Signalman Wilfred Clarkson

Ordinary Signalman Wilfred Clarkson, Royal Navy. Service number J/50306. (trained at Chatham) Formerly 4361, a Private in the 3/6 Battalion, West Riding Regiment.

A black and white photo of a Royal Navy seaman. Head and shoulders only and in Naval uniform, he is facing the camera.

Ordinary Signalman Wilfred Clarkson.

Early life:

1899: Birth on May 10. Registered in Skipton in the second quarter of the year. Parents Walter and Annie Clarkson.
1901: Census. Age 1 year. Living at 25, Kirkgate, Silden with parents and sister Dora (3 months). Father's occupation: Iron planer.
1911: Census. Age 11 years. Living at 26, North Street, Silsden with parents and sister Dora. Both parents were weavers of cotton goods.
Sometime between these dates he was working as a Woolen piecer at Airedale Shed, Silsden.

War service:

1915: May 29. (Age 16 years and 19 days) Attested with the 3rd, 6th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment at Skipton. Served for 217 days until his discharge on December 31 at Clipstone Camp. He was under 17 years of age and discharged under King's regulations, Para 392 (vi)a. He had lied on attestation about his age saying he was 19 years old, and signed for overseas service, but he never left the UK.
1916: Very early in the year he must have signed up for the Royal Navy: February 2 to May 5. HMS Powerful. Rank: Boy. Character: VG. Ability: Satisfactory.
May 6 to Aug 3. HMS Ganges. Rank: Boy.
Aug 4 to Sep 28. HMS Ganges. Rank: Sig Boy.
Sep 29 to Nov 14. HMS Vivid. Rank: Sig Boy.
Nov 15 to May 9, 1917. HMS Vanguard: Rank: Sig Boy.
(Note: HMS' Powerful, Ganges and Vivid were all training bases)
1917: May 10. HMS Vanguard. Rank: Ordinary Signaller. Signed up for twelve years service. Height: 5 feet 6, 1/2 inches. Chest: 33, 1/2 inches. Hair: Brown. Eyes: Grey. Complexion: Fresh.
Died July 9th, 1917 aged 18 years, when HMS Vanguard exploded without warning at Scapa Flow. (see account below). His body was not found and he is commemorated on the Chatham Naval memorial in Kent.
He is remembered locally on the Silsden War Memorial, in Silsden Town Hall's Great War Memorial Book, and the Primitive Methodist Church & Sunday School: Roll of Honour which is in Silsden Town Hall.
He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory medal for his war service. These would have been sent to his mother Annie, who was his next of kin on his records.

Keighley News report July 21, 1917, page3:

Official information was received from the Admiralty on Friday week that Signaller Wilfred Clarkson, son of Mr and Mrs Walter Clarkson, 26, North Street, Silsden, had lost his life whilst serving on HMS Vanguard, which went down on July 9 after an internal explosion. Signaller Clarkson is the first Silsden man to lose his life in the naval force. Although only 18 years of age at the time of his death he enlisted shortly after the outbreak of war and served nine months in the West Riding Regiment before being finally discharged on account of his youth. His last letter home, which was dated July 2, said he had had the pleasure of seeing his Majesty the King during the latter's inspection of the fleet. He also said that Jim Walton (another Silsden man) and he had tea together very recently. Prior to enlisting he was a regular member at the Silsden Primitive Methodist Sunday School and Church, and his loss is keenly felt. He was formerly employed at the firm of Messrs J. Walton, Airedale Shed, Silsden.

Information sources:

England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1848-1939
Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960
Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
Craven's Part in the Great War
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
HMS Vanguard Facebook group

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