Willie Tony Clarke

1892-1955


 

This directory contains information and documents about Kate and Anthony Clarke's 6th child Willie Tony, and his family. This is the line of both Roger Clarke and Anne Kratzmann, and is fairly prolific; so there's quite a lot in this branch of the site.

For details of Kate's life, see her own directory.

For details of Kate’s very interesting first husband Anthony, including his families with other wives, see the AJCheeper/Clarke directory.

1892-1901 (aged 0-9 years)

Willie Tony was born on 8 Mar 1892, while the family was at 282 Ivydale Road, Brockley Lewisham (S. London). His birth certificate shows his father as Anthony Clarke, book publisher, and his mother as Kate Clarke.

Anne found his Baptism record on 17 Oct 1897 at Waverley Park Mission, Nunhead, jointly with siblings 3-8.

He appears in the the 1901 Census entry (page 1, page 2) as Willie T., son, 9, born Nunhead (an adjacent suburb to Lewisham, so near enough).

1901-1917 (aged 9-25)

The family has no knowledge of Willie Tony's location between 1901 (aged 9) and 1915 (aged 23). We assume he was with his mother in South London until about 14 years of age, c. 1906. His father, by then aged 68, had abandoned his mother sometime around 1901-04, leaving multiple young mouths to feed.

We suspect he may have enlisted about 1906-08, at age 14-16. This is based primarily on the known facts that:

In the 1911 Census, the most likely entry Anne's found is National Archive Reference: RG14PN6336 RD112 SD2 ED13 SN9999. The entry is for a William Clarke, single, aged 20, in Bhurtpore Military Barracks, South Tedworth, Hampshire. The town is now known as Tidworth, is 5 miles west of Andover and 12 miles north of Salisbury, and has migrated from North Hampshire to Wiltshire. (The barracks were named, like others in the vicinity, after battles in India and Afghanistan. By 1916-19, it had become the Headquarters of the AIF Depots in the United Kingdom. It is now home to the 1st Mechanised Brigade).

William is shown as being born at Mitcham, Surrey. Mitcham is 9 miles SW of where our Willie Tony was actually born at Brockley Lewisham. William is shown as being born in 1891. Our Willie Tony was actually born in 1892; but he may have had to put his age up a year to get into the Army, and thereafter had to live the lie.

Willie Tony was a London-born man with no connections with Hampshire (and probably none even with his mother's original home in Dorset). So a reasonable surmise is that he did recruit training in what was then Hampshire, or served initially in a non-regional unit, and later transferred into the infantry in the area in which he was serving at the time.

The earliest knowledge anyone in the family seems to have had of Willie Tony is in 1915, at age 23. He was billeted on George Henry (Harry) Haskins in Romsey (between Winchester and Southampton). That resulted in an introduction to Harry's younger brother Frederic, in Portsmouth. There Willie Tony met Frederic's daughter, Ethel Mary (Queenie).

By that stage he was an NCO in the Hampshire Regiment. There are rumours of some colour in his youth and early adulthood. His sister-in-law, Freda, was never a fan of his, that much was clear. Several members of the family have said, independently, that Willie Tony had been in the Royal Hampshire Regiment, and that he used to go to reunions in Winchester. The badge visible in his wedding photo bears a strong resemblance to that of the Hampshire Regiment. And the birth certificate for his first child shows his occupation as 'Sergeant, 3rd Hants Regiment'.

One further piece of evidence is that his medal box, sent from John Miller (?) via Margaret Miller (?) to his eldest son Fred, in 2005 contained only a World War I Star (but no British War Medal or Victory Medal). That appears to be consistent with a soldier who never served in a theatre of war during WWI.

There used to be a considerable amount of inconsistency on the various web-sites that describe the Regiment; but the quality has been improving. Here is a list of the battalions. What it says about the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, extant 1881-1953, is consistent with all of the little we know: a depot/training unit that remained in the UK throughout WWI, in Winchester in August 1914, and from January 1915 to the end of the War in Gosport as part of Portsmouth Garrison. (Willie Tony was said by Kath and/or Enid to have had a liaison in Gosport, because he was supporting a child there c. 1918). Here's a short history of the Regiment. I had hoped that the Regimental Museum in Winchester might help us overcome some of the confusions, but I didn't get any new information there.

Despite multiple searches over the years, we've been unable to find his service, pension or medal records. One of very few near-matches was a Serjeant William <no second name> Clarke, no. 6873. We were leaning towards the theory that he was enlisted in 1914-19 under a name other than variants of Willie Tony Clarke. For example, he might have enlisted in London as early as 1908 aged 16, and might have been dishonourably discharged from a unit other than the Hampshire Regiment, in (say) 1913, aged 20-21, and re-enlisted in the Hampshire Regiment, necessarily under a different name. If something along those lines added to the disreputable father, the disjointed childhood, and the child born in Gosport out of wedlock, it would have been understandable if Willie Tony had some reluctance to 'tell the story of his life' to his wife and kids.

Then, in September 2016, Ken provided new information: Willie Tony had been in India, Mauritius and Egypt. Ken had an impression (from conversations in c.1950) that Willie Tony may have not been well when he returned from India (which I speculate was in late 1914). Ken also said he was offered warrant rank to go (back) to India, but Queenie opposed the idea. That leads to the following speculations about Willie Tony's service:

Willie Tony was engaged to Ethel Mary (Queenie) in 1916. We've never established at what stage of 1916. Their engagement photo shows him in a Sergeant's uniform.

Willie Tony appears in this photo, presumably at a rehab hospital. He's seated, third from the right, and his sleeve carries a Staff-Sergeant's crown. His marriage photo shows only a Sergeant's chevrons, leading to the inference that this photo is from after May 1917. I never heard any mention in the family of him being ill or injured during WWI.

It would have been dangerous to leave the Army before late 1918. Trench warfare was still killing vast numbers of men as late as July 1918, and if he'd left after finishing a regular army contract (e.g. 1908-18), he could have been conscripted straight back in and sent straight to the front lines.

1917-1955 (aged 25-63)

He married Ethel Mary (Queenie) Haskins on 19 May 1917, in St Bartholemew’s, Portsea. Queenie's Haskins and Roberts lines have been well-documented by Peter Haskins and John Miller.

Their first child was born 5 months later, on 16 October 1917, so (far from unusually) it appears that he/they may have anticipated their marriage, or assumed that engagement was a sufficient commitment for conjugality to begin.

The marriage certificate (left, right) shows him as being 24 (although he was already 25), a bachelor and a soldier. His father is shown as Thony Clarke, commercial traveller, and there is no mention of his father being deceased. (He actually died the following year, but they had very likely been out of contact since as long ago as 1904). In the only wedding photo we have, Willie Tony again wore a sergeant's uniform.

Ethel Mary is shown as 20, spinster, and her father as Frederic Haskins, grocer. Both were shown as residing at 4 Cleveland Road. The witnesses were Queenie's sister K.C. Haskins (Kathleen) and F.W. Herridge.

Queenie had worked at Whitcomb& Whitcomb, grocers, in Palmerston Road Southsea. But of course she gave that up when she married, and didn't work again outside the home.Tony was sure that Willie Tony worked at Whitcombs after he left the Army. It couldn't have been from as early as Queenie's marriage in May 1917, but possibly from as early as late 1918 or more likely some time in 1919, and until the Depression forced him out of work about 1929-30. However Ken (born only in 1935) wasn't aware of Willie Tony ever having worked there.

Whitcombs operated for 77 years, from 1902 until 1979. The photo in a newspaper clipping that reported its closure shows the sign at the front as Frank Whitcomb Stores Ltd, the Cheese Specialists.

Apart from a brief period in 1917-18, Willie Tony and Queenie stayed with her parents at 4 Cleveland Rd Southsea following the completion of his contract with the army (or, if he was a conscript, from his demobilisation), so perhaps from 1918 until 1930.

Willie Tony and Queenie had five children. The Cleveland Rd house was more than full, with two couples and by 1930 children aged 13, 11, 8 and 4. In this photo, taken in 2005, 4 Cleveland Road is the house with the cream render to the left of the tree. It was unrendered in the times of the Haskins and Clarkes.

From 1930, they lived at 69 Hayling Avenue Southsea. At that stage, he was 38 and Queenie 33. He was there until his death in 1955 (at 63) and Queenie until hers in 1968 (at 71). This photo of all five children was taken in about 1937.

Like a lot of other people, Willie Tony was out of work for a considerable period during the Depression, from about 1930 until c. Apr 1935, with only sporadic, casual work. At the time, he had a family of four small children. Fred and Tony both went out to work at their first opportunity, c. 1931 and May 1935, with the intention of helping to support the family.

Willie Tony worked in the Royal Navy Dockyards, I think from the mid-late 1930s until some time after the War, possibly as late as 1950. During the War, Willie Tony was a Captain in the Home Guard. (Fred also worked at the Dockyards from before the War until he emigrated to Australia in 1947).

Rue's son, David Clarke says that Willie Tony visited his family in Enfield (probably c. 1943-45, when David would have been 12-14), and came in his Home Guard uniform because it got him a reduction in the train-fare. David and his brothers also visited the Clarkes in Southsea, during and perhaps immediately post-War, and knew Enid, Kath and a young Ken. Through Rue (no. 11), Willie Tony (the middle sibling) would at least have known the whereabouts of Clement (no. 2), and we know that Fred (no. 4) visited Southsea during Fred and Tony's boyhoods.

The photo top-left of this page, full-size here, is from the wedding of Queenie's 19-year-old niece Grace Haskins on 6 Apr 1947, when he was 55 (but looking rather older?). Grace's mother died in 1934, when Grace was 6, and she and her four siblings had been prettymuch abandoned by her father when he remarried in 1942, when Grace was 14. So her father may not have been invited to the wedding, and Willie may have given her away. (I didn't discover the photo until after Tony died, and hence never asked). The other photo at the top is Russell's quickly 'photo-shopped' version of a family photo (taken late on in the War?).

Here's another photo of the two of them, from June 1952.

Willie Tony had always understood that that was merely the name used within the family, and that his formal name was William Anthony. When he went to arrange his army pension (or to collect some insurance, I'm not sure which), he was very surprised to discover that his birth certificate was in the name Willie Tony. He had to fill out an affidavit dated 22 August 1953, to swear that he was himself.

Willie Tony suffered bladder cancer around 1950, in his late 50s. He was in remission for a time, but a second round took him out (possibly with the unwitting assistance of a naughty 5-year-old grandson who made him run after a bus, resulting in a fall in the gutter). He died on 21 April 1955, at 63, at St Mary's Hospital, Milton. His death certificate shows his occupation as foreman's writer.

This is a nice photo of Queenie, with Enid and Fred Miller. I'd interpolated 1954, but Margaret Miller-Baber gave me a beautifully-preserved copy in September 2016 which was marked "Kenneth's wedding, summer 1958".

Queenie continued to live at Hayling Avenue, as did Enid. Queenie passed away on 13 May 1968, at 71, also of cancer. Her death certificate shows the informant as E.M. Clarke, her daughter Enid.

The stories of the 5 children and their families are here:

  1. Frederick William Clarke (1917-2004)
  2. Edward Anthony (Tony) Clarke (1919-2010)
  3. Enid Clarke (1922-2007)
  4. Kathleen Clarke-Smith (1926-2013)
  5. Kenneth (Ken) Clarke, b. 8 May 1935

There are over 60 descendants, as per this Summary.


This a page within Roger Clarke's Family Web-Site

Contact: Roger Clarke and/or Anne Kratzmann

Created: 8 October 2005; Last Amended: 21 March 2012, 20 Dec 2015, 24 Feb 2016 (baptism), 14-18 Sep 2016 (2nd Bn Hants Regt)