Courtesy of Patricia Clancy
Private Arthur John Clancy +
Pakenham & District War Memorial & St Patrick’s Catholic School Roll of Honour
Born: 1883 - Myrtleford, Victoria
Enlisted: 3 February 1916 aged 31
Unit: 37th Battalion, B Company (SERN: 557)
Served: Western Front
Killed in Action: 8 October 1917 - near Zonnebeke (Ypres), Belgium
Arthur John (“Jack”) Clancy was a son of William and Elizabeth Clancy. The Clancy family moved to Pakenham in the 1890s, settling on a property called “Wyuna” near the Toomuc Creek. As a child, Jack attended Pakenham State School (1) and St Patrick’s Catholic School, before following in his father’s footsteps as a farmer (2). He was well known as a cricketer, playing with several other men who would later enlist for WWI including Jack Clements and Richard Copeland. Jack was particularly noted as a bowler, being described variously as “deadly” and “unplayable” (3).
Jack was 31 years old when he enlisted in February 1916. Upon enlistment, he was described as being “a man of good physique” but was suffering from psoriasis (a skin disorder) and required dental work. He was subsequently accepted as fit for service at the Seymour Army Camp (4). Jack left Australia with the 37th Battalion B Company in June 1916 arriving in England in late July 1916. Once in England, Jack was quickly transferred to a trench mortar battery unit (5). Trench mortars were deployed close to the front line and provided vital “fire support” to their brigades. These fired high explosive fragmentation bombs at a high angle, which detonated on impact. Hundred of steel splinters would be created by each bomb blast (6). Jack proceeded to France in late 1916. After serving with different units and a period sick in hospital, Jack was assigned to the 29th Battery, 8th Field Artillery Brigade on 21 June 1917 (7).
In September 1917, Jack was wounded in action during the Third Battle of Ypres, but remained at his post as the wounds were only minor. However, on 5 October 1917 at Zonnebeke near Ypres, Jack was wounded in the head and taken to an Australian Field Ambulance. He subsequently died of his wounds at the 17th Casualty Clearing Station An account of Jack’s death was recorded in a letter from his brother David sent to their mother which was subsequently published in Pakenham Gazette: “I have met fellows out of his battery ... one boy said he thought Jack went ‘over the top’ with the battery signallers who always hop over with the first wave, when an advance is made, in order to take forward a telephone and wires connecting with the battery. This is done so that the battery will have first-hand knowledge of the position of the retiring enemy troops, and therefore be able to do more effective work. It is a risky job, of course - one of the worst - but ... in battle under fire, it is better a thousand times to be doing something with a definite object in view ...” (8). Jack was buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium (9). Amongst the personal effects later returned to his sister Annie in Pakenham was a wrist watch, knife, purses, note book, photographs, letters, cards, rosary beads and a religious emblem (10).
Jack’s death was reported locally at the same time as the wounding of three other Pakenham Diggers: Privates Artie Paternoster, Frank Hornby and Charles Warner (11). The Pakenham Gazette paid tribute to Jack in the following terms: “In his domestic life he was a good son and brother, high principled and unselfish, whilst socially he was greatly liked, a good footballer and tennis player, and on the cricket field his ‘deadly left’ was invaluable to his side and a constant menace and danger to the opposing batsmen. His loss will be greatly felt in future years on both these fields of sport. It may truly be said that he ‘played the game’ equally honourably in his daily life and on the battlefield, and it must be a source of some consolation to the bereaved parents to know that he died bravely fighting our foes. Requiescat in pace” (12). In May 1918, Jack’s family was presented with a gold medallion on behalf of a grateful community (13).
Despite the community’s support and sympathy, Elizabeth Clancy naturally grieved long and hard for Jack and worried all the more for his brother David, who was at the Front. Late in 1918, David wrote home trying to reassure his mother: ”There is something more than death and bloodshed in the war. It teaches you what a little wee thing you are in the scheme of things. This realisation kills the old conceit of being someone of importance and gives birth to another and a nobler one of being just a cog in God’s machinery, and a willing one at that. You worry and are anxious about me .... But surely if I should go [i.e. die] would it not be sufficient to know that I was for a while just a ‘cog’... that you had been responsible for the rearing of a couple of the parts of the greatest of all schemes, and that the shaping showed good results, the parts moulded by your hands were just a wee bit helpful to the Controller? So get rid of your worry and do not grieve too much, for if you look into it you have the greatest right to be be proud that you too, have done something towards the smooth running of the great machine” (14).
The assistance of Jack’s relatives, Patricia Clancy, Eveline Staindl and Helen Staindl is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) Waterhouse (2014) p. 104
(2) AWM 131 - Roll of Honour Circulars - 557 Clancy Arthur John
(3) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 07/02/1906 p. 3 & 26/12/1908 p. 3
(4) (5) (7) (9) & (10) NAA B2455 - CLANCY, A J
(6) “1st Light Trench Mortar Battery” www.slvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/units/513
(8) Pakenham Gazette 13/12/1918 p. 3
(11) Dandenng Advertiser 25/10/1917 p. 2
(12) Pakenham Gazette 26/10/1917, p.2
(13) Narre Warren & District Family History Group 2016 p. 26
(14) Pakenham Gazette 13/12/1918 p. 3