JOSEPH CLARK c.1894 – 1918

80586 Private Joseph Clark, 3rd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 23 October 1918 and is buried at La Vallee-Mulatre Communal Cemetery Extension.  He was about 24 years old[1] and is commemorated on the West Auckland War Memorial.

Family Details

Joseph Clark could have been the son of John and Alice Clark born c.1891[2] at Cockfield.[3]  There were at least 10 children, all born at Cockfield:[4]

  • George bc.1881
  • Robert bc.1882
  • William bc.1884
  • Emily bc.1886
  • Joseph bc.1891
  • Alice bc.1893
  • Cornelius bc.1895
  • Hannah bc.1898
  • Lavinia bc.1900
  • Fred bc.1903

In 1891, the family lived at Cockfield and 31 year old John worked as a coal miner.[5]  In 1901, the family were still at Cockfield and John was a coal miner (hewer).[6]  By 1911, the family lived at Mayfield Terrace, Cockfield.  John worked as a coal miner (hewer), 26 year old William was a coal miner, 20 year old Joseph and 16 year old Cornelius worked as coal miners (putters).[7]

In 1918, Joseph married Ada Barker.[8]  In 1911, 13 year old Ada lived with her father Robert Barker at 9 Maude Terrace, St. Helens Colliery.[9]

Service Details

The service records of Private Joseph Clark have not been researched.  CWGC records and the medal roll, confirm his regimental number as 80586 and that he served with the 3rd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.  3/DLI was a Reserve Battalion and served at home.[10]  Private J. Clark must have been transferred and posted to a unit involved in the advance through France and the Battle of the Selle, 17-25 October 1918. There were a number of DLI Battalions which took part:

  • 2/DLI came under the orders of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division[11]
  • 1/9 DLI joined the 62nd Division as Divisional Troops Pioneer Battalion February 1918[12]
  • 13/DLI joined the 74th Brigade, 25th Division September 1918[13]
  • 15/DLI came under the orders of the 64th Brigade, 21st Division[14]

Being a coal miner, he may well have served with 1/9 DLI in a Pioneer Battalion.

The Battle of Selle 17 – 25 October 1918

By 11 October British forces had closed up upon the retreating Germans, now hastily dug-in immediately to the east of the River Selle.  Haig initiated a series of operations designed to get British troops in strength across the river and clear a way for a move against the Sambre-Oise Canal – 5 miles to the east.

Thursday 17 October: 5.20qm, after a 6 day halt for preparations and artillery bombardments Fourth Army troops attacked in thick mist.  Infantry and tanks, preceded by a creeping barrage, moved forward on a 10 mile front south of Le Cateau.  The centre and left of Fourth Army forced crossings of the river despite unexpectedly tenacious enemy resistance and much uncut wire.  Fighting was particularly fierce along the line of Le Cateau-Wassigny railway.  The right of the attack across the upland watershed of the Selle made most progress and by nightfall enemy defences had been broken and Le Cateau captured.

18 & 19 October: severe fighting continued by which time the Fourth Army assisted by the First French Army had advanced over 5 miles, harrying the enemy back towards the Sambre-Oise canal.

20 October: In an early morning attack, Third Army formations secured the high ground east of the Selle.  There was a day’s pause to bring up heavy artillery.

23 & 24 October: the attack was renewed with a major assault by the Fourth, Third and First Armies which resulted in further gains.[15]

Private J. Clark was killed in action 23 October 1918, the circumstances of his death have not been researched.  Private J. Clark was awarded the British War and the Victory medal.[16]


Private J. Clark is buried at grave reference A.19 La Vallee-Mulatre Communal Cemetery Extension.  He is the only soldier from the DLI buried in the cemetery and the majority of the infantrymen served with the 1st Division.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] CWGC record his age at death being 24, born about 1894

[3] 1891 census Note: There are other people named Joseph Clark born in the County at for example Cornforth, Stanley and Byers Green but there are few family, cultural ties to these areas therefore the “Cockfield” Joseph Clark may be the most likely.

[4] 1891, 1901 & 1911 census

[5] 1891 census

[6] 1901 census

[7] 1911 census

[8] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.333 Auckland 1918Q2

[9] 1911 census and CWGC







[16] Medal Roll