Private Arthur Ludlam Clarke
19609, The Black Watch who died on 15 May 1918
Arthur Ludlam Clarke was born in Oadby in 1898. He was the fifth child and second son of Henry, a bricklayer’s labourer and Elizabeth (nee Ludlam). The 1911 census notes that Henry and Elizabeth had had 14 children but 5 had died in infancy. Arthur’s surviving sibling were Clarice (1892), Constance (1894), May (1896), Archibald (1897), Arthur (1898), Frank (1900), Percy (1901), Alice (1902) and Raymond (1905).
The family lived in a 4 roomed house on London Road, Oadby, three doors away from The Wheel Inn. Next door but one to the Clarkes lived Elizabeth’s parents, William and Mary Ludlam and their son Herbert. By 1911, Arthur was living with Herbert, his wife Annie and their two sons, Stanley and Jesse. It was not unusual for older children to live with relatives when families grew and small houses could not cope with all members. Sometimes, the older children moved to grandparents’ homes to help support them in their old age. This was probably the case with Arthur’s older sisters, Clarice, Constance and May, who, in 1911, were living with William and Mary Ludlam.
This photograph taken in the 1950s shows the terrace of houses (now demolished), next to the Wheel Inn on London Road, inhabited by the Clarke and Ludlam families
Arthur’s service record is no longer available but it appears that he changed regiments during the course of the war. According to the First World War Medal Roll he was Private 18094, in the Seaforth Highlanders but he is later recorded as a Private 19609, in the Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) and this is the regiment which appears on his headstone.
In May 1916, the 12th (Labour) Battalion Black Watch was formed at Blairgowie. By 1916, each regiment had its own labour company, largely comprised of men who were unfit, often through injury, to serve at the front, but who could fulfil duties such as helping with stores, taking equipment to the front and repairing roads. In 1917, all the various labour companies were incorporated into the Labour Corps and Arthur’s regimental number became 6725. It is possible that, as a member of the Seaforth Highlanders and later the Black Watch, Arthur saw service at the Somme in 1916 and Passchendaele in 1917 and, at some point, sustained the injuries that ended his ability to fight on the front line.
Men of the 12th (Labour) Battalion of The Black Watch on the Somme 1916
However, serving in the Labour Corps was not without danger. Arthur was one of nine thousand members of the Corps who were killed before the end of the war. He died on 15 May 1918, but as yet, no evidence has been found as to the nature of his death. Men of the Labour Corps who died are generally commemorated under their original regiment. As in Arthur’s case – Black Watch. This makes researching their service histories particularly difficult. Additionally there are few records detailing the daily activities and locations of Labour Corps units.
Arthur in all likelihood died of wounds sustained in the River Aisne area during the German Spring Offensive of 1918. The Army Register of Soldiers Effects notes that he died ‘In Germany (Whilst POW)’. This is not entirely correct but it is probably that he was removed from the battlefield by the Germans and treated at a field hospital located at Flavy-le-Martel which treated many British prisoners of war. Those who died there were interred, like Arthur, at Annois
Arthur is Buried with Honour at Annois Communal Cemetery, Aisne, France. He is also commemorated on the Oadby War Memorial and on the Oadby Senior School Memorial.
Oadby Council Senior School Memorial
Annois Communal Cemetery, Aisne, France