World War One - Scarborough St Martins

R.I.P.
- Gunner Fred Harris Coates
- Sub Lieutenant William Henry Clarkson
- Corporal Henry Clifford Stephenson
- Rifleman Edmund Daws
- Second Lieutenant John Francis Newlove

No stranger to the demise of many ‘Old Martinians’ throughout the course of the war of 1914-1919, the Headmaster of Scarborough’s St Martins Grammar School, Mr George S. Turnbull, had reported in the1917 edition of the school’s magazine;

‘By 1917 membership of the [old Boy’s] Association had reached 200. Our losses in old boys killed were increasingly heavy. A letter to the present writer by Frank Newlove on December 7,1916 is to us now sadly prophetic. ‘Since last I wrote you I am afraid a great many of the old boys have gone. I said goodbye to Harry Stephenson just before leaving the Battalion, but hadn’t time to see his brother in law. I was more than sorry to hear they had both fallen. Harry gained rapid promotion shortly after the first attack on the Somme…I also saw poor old Reveley just before his battalion went to that part of the line. We knew where they were going and they all had our sympathy. I didn’t see Ted Daws, as there was only the one evening, and we didn’t have much time’. Ted [Edmund] Daws was reported missing, presumed dead, in September 1916. Frank himself, 2ND Lieutenant 9TH Highland Light Infantry, was killed in action on June 26TH of this year. Seven of the Old Boys who played against the school in that cricket match on June 24, 1914, were killed. The reference to Harry’s promotion is to his promotion to sergeant ‘for his bravery and coolness at Contalmaison’. He was highly spoken of by his men. He was top scorer [12] for the Old Boys in the match above’….[1]

Towards the end of 1917 St Martins had lost two more members of the Old Boy’s Association. 123521 Gunner/Signaller Fred Harris Coates had been born in Scarborough at No.65 St Johns Road on the 15TH of October 1898 and had been the youngest son of Charles, a well-known Scarborough cab driver and latterly cab proprietor, and Annie Elizabeth [formally Harris] Coates. For much of his life Fred had lived in the town at No31 Norwood Street from where his father had ran his cab business, however, by 1913 the family had moved into No.33Avenue Road [the former home of his maternal grandparents, Mary and William Harris], where Fred’s father, Charles Coates had died on Friday the 18TH of July 1913 at the age of fifty one years.

Initially a pupil of Miss Elizabeth Tibbett’s Infant Department of Falsgrave Board School from the age of four, at the age of seven Fred had transferred to Scarborough’s Central Board School where he had remained in William Northrop’s Boys Junior Department until the age of ten, when he had ‘gone up’ to St Martins Grammar School. A student at St Martins between 1908 and 1913, Fred had left the school to begin work as a trainee clerk with the North Eastern Railway Company. Based in the N.E.R.’s Hull office, Fred had remained with the company until his enlistment into the army [at Scarborough] during the spring of 1916.

Following his elder brother Charles’s example, Fred Coates had chosen to enlist into the Royal Regiment of Artillery and had served as a gunner and eventually as a signaller in the Royal Garrison Artillery. After training in England and County Down Northern Ireland, he had been posted to during the spring of 1917 to the 265TH Siege Battery of the R.G.A. which had been equipped with the huge fifteen and a half tons 9.2 inch howitzers, and had been serving in the Ypres Salient of the Flanders front with the 22ND Brigade of the R.G.A..

Heavily involved in the Third Battle of Ypres during July-November 1917, Fred’s formation had taken part in many of the operations during ‘Third Wipers’, the battery’s monster guns capable of tossing a 290lbs projectile the size of a dustbin, over nine miles providing much of the heavy firepower that in the end had turned Flanders field into a veritable quagmire.

The exact details surrounding the death of Gunner/Signaller Coates are not known. The trouble with heavy artillery had been that the guns had invariably been sited in fixed positions that had obviously made them vulnerable to enemy observation and consequently enemy artillery fire. Officially recorded as being killed in action, probably as a result of German shellfire, on Tuesday the 11TH of December 1917, news of the death of her beloved son had reached Annie Coates six days later, the tidings subsequently being reported in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 21ST of December 1917;

‘Young soldier killed in action - News has been received by Mrs. Coates, 55 Avenue Road, Scarborough, that her youngest son, Gunner Fred Harris Coates, R.G.A., has been killed at the front. He was only 19, and before joining up was engaged as a clerk on the North Eastern Railway. He was a wireless operator, and had been in France about six months. His late father was a well known cabman at Scarborough. A brother, the only other son of Mrs. Coates, is serving. Before joining up he was engaged at Messrs. Cross, Birdsall, and Black, solicitors, and was well known in football circles locally’…

[Born in Scarborough during 1886, Fred’s elder brother Charles William Coates had served throughout the war as a Private [Regimental Number DM/21713] in the Motor Transport Section of the Army Service Corps. He had survived].

The remains of Fred Coates had eventually been taken to a burial ground located two kilometres to the east of Ypres known as Menin Road South Military Cemetery, where the young soldier had been interred in Section 3, N, Grave 29, amongst the final resting places of over 1,500 fellow casualties of the ‘Great War to be found in the cemetery.

In Scarborough, apart from the Oliver’s Mount Memorial Fred Coates’s name is barely discernable on a badly weathered War Memorial situated outside St Martins Parish Church which commemorates forty one ‘Old Martinians’ who had lost their lives during the war of 1914-19. the gunner’s name can also be found in the town’s Manor Road Cemetery [Section K, Row 9, Grave 56], on a now [2006] broken gravestone which incorrectly states that he had been killed in action in France on the 12TH of December 1917. The memorial also bears the name of Fred’s Scarborough born parents Charles [who had been interred in the plot on the 19TH of July 1913], and Annie Elizabeth Coates, who died shortly after Fred Harris on the 6TH of April 1918, at the age of 56 years [buried in Manor Road on the 9TH of April].

A year after Fred’s death, on Friday the 13TH of December 1918, the following had appeared in the ‘In Memoriam’ section of that day’s ‘Scarborough Mercury;

‘In loving memory of our dear brother, Fred Harris Coates, killed in France, December 12TH 1917. Buried in Menin Road South Cemetery, Ypres—Ever remembered by his loving sisters, Eva and Elsie, and brother in law Wallace’…

It had been a single sniper’s bullet that had claimed the life of the second Martinian to die during December 1917. Sub Lieutenant William Herbert Clarkson.

Attached to the Drake Battalion [belonging to the 189TH Brigade of the 63RD [Royal Naval] Division] of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Clarkson had been born in Scarborough at No.43 Victoria Road on the 6TH of December 1889, and had been the only son of Elizabeth and Samuel Clarkson, a ‘Saddler/Harness Maker’ who had carried on his business from nearby No.48 Victoria Road. A pupil at St Martins between 1902 and 1907, Clarkson had left the school to work in the South Cliff office of accountant Mr. Fred G. Stephenson, whose office had been located at No.4 Avenue Victoria. After a period with Mr Stephenson, Clarkson had moved to London, where he had been employed as a clerk in the Leadenhall Street offices of corn merchants Messrs Joseph Rank.

A veteran of three years hard fighting with the Naval Division, Clarkson had initially enlisted during 1914 as an Ordinary Seaman in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and had served in ‘A’ Company of the Nelson Battalion. Also a former pupil of the new [1900] Scarborough Municipal School [1901-2], following training at Blandford [Dorset] Clarkson and the remainder of the 1ST Naval Brigade had embarked at Avonmouth in the Cunard Line’s R.M.S. Franconia for service in the Middle East and eventually Gallipoli. During May 1915 Clarkson [by then a Petty Officer] had written a letter to his former school’s Headmaster, Mr. Alfred S. Tetley, describing…

‘We left England on March 1ST for Port Said. After 18 days there we moved to an island [Tresbukis Bay at the Greek Island of Skyros, where the poet Rupert Brooke had died on the 23RD of April 1915 from the effects of an infected mosquito bite], where we were until proceeding to Gallipoli…Our battalion landed at a point [Gaba Tepe, later to become known as ‘Anzac Cove’] where Australians had done earlier in the week. The Colonials made a splendid job of landing, and much credit is due to them…We were in dugouts up to Sunday night, when we went right up to firing, and had an engagement after dawn the following morning….We had fire from three sides, and naval guns were acting as our artillery. Unfortunately, I got knocked out quite early managing to get hit in the left arm. I’m now in hospital in Egypt. The English residents look well after us. We’re quite cosmopolitan here. The doctors are Egyptian, the Sisters, French, the orderlies, Arabs; half the wounded are French, and most of the British are Colonials…. I expect to be ready to be sent back to base within a week now’…

[The Scarborough Municipal School Magazine; Midsummer Term 1915]

Clarkson had returned to Gallipoli during May 1915. Landing at the southern tip of the Peninsular at Cape Helles; an account of his ‘doings’ during this period had eventually been included in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 20TH of August under the banner of; ‘Scarboro seaman at Dardanelles’;

‘We returned wounded had come from the base island in a trawler during the night and arrived off land here during the early hours of Sunday. Arriving at our next camp we found our battalion up in the trenches, and there we joined them late that day until the Tuesday night, when we were relieved. Although we were right in the firing line things were rather quiet at our point, though we were expecting an attack at any moment consequent upon an aerial report. Sniping is always going on, but in our trench the only thing they sniped was a periscope this time’…

Obviously never far from action, shortly, on the 4TH of June 1915, Clarkson had taken part in an operation later named as the ‘Third Battle of Krithia’, during which the R.N.D. had been given the task of capturing three lines of Turkish trenches. He describes;

‘So off we went on our advance of between 300 and 400 yards. Shrapnel and rifle bullets ploughed the ground the whole way. Men dead and with terrible injuries had to be passed, and wounded crawling to holes made by shells for shelter, but we got there. I with about a dozen others was on the extreme left in a small piece of trench, separated from the rest owing to a shell having broken the trench down. There we had a busy firing encounter straight away with the Turks, whom we saw quite plainly in a trench eighty yards away Our artillery were firing in front of us and the bursting of the shells scorched our faces. It was wretched trench and we had to keep improving it and firing at the same time. The chap next to me was shot in the head and died straight away. These trenches stank with dead Turks, and those bodies left in the trench we threw over the parapet at dark. All night the watch was tense and from time to time we could hear the enemy’s cries of ‘Allah!’ ‘Allah’! At dawn we caught the enemy taking up a fresh position, and we were able to account for quite a batch’…

[Although scathingly described by Clarkson, ‘Third Krithia’ had been a futile and expensive operation that had cost the Nelson Battalion over three hundred casualties. Whilst as a whole the Royal Naval Division had lost 55 officers and over 1,300 men killed and wounded].

Exhausted by the recent fighting the R.N.D. had taken no further part in offensive operations at Gallipoli, and throughout the remainder of the ill-fated campaign the land locked sailors and Marines had manned various sections of trenches on the peninsular.

Following the general withdrawal from Gallipoli during late December 1915 and early 1916, the various units of 1ST Naval Brigade had been sent to garrison the Greek islands of Lemnos, Imbros, and Tenedos, whilst the military authorities had decided what to do with the sorely depleted Naval Division, which at one stage had been on the verge of disbandment. However, the decision had later been taken to reorganise the unit for service in France with the British Expeditionary Force, Clarkson’s Nelson Battalion being reorganised with the Hood, Drake, and Hawke Battalion’s to form the 189TH Brigade of the newly designated 63RD [Royal Naval] Division, which had begun to arrive in Marseilles during May 1916.

A survivor of operations on the Ancre during the latter stages of the Somme Offensive of 1916, Clarkson had returned to ‘blighty’ for training with No.6 Officer Training Battalion, which had been located at Balliol College Oxford, and had subsequently been gazetted as a Sub Lieutenant during May 1917 and had endured the Western Front for the remainder of his life with the Drake Battalion of the R.N.D, having taken part in many of the Division’s operations including the Second Battle of the Scarpe [the third phase of the Arrras Offensive], when, on the 23RD of April 1917 the R.N.D. had captured, albeit with heavy casualties, the village of Gavrelle. Also a survivor of the horrors of the Second Battle of Passchendaele [26 October-10 November] where Clarkson had been involved in operations described by Jerrold;

’It is safe to say that the division was never confronted with a task which, on the lines laid down to them, was more impossible of fulfilment’…[2]

Regardless of the hopelessness of the situation the Division had been sent into action against the enemy’s positions on Passchendaele Ridge between the 26TH and 30TH of October by which time the R.N.D. had suffered over three thousand casualties [Clarkson had been amongst eight officers from the R.N D. who had subsequently been awarded with a Military Cross for their gallant actions during the above operations]

Killed in action during Sunday the 30TH of December 1917 during a counter attack which had been made at dawn that day by Germans troops dressed in white camouflage suits to the north of the village of La Vacqueire which had almost resulted in the loss of ‘Welsh Ridge’, a recently captured position to the south of Cambrai, the action is once again described by Jerrold;

‘Every effort was made to effect surprise, the enemy even going so far as to dress the leading wave in white to match the snow. Nevertheless, the measure of success which the attack met with was due rather to a stroke of singular misfortune than to any display of cunning by the enemy. Under cover of the barrage, the leading waves effected a lodgement in the front line of the 190TH Brigade and at the junction of the Hood and 7TH Royal Fusiliers and of the Drake and Howe Battalions. The right flank battalion, and most of the Hood and Drake Battalions, stood fast. Elsewhere on the right and in the centre, the enemy penetrated only to the front line’…[2]

Having lost the majority of their positions on the crest of Welsh Ridge, the Royal Naval Division had set about recapturing the ridge during the afternoon of the thirtieth. The attack, carried out by the Anson Battalion along with elements of Clarkson’s Drake Battalion, had been a ‘brilliant success, ‘A’ Company of the Anson reoccupied the vital position on Welsh Ridge with the loss of only three men. To Commander Buckle and to the officers and men of this company belongs most of the credit for what Sir Douglas Haig in his dispatch described as an ‘admirably executed counter attack…which regained all the essential parts of our former positions’…

Amongst 63 officers and 1, 355 other ranks of the R.N.D. that had been killed, wounded, or reported missing as a result of the assault and ensuing two days of bitter fighting at Welsh Ridge, the news of their twenty eight year old son’s death had reached Elizabeth and Samuel Clarkson [by 1917 living in Scarborough at ‘Larch House’, No.14 Raleigh Street] early in the new year of 1918. The tidings had been reported in the first casualty list of 1918 which had appeared in the ‘Scarborough Mercury of Friday the fourth of January. In addition, Clarkson’s obituary had been included in the edition of ‘The Martinian’ that had been published during the spring of 1918 appeared;

‘Quoting from ‘The Court Journal’ under date Jan.25TH 1918: --‘He went all through the first part of the Gallipoli campaign, where he was wounded, and was invalided to Egypt. He soon recovered, and was back again in Gallipoli, and braved all the perils of that never to be forgotten evacuation. Is fine presence, loyalty of spirit, and born capacity for leadership amongst young men soon made him a marked man. Receiving the Certificate of Merit for his fine performance in the Gallipoli transactions, he was subsequently promoted to Leading Seaman, then Petty Officer, and after a short

period of training at Oxford was gazetted to the Drake Battalion of the R.N.D., and left at Whitsuntide, 1917, for the front. Here he so distinguished himself that his name appeared in the ‘Supplement to the London Gazette’, 25TH April, 1918, as one of those to whom the Military Cross was awarded ‘for leading his men, under heavy machine gun fire, to the capture of a dangerous concrete strongpoint. It was due to his initiative that the operation was successful, and the position put into a state of defence’…He was killed just north of La Vacquerie by a snipers bullet through the heart. The following are some tributes to his character: -- ‘I have never known an officer combine fatherly interest in the men with such a high standard of military efficiency’. ‘He was my right hand man, always taking more than his fair share of work, with less grumbling than anyone I ever met’. ‘He taught many of us how to live, and I know he has made dying easier for me’….

Although buried during the war in a battlefield grave, by the end of hostilities, like so many gravesites created throughout the war, the final resting place of Lieutenant Clarkson had been lost amongst the debris and squalor of the Western Front of Northern France and his remains had never been recovered. Although qualifying for inclusion on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing at Louverval, for some unknown reason Clarkson’s name had been commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of those men that had been lost in the Somme Sector, his name being included amongst the names of the missing of the R.N.D. featured on Pier and Face 1A of the memorial.

During July 1918 the parents of Lieutenant Clarkson had received from the Admiralty a brown paper package containing their son’s Military Cross, which had been awarded to William in the wake of the Third Battle of Ypres of 1917, which had begun almost exactly a year earlier. The decoration had been accompanied by a citation, which had read;

‘On the 4TH of November 1917, south east of Poelcapelle, this officer displayed great skill and devotion to duty in handling his men under very heavy machine gun fire whilst assaulting Tournant Farm. In spite of heavy fire he went forward with great gallantry, and assisted in the capture of a very dangerous enemy concrete strongpoint. It was owing to his personal initiative that the operations became successful, and the positions were put into an efficient state of defence. This officer has always displayed great gallantry and courage’….

In Scarborough, apart from the town’s Oliver’s Mount Memorial, Lieutenant Clarkson’s name is commemorated on the St Martins Church Memorial, and also on a ‘Roll of Honour’ which can be found in the foyer of Hoxton Road Wesleyan Chapel,

where during the evening of Sunday the sixth of January 1918 a Memorial Service, dedicated to Lieutenant Clarkson had taken place. During his address, the Minister, The Reverend E. Westerdale, had stated that Clarkson had ‘made the supreme sacrifice in the noblest of causes to which any life could be given, and although he had given promise of a career of exceptional usefulness, it had been to die like he had done than stop at home and do nothing’…

[1] The old Martinians mentioned had been; 15984 Corporal Henry Clifford Stephenson. A pupil at St Martins from 1898 to 1904, Harry had been born at Scarborough during 1888 and had been the son of Elizabeth and Florist, Robert Stephenson. Killed in action during the latter stages of the Somme Offensive on the 20TH of September 1916, whilst serving with the 9TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, Harry had been recorded as being ‘a very reliable full back at football and a choir boy and man at St Martins, and a loyal supporter of the School till his death’, the remains of Harry Stephenson had never been recovered from the battlefield, his name is commemorated on Pier and Face 3A and 3D of the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

C/12526 Rifleman Edmund Daws. Born in Scarborough during 1887, ‘Ted’ had been the son of Sarah Jane and Samuel James Daws and had lost his life whilst serving on the Somme with the 21st Battalion [Yeoman Rifles] of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, on the 15TH of September 1916. Another ‘Old Martinian’ with ‘No Known Grave’, Ted Daws is also commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial [Pier and Face 13A and 13D].
[A more detailed biography of Ted Daws is included in the chapters dealing with the Somme Offensive of 1916].

Born in Scarborough during 1890 the author of the letter; 2ND Lieutenant John Francis Newlove had been the youngest son of draper Mark William and Camilla Newlove. A pupil of St Martins between 1900 and 1905, Frank had subsequently worked for a time with his father in the family business in Scarborough’s South Street until he had ‘gone up’ to London where he had worked for drapers Jones& Higgins of Peckham, and Evans of Oxford Street. Frank had enlisted into the army in Scarborough during September 1914 and had subsequently served with the 10TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment during the Battle of Loos, where he had been wounded during September 1915. Gazetted to the rank of Second Lieutenant at the end of 1916, Frank had served on the Western Front with ‘B’ Company of the Territorial 1ST/9TH Battalion [Glasgow Highlanders] of the Highland Light Infantry, and had been serving with this unit in the Croisilles Sector of Northern France, when on Monday the 25TH of June 1917 he had been killed by a shell that had fallen on ‘B’ Company’s Headquarters. Barely married for a month, the remains of the 28 years old Frank Newlove had subsequently been interred in Croisilles British Cemetery [Section 1,G, 15].

The epitome of all that had been expected of an ‘Old Martinian’, during a Memorial Service dedicated to the fallen officer which had taken place on Tuesday the 10TH of July 1917 at Scarborough’s Holy Trinity Church, the Reverend H. Merryweather, in his address, had spoken of three qualities which had especially marked Frank Newlove’s character, ‘joyousness, dependability, and his Christian qualities’…
[The names of these three men are also included on the Oliver’s Mount War Memorial].

[2] The Royal Naval Division; Douglas Jerrold; Hutchinson & Co; 1923.

Share this article

Request our email newsletter for all our latest news and information
Contact us

01723 369361
scarboroughmaritime@yahoo.com
45 Eastborough, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1NH, England

We are here

Opening times

Monday
.......................
........................................................
.......................
Closed
Tuesday
.......................
........................................................
.......................
Closed
Wednesday
.......................
........................................................
.......................
11am - 4pm
Thursday
.......................
........................................................
.......................
11am - 4pm
Friday
.......................
........................................................
.......................
11am - 4pm
Saturday
.......................
........................................................
.......................
11am - 4pm
Sunday
.......................
........................................................
.......................
11am - 4pm
© SCARBOROUGH MARITIME HERITAGE CENTRE LIMITED
Registered charity No 1144532. Company No 06755717.