Alfred Charles Clark (‘Nobby’ to his comrades) DSO MC was born in Bermondsey in 1879. He was the son of Mary Ann Elizabeth Vaughn and Charles Clark.
Alfred Clark joined the Army in 1896. Initially he joined the militia in 1896 carrying out basic training at Kingston-on-Thames. He then transferred to the East Surrey Regiment, which was based at Dover Garrison. Clark took part in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and in September 1897, following an intensive training course (and having been in the 2nd Battalion East Surreys for 10 months), Clark was promoted to Lance-Corporal.
The East Surreys were posted to South Africa and fought in the 2nd South African War between 1899 – 1902. Documents at Surrey History Centre under reference ESR/25 /CLARK contain Clark’s descriptions (including an unfinished life story) of service in South Africa. These include details of the journey by sea to Cape Town (bread making on board was a notable event!). The Battalion eventually arrived at Pietermaritzburg and shortly afterwards took part in the Battle of Willow Grange (22 November 1899), a moderately successful surprise attack on the Boers, who retreated to Colenso. This was followed by the action at the Battle of Colenso on 26 November 1899 and the fighting at Spion Kop, part of the effort to relieve Ladysmith. Clark witnessed the action at Spion Kop, including the ill-fated attack by the Lancashire Regiments. The East Surreys were pinned down under intense enemy fire for much of the action.
Having survived the South African War, Clark was posted to the 1st Battalion in 1902 and then the 4th Battalion in 1914 – by which time he had been promoted to Company-Sergeant-Major.
Clark eventually received his commission and was posted to the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment.
Clark was wounded and captured in 1918 during the German March offensive. Clark commanded the battalion at the time as a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, and the delaying action by his 9th East Surreys, saving the 72nd Brigade, is well recorded. Having already been awarded the Military Cross for a bombing raid on the Somme, he was awarded the DSO for his leadership in 1918.
Clark was acquainted with RC Sherriff, the famous playwright (who also served in the 9th Battalion) and maintained correspondence with him during the post-war years. In a memorandum written by Clark on 9th February 1929, he described Sheriff’s service with the 9th Battalion – ‘ A steady unassuming young fellow of good presence. Carried a warm charm in his personality and had a certain calm, quiet air of distinction, much respected by his men’.
Clark continued his Army service post WWI, serving in Egypt and Gibraltar. Amongst his documents is a photograph of the visit of the Crown Prince Hirohito of Japan to Cairo in 1921, when the East Surreys provided a Guard of Honour.
During the Second World War, Clark became Chief Air Raid Warden of Folkestone, Kent. He died in 1971.