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Private William Clapham, M.M.

11942 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry

Son of Mr Arthur & Mrs Rebecca Clapham

Aged 23 years

Died 1st October 1918

Commemorated Flesquieres Hill British Cemetery
Grave VIII. I. 16.

Private W Clapham
Born Wellingborough, elisted Northampton, resided Rushden.
The Rushden Echo Friday 11 December 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

'Germans Losing Their Dash' - Rushden Soldier's Narrow Escape

Writing home from the front, Private W Clapham, son of Mr and the late Mrs Arthur Clapham, of Rushden, says:- "I have come through it all so far, thank God. I received the surprise parcel of cigarettes, which were very welcome. There are not many with us now amongst those who came out with us from Aldershot. We have been reinforced five times, and I hope by Christmas the war will be over, as I would very much like to be home by the new year if God spares me.

"I had a very narrow escape about three days ago. It was like this: I volunteered to fetch water for the section. We were in the trenches at the time. I got the water all right and was coming back with it when a 'sniper' let drive. The bullet went through my service jacket. Of course, we take no notice, as we are in danger every day. Well, this cannot go on for ever. The Germans we are up against now seem to have lost all their dash. Their artillery do not shell half as much all as they used to. The Russians are advancing rapidly in the direction of Berlin, and I think with all this butchery going on, Germany cannot hope to hold out much longer."

We understand that Private Clapham's brother is in an English hospital suffering from wounds which he received at the front and has since contracted scarlet fever.

The Rushden Echo Friday 18 December 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden and District War Items

Private W Clapham (Rushden), who escaped death by inches. A German "sniper" fired at him as he was carrying water to the trenches and the bullet went though his jacket.

Evening Telegraph, Saturday, December 19th 1914, transcribed by John Collins.

Rushden Man in Bayonet Charge

Private Clapham, of the Highland Light Infantry, who was reported missing, and subsequently as having rejoined his regiment, writes the following interesting letter to his brother at Rushden:-
“I received your kind gifts last night, and was very pleased to see you remembered my 21st birthday. Out here things are very quiet just now. Two divisions are resting, but on the whole we have had some rather warm passages. I suppose you heard about Capt. Brodie’s bravery in getting the V.C. I am pleased to say I belong to his company and was one of the party to take part in the charge. It was like this: At night things were very quiet, too quiet in fact. Anyhow we had an idea what was going to happen. I got out of the trench to get some water. Well as a rule the place is always being sniped at, but this night not a single shot was fired. I spoke to a comrade at the pump, and he said, ‘I don’t like the look of things.’ It seems to me the Germans have retired or something like that! We had only just got back in the trenches when the Germans sent us a ‘postcard’. They began to shell us with shrapnel. Then the next thing we heard was a whistle and the fight began. The order was given for us to get out of the trenches and get at the back of them. We let them have the round that was in the breech, when the order was given for us to charge. It was while it lasted, bayonet v. bayonet, in which we got the better of them. Our captain distinguished himself by leading the charge and bayoneting six Germans. I read in the papers of the raid made by the German battleships. It is no more than you can expect in war time.”
The Rushden Echo Friday 25 December 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden and District War Items

Private W Clapham (Rushden), of the Highland Light Infantry, who as stated in our last issue, narrowly escaped death a short time ago, is now officially reported missing. The War Office state that he was missed on Nov. 14. News of him from the front would be welcome. Address, "Echo" Office, Rushden.

The Wellingborough News Friday 25 December 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Brothers Wounded and Missing

Mr A Clapham, of 42 North-street, Rushden, has two sons in the Army and has received bad news of both. Private W Clapham, of the Highland Infantry, is reported by the War Office to be missing since November 14th; and Pte C Clapham, of the 1st Northants, is at present in England suffering from wounds. Pte Clapham has served in India and South Africa, and formerly played football for the Rushden Windmill Club.

Game Though Wounded

Writing to his father, Mr A Clapham, at Rushden, Pte C[harles] Clapham, of the 1st Northants, of Little Park-street, Wellingborough, describing his being wounded at Furnes on November 5th says: "I am very lucky to have come away like I am. I got my wound in my right shin with a shell. It is dead murder to be in it. Africa was not in it. There are more shells burst here in one day than used to drop in Africa in a month. There are more than a 100 shells an hour, and they keep at it all day and night. So you see we must have hearts like lions. But never mind; I am game though I am wounded".

Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, December 30th 1914, transcribed by John Collins.

Rushden Brothers Wounded and Missing

Mr A. Clapham, of 42, North-street, Rushden, has two sons in the Amy, and has received bad news of both. Private W. Clapham, of the Highland Infantry, is reported by the War office to be missing since November 14th; and Private C. Clapham, of the 1st Northants, is at present in England suffering from wounds. Private C. Clapham has served in India and South Africa, and formerly played football for the Rushden Windmill Club.
The Wellingborough News Friday 1 January 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Missing Rushden Man Succeeds in Rejoining his Regiment

Pte W Clapham. We are glad to report that Pte W Clapham, son of Mr A Clapham, of North street, Rushden, who was reported as missing some time ago from the Highland Light Infantry, has rejoined his regiment.

The Rushden Echo Friday 6 August 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates

A Clever German Ruse Seriously Hampers the British And Causes Many Casualties
Rushden Soldier's Experiences Disguised as a French Cavalryman

Pte W Clapham (Rushden), of the 2nd Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, has been spending seven days' leave from the front with his sister, Mrs J Sharp, of 143, Queen-street, Rushden. He has been at the front since August 13th and so far has come through the hottest of battles without a scratch. He preferred not to talk about his experiences at the front in general but told a representative of the "Rushden Echo" that during the retirement from Mons his brigade was told off to fight a rearguard action, and this should have come off the same night.

"As we were passing through a village", he says, "we caught two German horses. The Uhlans that had been riding these horses on patrol made good their escape through the wood on the left of the road. We took the horses and found that the pouches were full of clothes and contained notes to say that the Uhlans had just come from Germany to the front. We also found on the horses a revolver, a long sword, and a carbine. We though at the time that one of Uhlans had got away as the women and children of the village came up shouting 'Les Allemands', so the order was given to prepare to meet the enemy. We fixed bayonets and lined up each side of the road with two maxims in the centre of the road in the direction in which we were retreating. After waiting there for an hour or so, during which time nothing happened, we resumed the retreat.

"Later on in the day, after marching at least 17 miles, when about to billet for the night, we were confronted by a German officer dressed in the uniform of a French cavalry officer. At that time my battalion was marching with A and B companies in front. The transport was in the centre of the battalion, and the C and D companies were told off as rearguard. A and B companies were then billeted and the transport moving a little further up the road to their respective billets.

"The German officer I have just mentioned shouted 'Beaucoup Uhlans' (Many Uhlans) and this caused a great commotion in our ranks. Owing to the transport turning about and galloping down the hill, officers, men and horses were all mixed together, and we suffered a great many casualties. We were fetched out of billets and were made to take up a position in extended order for hours and nothing happened. This was a very clever ruse of the German spy, as he not only put us in the tumult but also delayed our further progress for some time. That of course left as open to the heavy artillery of the enemy, and, in consequence, horse and carts went up in the air and we suffered a terrible lot of casualties. Afterwards we continued the retreat."

Pte Clapham said he had been glad to received the "Rushden Echo" each week since he has been at the front and he has read in its columns of experiences that men have had at the front. His experiences, he said, had been much about the same, so there would be no object in his recounting them again.

Pte Clapham's brother, Pte Charles Clapham, of the 1st Northants, is now in hospital at Northampton barracks, where he has been since November last suffering from severe wounds in the leg received at Ypres. He is still unable to walk, and it is doubtful whether he will again be fit for active service. Asked his opinion of the present state of things at the front, Pte W Clapham said:

"I think it will be a long-drawn-out campaign, according to how things are looking at present. Everything is practically at a standstill in the western theatre of war, and preparation is being made for a winter campaign. In my opinion, there will be nothing done before the early spring, and it will be late next summer before peace may be expected."

Rushden Echo, October 25th, 1918, transcribed by Greville Watson

Rushden’s Casualty List - Victims of the War

Mr A. Clapham, of 56, Duck-street, Rushden, has received official news of the death in action on October 1st of his second son, 11942, Pte. William Clapham, M.M., of the Highland Light Infantry.  The deceased soldier, who had been in the Army about three years when war broke out, was immediately sent out to the Western front, and fought all through the retreat from Mons and in the early engagements of the war.  About twelve months ago he was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry on the field.  He also held the Mons Ribbon, and although up to the date on which he met his death he had escaped unwounded, he had been several times gassed, and had had many narrow escapes, bullets having on more than one occasion penetrated his tunic without inflicting injury.  He was 23 years of age, and was well known in Rushden as a footballer, playing for his regiment after joining the Army.  Another of Mr Clapham’s sons, Pte. Charles Clapham (Northants Regiment), fought at Mons, holding the ribbon, and also that of the King’s Medal.  He was discharged from the Colours after being badly wounded on April 22nd, 1916.  Pte. Bert Minney, of Rushden, in a letter of sympathy to the late Pte. Wm. Clapham’s father, says : “There is no doubt that he met his death like a soldier, and you ought to be proud of him.  I have had a taste of it and know what it is like out there.  I have had some narrow escapes in my little time, so I know that Bill must have gone through something all the time he has been out there.  It seems very hard getting through all this time and then getting killed, but Bill always believed in Faith and trusted to One above, and you can rest assured that he is in God’s keeping.  I will own up to it I have offered up many a prayer on the field of battle and God has answered my prayer and pulled me through.  I shall never forget when ‘old Jerry’ attacked us at Haverincourt Wood; it was like hell itself, if ever there is a hell.  There were 20 of us on a post, and a shell dropped on the top of our dug-out.  There were two lots of stairs, and a good job there were, or we should never have come out alive, but there were only five of us managed to get on top quick enough, as ‘old Jerry’ was on top of us, and before those others could get up he was throwing stick bombs down.  Some of them escaped being killed, but were taken prisoners, and that is almost as bad, the way they use them.  Well, we five rushed along the trench and got to D Company’s trench, and there we made a stand, and I can tell you he had the worst of the deal.  They came over with full pack, so they intended to stop, but we shot them down like shooting rabbits.  It was fine sport until they had enough of it; then they could see they were beaten, so gave themselves up.”
The Rushden Echo Friday 16 May 1919, transcribed by Nicky Bates

MILITARY MEDAL - On Monday afternoon, at the parade of the RE Signal Depot, Wellingborough, on the Market Square, Captain Lowth (Commanding Officer) presented a Military Medal to Mr Clapham, of 56 Duck-street, Rushden, awarded to his son, the late Pte W Clapham.
The Wellingborough News Friday 16 May 1919, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Publicly Honoured - Rushden Father Received Dead Son's Medal

On Monday afternoon, at the parade of the R.E. Signals Dept., Wellingborough on the Market Square, Capt. Lowth (Commanding Officer) presented two Military Medals. The first was to Mr Clapham, of 56 Duck-Street, Rushden, father of the late Private Wm Clapham, of the Highland Light Infantry.

The other was to Corpl. F.W. Walden of the Northants Regiment, 17 Hatton Park-road, Wellingborough. Corpl Walden served for nineteen months with the 6th Northamptons in France and was discharged from the Army last March. He was awarded the medal for gallantry in the field on July 31st, 1918, for remaining at his post during the progress of heavy infantry and gas attack.

William Clapham MMKettering Leader, 23rd May 1919, transcribed by Kay Collins

Military Medal - Rushden Father Receives Son’s Award

Mr. Arthur Clapham, of 56 Duck-street, Rushden, on Monday received the Military Medal at Wellingborough, awarded to his second son, Pte. William Clapham, of the Highland Light Infantry for devotion to duty, who was killed in action last year.

The late Pte. Clapham had served over seven years in the Army, and went through the Retreat of Mons. He was 24 years of age.

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