Updated 13 Apr 2007

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Photo 515


John William Clough (left).
Taken c1909 in Bangalore, India.

Pvt John William CLOUGH 1888-1914.

John William ("Willie") is on the left.
See Census: 1901
See below for a biography by Simon Johnson.

Memorial card for John William Clough.

Photo taken:c1909
Source:Simon Johnson
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Simon Johnson writes:

A Biography of John William Clough

    John William Clough was born at the town of Wirksworth in Derbyshire in 1888, the second of ten children born to William and Mary Elizabeth Clough, though one of these children died as a young baby. Wirksworth is one of the ancient parishes of Derbyshire and lead mining was the basis of its past prosperity, being mined as far back as Roman times. Standing as it does virtually at the centre of Derbyshire, about two miles to the south of the Peak District National Park boundary, Wirksworth was the centre of the English lead mining industry when it was at its height. As the lead mining industry declined in the nineteenth century, the limestone quarries provided work for people who lived in the area. John Willie, as he was affectionately known, was raised amongst a community of quarry workers in a typically working class household on The Dale at Wirksworth. He had to endure a difficult upbringing at Wirksworth as his father was often out of work due to a disability and spent regular spells in the County Prison at Derby due to non payment of rates. After completing a basic education at Wirksworth, John Willie found employment in the local limestone quarries of Messrs Bowne and Shaw, where his father was employed as a lime burner.

    As a teenager John Willie had spent a period as a volunteer soldier with the 2nd Volunteer Regiment of the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derbys Regiment). As a possible consequence of his difficult home life, John Willie took the decision to become a professional soldier and was attested as a regular soldier with the Sherwood Foresters on the 28th of August 1906, signing up for seven years’ service. He was aged eighteen years and nine months at the time. Family recollections suggested that he had spent time serving on colonial duty in India and a photograph survives of John Willie which was taken in Bangalore in India. So, John Willie spent some time with the 1st Battalion who saw service in colonial India for a number of years, initially at Bangalore from 1906, followed by service in Secunderabad from 1909 and Bombay from 1912. Indeed, John Willie’s army medical records state that he spent time in Colaba, a dependency of Bombay, where he was twice treated for scabies, in the March and June of 1913. His seven years service with the Sherwood’s ended in August 1913 at which point he returned to England and was placed on the army’s reserve list. He presumably returned to his native Wirksworth, taking up a new occupation, probably returning to work in one of the local quarries.

    On the 4th of August 1914 a telegram ordered the 2nd Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters to mobilise for war. The 2nd Battalion were enjoying their last moments of peace in Sheffield and its sister battalion, the 1st Battalion on overseas duty, was recalled from duty in Bombay, India. As a reservist, John Willie must have often contemplated the reality of war and how he would respond to it. Now the period of contemplation was over. With the war barely hours old he said goodbye to his family and responded to his country’s call. The 2nd Battalion was bought back to strength by recalling reservists such as John Willie and would be in France by the 10th of September 1914 as part of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division, I Corps, to reinforce the British Expenditionary Force, and went straight into the bitter fighting on the Aisne.

    By the 18th of October 1914, the 2nd Battalion arrived in Ennetières. The B, C and D Companies dug themselves in and the A Company remained in reserve in the village. About 9.00pm the battalion was attacked by rifle and shell fire which lasted until about 1.00am. The battalion remained in the same position throughout the 19th with the enemy’s snipers being very active. At about 1.00pm on the 20th a vigorous attack was made by the enemy on the front trenches. This was driven off, but not without considerable loss. A further advance by the enemy at about 3.00pm was very rapid, leaving the battalion vastly outnumbered. The few remaining men were collected up and fell back. Tragically, John William Clough was killed in action during this major battle at Ennetières on the 20th of October 1914 at the age of 26 years. During this battle the 2nd Battalion had managed to hold a vastly superior German force for 48 hours and John Willie was one of 710 men and 13 officers who were lost.

    John Willie has no known grave but his name is commemorated on Panel 7 of the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium which commemorates more than 11,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in this sector during the war and have no known grave. He is also commemorated on the war memorial in his native town of Wirksworth. Bereaved were his father, six brothers and two sisters, who held a memorial service in John Willie’s honour at Wirksworth.

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