All welcome to attend the meeting. Non-members £3 on the door. Refreshments will be served at the end of the meeting.
Today we remember Able Seaman Robert Warner Clarke of Broadway who died, aged 19, 76 years ago during the Second World War. Robert, known as Bob, was a member of the crew on submarine HMS P311 when she was sunk by a mine on 8th January 19431 off the coast of Tavolara Island, a small island to the north east of Sardinia.
Bob, was born in Broadway, one of nine children of Frank Thomas Clarke and May Clarke (née Meadows). After the outbreak of the Second World War, Bob enlisted with the Royal Navy Submarine Service and was posted to serve on HMS P311.
HMS P311 was a T-class submarine and the only boat of her class never to have been given a name. She was launched on 5th March 1942 and commissioned 5 months later on 7th August. HMS P311 was supposed to have been assigned the name Tutankhamen but was lost before this was formally done. She had joined the 10th Submarine Flotilla at Malta from Scotland in November 1942 and was attacked and sunk whilst en-route to Maddalena, Sardinia sometime between her final signal on 31st December 1942 and her failure to report on 8th January 19431.
When HMS P311 was lost she was carrying a crew of 71 men, commanded by Richard Douglas Cayley, DSO, RN2. The wreck recently found by divers on 21st May 2016 close to Tavolara Island in the Mediterranean. The vessel is reported to be in good condition with only her bow damaged by the mine explosion and all the bodies of the men are reported to be still on-board having died of suffocation.
Prior to her sinking, whilst in Malta, Able Seaman (no. P/JX 321879) Robert Clarke sent the following letters3 home to his family in Broadway:
4th December 1942
Dear Mum, Dad and all at home,
I hope you received the cable alright & that you are having some good weather & keeping well. I am feeling lovely as where I am the weather is scorching hot. How is everyone down Broadway, tell Dennis Cook4 I will drop him a line very soon but it’s hard to say how long it will take to reach him. When you write to Sid5 tell him I am ok but I don’t expect to see him for a very long time. I wish I could tell you where I am & what this place is like but I can’t.
When you write to me it is best to send it by CW Graphs as they don’t take long to travel.
I am only allowed to send one page so for now I will close with lots of love to all.
20th December 1942
Dear Mum, Dad and all at home,
I hope this short letter finds you in the best of health as it leaves me. I hope you all had a good Xmas as I didn’t do so bad myself accordingly. Last night I had a great surprise I walked into a club with my mate and met Eddie Procter6 the chap from Willersey who married Kathleen Keyte from the bottom of our avenue, he looks well and seems quite happy, him and I are going out together tomorrow if everything is ok.
Has Sid been home on leave lately or has he gone abroad? I would like to see him now. I expect it will be a long while before I am home again but when I do come I hope to have some money saved up. Did you get the £2 I sent to go on my Savings Book that Auntie has got? I will send some more as soon as I can if you will put it on the Book for me.
Give my best to Nibs and all the rest, and tell Kathleen Keyte I saw Eddie.
With all my love Mum,
Bob and the rest of the crew of HMS P311 are commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval War Memorial (Panel 74, Column 1) in Hampshire and Bob is commemorated on the War Memorial in Broadway.
Broadway History Society
- HMS P311 was reported overdue on 8th January 1943 when she failed to return to base and it is now presumed that she was sunk by Italian mines on or around 2nd January 1943.
- Richard Douglas Cayley (1907-1943) was one of the most decorated British submariners of the Second World War. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1941. His prowess earned him the nickname “Deadeye Dick”.
- Bob’s letters are published with the permission of Andy Clarke.
- Dennis G. Cook (1922-1977).
- Sid was Bob’s older brother born in Broadway in 1921. Lance Corporal 11416496 Sydney Richard Clarke served with the 7th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment. during the Second World War. He died, aged 24, on 1st April 1946 and is buried in the churchyard at St Eadburgha’s Church, Snowshill Road, Broadway, and is commemorated on Broadway War Memorial.
- Edgar William Proctor served with the 44 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a Flight Sergeant/Air Gunner. He was killed, aged 22, on 22nd January 1944 and is buried in Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Germany, Collective Grave 6. L. 1-7. Son of Thomas and Emily Proctor and husband of Kathleen Elsie Proctor of Broadway, Worcestershire, he is commemorated on Broadway War Memorial.
Our next meeting and talk by David Clark, entitled ‘Sentenced Beyond the Seas, Worcestershire Women Convicts sent to Australia’, will take place on Monday 21st January 2019, starting at 7pm in the Lifford Memorial Hall.
In 1787, Britain chose Australia as the site of a new penal colony and the first fleet of 11 convict ships set sail for Botany Bay arriving on 20th January 1788 to found Sydney, New South Wales, the first European settlement on the continent. Other penal colonies were later established in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1803 and Queensland in 1824. Western Australia was founded in 1829 as a free colony and received convicts from 1850 onwards. South Australia and Victoria, established in 1836 and 1850 respectively, remained free colonies. Penal transportation to Australia peaked in the 1830s and dropped off significantly the following decade. The last convict ship arrived in Western Australia on 10th January 1868.
The majority of convicts were transported for petty crimes. More serious crimes, such as rape and murder, became transportable offences in the 1830s but since they were also punishable by death, comparatively few convicts were transported for such crimes. Amongst the convicts were women from Worcestershire. David will recount the true and fascinating tale of 8 Worcestershire female convicts sentenced to death or transportation in the 1780s to the ‘Land Beyond the Seas’. One of the women would be the progenitor of the largest living family group in Australia today, another would return to England a rich woman.
David Clark was born and raised in London and has lived and worked in Germany and Australia but returned to the UK in 1970 to live in Worcestershire where he is now retired. His career has included working in a shipping office in London’s dockland, as a rep for foreign newspapers and magazines, at Plumrose Foods, Kalamazoo Business Systems, Mazda cars and Rothmans Cigarettes. David has worked in theatre management, had two shops and ended up working for Age Concern. He was also a City Councillor for 20 years and served as Mayor of Worcester.
All welcome. Non-members £3 on the door.
Refreshment will be served at the end of the meeting.
Our next meeting and talk will take place on Monday 10th December in the Lifford Hall, Lower Green, Broadway, starting at 7pm. During the meeting Dr Alan Wadsworth will be giving an illustrated talk on “Farmsteads and Buildings: Recording the past for the future”.
‘Spelling bees’ or spelling contests are a great American tradition, however, as early as 1876 there were newspaper reports of ‘spelling bees’ across towns and villages in the United Kingdom.
In the 1890s regular ‘spelling bee’ competitions were held in the village of Broadway in Worcestershire. One such competition took place on Saturday 12th January 1892 during a meeting of the village’s Congregational Guild. Held in the British Schoolroom, Reverend S. Clarke, conducted the ‘spelling bee’ and members of the Guild were divided in to two classes. In class 1, eleven entered the competition and they were given 20 words that had appeared in a recent copy of the ‘The Daily News’1. Miss Ida Morris spelled the most words correctly and was awarded first prize. In class 2, there were five competitors and the words were selected from the opening chapter of ‘Genesis’. The prize for that class was awarded to the winner, Mr Arthur William Folkes2.
Broadway History Society
- The Daily News, founded in 1846, is famous for its founding editor, Charles Dickens, who remained in the post for only 20 days but continued to write occasional columns for the paper.
- Arthur William Folkes (1871-1905) was born in Broadway, son of William Smith Folkes and Alice Folkes (nee Parker). He married Rosina Ellen Frances in 1897 and died. aged 33, in 1905. His brother died in the First World War and is commemorated on the Broadway War Memorial (see Broadway Remembers).
The next meeting of the Broadway History Society and the first of the 2018/19 Programme of Events, will take place on Monday 17th September with an illustrated talk by Richard Johnson from the GWSR. Richard will be updating us on Broadway Station which reopened in March.
The meeting will start promptly at 7pmand will take place in main hall in the Lifford Memorial Hall, Lower Green, Broadway. Refreshments will be served at the end of the meeting.
During the meeting Hon.Treasurer Mary Smith will be collecting subs for the 2018/19 year, £10 for individual membership and £15 for a couple (cheques payable to ‘Broadway History Society’).