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Clive William Cranshaw Whittle was born and brought up in Ashton on Ribble in Preston and he was baptised in the parish church of St. Andrew in Ashton on Ribble on the 17th August 1893. He was the son of auctioneer and newspaper proprietor John Whittle and Alice (nee Ward). His parents married in St. Andrew`s on the 23rd June 1890 and they had just three children including John, the other two being twin daughters; Ethel Cranshaw Whittle and Florence Cranshaw Whittle born in 1891.

Whittle 1When Clive`s parents married in 1890 his father`s occupation was recorded as an oil and tallow manufacturer, afterwards he became an auctioneer and then subsequently founded the “Preston Argus” newspaper which appears to have been quite successful. He also went on to write for the Preston Herald newspaper under the pseudonym of “Young Un” for a period of time. His successful career enabled the family to employ a servant and to live in a substantial seven roomed property at 17 Powis Road in Ashton on Ribble.

Clive initially attended St. Andrew`s school in Ashton and then later went on to study at Preston Grammar School. He left the Grammar School in December 1910 and started work as a clerk in his father`s auctioneer`s business.

In 1911 Clive and his sister Ethel were living with their parents in Powis Road and Clive was still working as a clerk for his father. Also living with the family was a 16 year old domestic servant named Agnes J Fisher from Preston. Ethel`s twin sister Florence had left home and was living at 16 Fishergate in the centre of Preston where she was working as a baker`s assistant in the employ of Mary Woods a confectioner.

At some stage Clive also appears to have become a performer, appearing on stage at the Theatre Royal in Preston as a duettist and humourist alongside his friend Harold Fazackerley. The following photograph appeared in the Preston Guardian on the 26th September 1914.Whittle 2

The outbreak of war unfortunately meant that Clive had to put his theatrical career on hold and on the 7th September 1914 he enlisted at Preston. He joined “D” Company (Preston Pals) of the 7th (Service) Battalion the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was allocated the service number 13064. He confirmed his occupation was a clerk; he was unmarried and had no previous military experience. The Medical Officer noted that he had a fair complexion, blue eyes and auburn hair. Clive named his father John Whittle of 17 Powis Road, Ashton on Ribble as his next of kin.

During his training a couple of entries appeared on his misconduct sheet, one in October 1914, for being guilty of improper conduct in the ranks and the other one in June 1915 for not falling in for a Divisional service parade, in both cases his punishment was to be confined to barracks for 3 days.

The 7th Battalion remained at home training until the 17th July 1915 and then left Tidworth by train for Folkestone and from there made the crossing to Boulogne. The strength of the Battalion at this time was 30 Officers and 900 other ranks. The Battalion came under the command of the 56th Brigade of the 19th (Western) Division.

The 7th Battalion took part in the Battle of the Somme and on the 20th July 1916 the Battalion marched from Henencourt Wood to Bazentin-le-Petit. It was here that they held an extended line of over 1000 yards in length.

At 19.00 hours that night they managed to shoot down a German aeroplane with a Lewis gun, the plane bursting into flames just in front of their line.

On the morning of the 23rd July 1916 the Battalion were ordered to attack the switch line with the intention of taking High Wood (there had been several attempts to take High Wood in the past week by other Divisions). Now it was the turn of the 19th Division (including the 7th Bn LNL) and the 1st Division. It was during this day`s action that sadly Clive Whittle was killed.

Clive`s family informed the local paper of their son`s death and the following article appeared a short while afterwards.Whittle 3

Following Clive`s death one of the `Pals` who survived the action wrote a letter to Clive`s father John Whittle explaining the circumstances of his son`s death, the letter appearing in the Preston Herald on the 26th August 1916 under the headline;

WHAT THE PALS WENT THROUGH – HOW CLIVE WHITTLE AND RONALD TARGETT DIED

“I wish to tell you all that I know and what exactly happened in the attack on the morning of the 23rd July. After being out for a rest behind Albert of a few days after the first attack, orders came through suddenly on the night of the 19th (July) and we moved up to the trenches, straight into the support trenches the same night. We had been heavily shelled and it had been a long march up the valley, but we had a few casualties, and pushed forward through the remains of Bazentin-le-Petit and dug in about 400 yards in front of the village between two roads, with a ridge between us and the Huns rising to the right, and High Wood on the right flank.

We had some men sniped while we were digging in, then we held the shallow trench for three days in a very hot sun, with little water and no chance of making any tea, and no communication only over the top. On the first day we saw one of our planes bring an Alleymayne (sic) plane down after a hard fight nearly over our heads and very near the floor. Our plane drew slightly away and our rifle and machine gun fire finished the Bosche, one of the greatest sights we have seen.

On the night of the 22nd the artillery on both sides were very active and the Huns sent a lot of high shrapnel over our trench, and the machine guns played incessantly. There were the lights and noise of a big strafe going on in High Wood and about 1 o`clock we were reinforced by our other two companies coming over the top from support just in front of the village.

In about ten minutes the word came down “B and D Companies prepare to mount the parapet” and we saw our Captain (Thompson) and the Sergeant Major getting over on the right. The boys went over and troops (regular and otherwise) never went over in better spirit in the face of a very heavy shrapnel and machine gun fire. Things were not so bad till we got to the ridge, and we had kept in line and direction as well as possible in the dark.

MOWN DOWN LIKE CORN

 When we got over the ridge we were met by a strong enfilade fire from the right, which mowed us down in rows like corn, and in a few minutes before we could get a footing in the trench, all our Officers were gone, and very few men left, and after two rushes to try and get into the trench on the right we had to withdraw and try to get back to our own trench. Clive, Cyril and I all used to `grub` together and we had just divided our rations out between us when I was sent for by the Captain, along with another of the scouts and we had pushed down the trench near to where the Captain was when the word came down “stand fast” and the supports started coming into the trench; then the word came to advance, so that when we went over I was separated from Clive and Cyril, and did not see them again. It was impossible to tell who was next to you only by shouting. The bullets tore up the ground and tinkled as they hit the steel helmets, and a lot of the chaps who got back had bullet holes through their canteens, or their clothes ripped.

When we got back as dawn was breaking, there were very few men in the trench, and the Sergeants who were left were afraid the Huns would counter-attack and so we who were left had to “stand to” and be ready to repel the attack if it came.

HOW CLIVE WHITTLE DIED

There were very few of our platoon left, and they told me that Cyril had gone down to the dressing station, but I could hear nothing of Clive or anyone who had seen him. We were relieved early that evening by another Regiment, and went back into the reserve trench in the wood behind the village. During the day we were only able to get the chaps in who were wounded near our line, but plenty crawled in from farther out. Sergeant Rawcliffe, one of our boys, crawled in during the evening badly wounded in the groin, and he told us that he had passed both (13071 Ronald Charles) Targett and Clive near the top of the ridge, and that Clive had been hit through the body and must have died instantly. Rawcliffe, I am sorry to say, died in hospital a few days later.

TRIBUTE TO A CHUM

We remained in the reserve trench a week, and I have never spent a more miserable week, for most of the old faces were gone, and the Bosche continued to shell us day and night with “coal boxes”. The first day in the reserve trench we lost 20 by the shelling. I made enquiries and a Sergeant in A Company said Clive was slightly behind him when he saw him fall, and went to him, but that he was dead when he got there. I am in an unfortunate position, because I never saw Clive, and have only these fellows word for it. You cannot tell how I felt about it and it is idle of me to try and sympathise, because sympathy is not shown by mere words or writing; but he was my pal since joining the Army and always kept the section in roars of laughter and was one of the most popular chaps in the Battalion as well as the Company. But a lot of us will be with him before long, and you really get that you don`t mind dying if they would get it over quickly. We made it up that if anything happened, whoever was left would send all private things of any importance home that we had in our valises, but when we came out, the wounded and missing men`s kits had been gone through and salvaged, which gives you an idea of the Army system. I really must close and offer you my deepest sympathy, and can only say that Clive always behaved like a sport and a Britisher.”

Unfortunately there is no information in Clive`s papers to indicate whether his family ever received any of his personal belongings.

Clive was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals which his father later signed for.

His name appears on a special memorial in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval. The Memorial names 32 men who are `known to be buried` in that Cemetery.

Photo by Janet Davis – July 2016

Photo by Janet Davis – July 2016

Rank: Private
Service No: 13064
Date of Death: 23/07/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 7th Bn.
Memorial: CATERPILLAR VALLEY CEMETERY, LONGUEVAL

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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