of the 18 villagers who died during the Great War was William Clark, a member of a family which had been resident in the village for around 300 years.

He was one of the bell-ringers at the church so there will be a quarter peal of bells rung in St Aidan’s for 45 minutes at 11am on Saturday, April 14, to mark the 100th anniversary of his death at the age of 21.

It is also planned to ring a quarter peal at St Nicholas’ Cathedral in Newcastle on the same day.

An article by Chris Baldwin for the parish magazine revealed that Private William Joseph Clark, of the 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards, was born in March 1897, the youngest son of George and Elizabeth Clark, of Radcliffe Cottages.

Records show that the Clarks had been residents of Bamburgh and the surrounding area for at least 300 years and between 1881 and 1892

George Clark senior was working ‘on his own account’ as a market gardener in The Gardens at Bamburgh.

His son George Short Clark had gone south to work, but moved back to Bamburgh with his family in 1911 to take over the business when his father retired through ill health.

After leaving school, his son William worked with his father as a gardener in the Bamburgh Garden.

He was described as a bright and cheerful lad and a great favourite with all who knew him.

From conversations with his family members, William was planning to continue to work in the family market garden business with his father.

The family continued to work the business until very recently, but following the tragic deaths of Peter and then his father Dougie Clark a couple of years ago it now operates as the Walled Garden.

Like several of his relatives over the next few decades, Private Clark was a keen and valued bell-ringer in St Aidan’s Church and is commemorated on the plaque in the belfry, together with his fellow bell-ringers who died fighting for their country in the Great War.

His name is also listed on the Bamburgh War Memorial and the Roll of Honour in the church.

When only 17 years old, he tried to enlist to serve in the Great War, but was not successful so obtained work at Clark Chapman’s Munitions Factory in Gateshead until he was of age for the army and enlisted on December 26, 1916.

He had a course of training at Windsor and landed in France in October 1917.

The Berwick Advertiser, February 1918, reported that he was admitted to hospital in France in January suffering from injuries to both his legs, having been burned by an exploding shell and spent his 21st birthday there in March 1918.

He had just been discharged from hospital and had been in action for less than a week when he received his fatal wound.

His parents received the sad news from the War Office that William had died in the 15th Casualty Clearing Station from wounds on April 14, 1918.

William Joseph Clark is buried at Ebblinghem Military Cemetery, Nord, in France.