Scope and Contents
The scrapbooks contain letters, press cuttings, sketch maps, printed army documents, including regulations and training instructions, tables of army rations, rough handwritten notes, movement orders, leave passes, sports papers and demobilisation papers. There are also photographs, many of which were taken during Clarke's regular tours of inspection among the frontline troops while he was at Bethune, and which include scenes from the trenches.
Biographical / Historical
Arthur Oldrid Temple Clarke, R.A.S.C., was born in 1880 and spent his early life in the Fenland towns of Ely, Whittlesey and Wisbech, where his father was a local solicitor. He attended Wisbech Grammar School for four years before moving on to a boarding school at York, then a public school at Cranfield. On leaving school around 1897 he was articled for three years to the solicitor John Peed of Whittlesey, then for two years with the firm of Speechly & Co., New Inn, London. During his youth Clarke became a fine all round sportsman, playing football, rugby and cricket for local Fenland teams and pursuing what was to become a lifelong interest in boxing. After qualifying as a solicitor around 1902 he joined a friend's practice in Ely where he was appointed registrar to the county court. He developed a career in local government, first as assistant solicitor to Shoreditch Local Authority, and later as Secretary (Deputy Town Clerk) to Lewisham Local Authority. Upon the reorganisation of London's local government, Clarke moved to Highbury, Islington where he set up in private practice around 1905. At this time he became legal adviser to the Boxers' Union and the Wrestlers' and Weightlifting Associations. He was an active Freemason in the borough of Islington Lodge, and sat for three terms as a Conservative member of Islington borough council. He was also a member of the local Board of Guardians.
With the outbreak of war in 1914 Clarke sold his legal practice and joined the Territorial Force. He was commissioned in the Army Service with the rank of Lieutenant, and was promoted to the acting rank of Captain on 10 October 1915. Clarke's unit was attached to the divisional train of the 66th East Lancashire Division, which began to assemble at Southport, Lancashire, in the autumn of 1914. Between 1914 and early 1917 the Division was stationed in various parts of England. Clarke's main duty was as supply officer to the 199th infantry brigade (the Manchesters). On 22 February 1917, whilst stationed at Colchester, Clarke received orders to proceed with the divisional train to Bethune in Northern France, in advance of the main force. It was during the course of his military service in France and Flanders that Clarke compiled his scrapbooks of memorabilia.
As supply officer Clarke was required to ride out to ensure the full quota of rations were being delivered, carry out inspections of fortresses and keeps and maintain the smooth administration of the supply network. As Bethune suffered badly from enemy shelling, much of the work of supply was carried out at night. The 66th Division fought at Ypres in the autumn of 1917, and as part of the Fifth Army it bore the full brunt of the great German offensive of March 1918. During 1918 Clarke was posted to the Advanced Horse Transport Depot, R.A.S.C., at Abbeville. The depot was a vast establishment of 6,000 men and a similar number of animals. Its main work was to supply 'refitments' of personnel, animals, vehicles and harnesses, although it was also responsible for matters of local supply. Initially Clarke served as road transport officer, riding out to observe that all was well with the transport. Later he was made officer commanding the Royal Engineers (R.E.) section, responsible for refitments of both horse and motorised transport for the R.E. Clarke was also responsible for the administration of special training courses in animal husbandry and related skills. Following the end of the war he remained in France on special duty, although as an officer in the Territorial Force he found his rank and pay reduced to that of a Lieutenant. The depot was gradually reduced to a cadre formation, and he was posted first to St Omer as Transport Officer, and then to a Chinese labour company whose task was to sift and load oats for the British Army of Occupation in the Rhine.
On 20 August 1919 Clarke married Miss Kate E. Rowe, second daughter of the late Charles Rowe, former Mayor of Exeter. She was a keen sportswoman, who represented Devon at lawn tennis and badminton. Having spent a year after the outbreak of war employed at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, as a munitions worker, she was posted in 1915 as a volunteer to the Y.M.C.A. hut at No. 2 Stationary Hospital, Abbeville, with her sister Edith. The hut was converted into a casualty clearing station where she worked as a triage nurse until the end of the war. She was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Victoria medal.
Clarke was not demobilised until June 1920. Whilst on leave in London in early 1918 he had decided to qualify as a barrister and had become a member of Gray's Inn. In the autumn of 1920 he entered Christ’s College, Cambridge, to study Law. He was awarded a B.A. in 1922, and M.A. in 1926. Whilst at Christ's Clarke was Secretary and later President of the College Law Society. He was also joint treasurer of the University Boxing Club and a member of the University Masonic Lodge. During this period Clarke suffered from failing eyesight, which several operations failed to rectify. As a consequence, he abandoned his Law plans and settled near his wife's family, at Exmouth, Devon. In 1929 he became Principal of the Royal Veterinary College and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers. Subsequently he was made a Freeman of the City of London. By the early 1930s, however, he had virtually retired from professional life, although he continued to pursue his boxing interests.
After the war Clarke was a member of the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden. He knew a number of professional boxers in his capacity as legal adviser to the Boxers' Union and its post-war successor, the National Boxing Association. When he moved to Exmouth he was co-opted onto the Western Area Council of the British Boxing Board of Control. Until his sight deteriorated he held a Class A licence as a boxing referee, and then he took up a licence as a promoter of professional boxing, organising bouts in the south-west of England.
In 1938 Clarke published an account of his experiences during the First World War, 'Transport and sport in the great war era'. This was followed in 1955 by a further volume of memoirs, 'A tangled skein of reminiscence', and in 1956 by 'Some views on boxing'. His wife died in 1951, by which time he was completely blind. During his remaining years he lived at Hill Crest, St John's, Withycombe, Devon. Christ's College alumni records note he was alive in 1957, aged 77.