War Veteran: John Clarke MBE
Second World War veteran John Clarke MBE, of Ware, died on Wednesday October 5, aged 98.
Born on April 19, 1924, John was just 17 when he volunteered for the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment. When he was old enough to go to war, he traveled extensively fighting in North Africa, Italy and Greece.
In Italy, John fought in the intense fighting at Monte Cassino, one of the savagest battles of World War II. Serving in Italy between 1943 and 1945, he was a proud member of the D-Day Dodgers, a famous group of fighters who fought their way through the mountains in mud, snow and rain. It is also suggested that he may have been involved in writing some lyrics.
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In May 1947 John left the army and returned to his home town of Manchester where he returned to work for Metro-Vickers in Trafford and started a family with his late wife Olive.
Dick Goodwin, Vice President of Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, said: “John was awarded an MBE in 2005 in recognition of the courage and bravery he displayed on the Italian battlefield and his tireless work for forty years organizing return trips to the Italian region. secretary of the Monte Cassino Veterans Association, John was behind a fundraising campaign to fund veterans’ pilgrimages so that veterans could pay their respects to their fallen comrades. He lived nearby and was a fabulous storyteller and a true gentleman. We will miss him very much.”
In February 2021, when the Taxi Charity asked veterans for accounts of “brief encounters” during wartime, John shared this story of an incident at St Enoch Station in Glasgow in the fall of 1943. He said “Sometimes it pays to volunteer, as I did in late fall 1943, as life was getting boring in our makeshift camp at Djidjelli in Algeria.
“We were on the beach doing nothing when an officer came up and said ‘I want two volunteers’. I looked at my friend Vinnie, he nodded, we both got up and said, ‘I will.’
“We duly arrived at Brigade HQ and a few minutes later were on our way to port, where we boarded the French ship ‘Cuba’ – smelly and old – bound for the UK. We were said that we would keep prisoners of war, who would be imprisoned in the United Kingdom.
“The trip was uneventful, and we arrived in the Clyde, with seven days leave and train tickets, and were told to return to St. Enoch station in Glasgow, where transport would take us would drive to our ship home.As I had no home in To return to Manchester, I stayed at the Salvation Army Hostel near the city center and met some old friends, most of whom worked 24 hours a day. 24 on war work. But all in all a happy visit. The time came for me to return to Glasgow , and arrived safely at St Enoch’s Station about noon.
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“I was walking along the platform towards the exit when a young female doorman, dressed in station uniform and wearing tight trousers, sped past me. stopped to pick something up and, as she bent down, even though I was carrying my kitbag over my left shoulder, I instinctively gave her a loving smack on her behind.
“She tripped, I realized my mistake and put my bag down to help her up. No need, she was on her feet like a shot, eyes blazing, fist in my face, anger in every move. “Awa ye midden ye” she shouted, and nearby passengers gave her support.
“Seeing my look of contrition, she did an incredible thing. She put her arms around my neck and gave me a kiss in remembrance. The passengers cheered and she said ‘come back safely, soldier “as she sped away.”
John’s funeral will take place at noon on October 25 at Christchurch New Road, Ware, SG12 7BS. His children Susan and Stephen would welcome those who knew their father and veterans to join them. Learn more about the support Taxi Charity provides for veterans or donate here.
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