Leo Clarke (1892–1916) was a young engineer from Winnipeg, Manitoba. He enlisted with the Canadian Infantry, 27th Battalion, in Winnipeg on February 25, 1915. Embarking for England, he sailed from Quebec on the S.S. Carpathia on May 17th. He was appointed Acting Corporal on August 6, 1915, proceeded with his Unit to France in September and transferred to the 2nd Battalion in October. In December of 1915, Clarke was wounded by gunshot, but returned to duty only a few days later. On September 9, 1916, he attacked a German trench near Pozières, France. He led his men in combat toward the enemy. His support quickly fell away, leaving him to repel a counterattack, using only his revolver and two rifles that he picked up from the ground. Clarke succeeded in his efforts and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on that day. However, less than a month later, Clarke was wounded in a shell blast and admitted to hospital with complete paralysis of his lower limbs. Clarke died of his wounds on October 19, 1916. He was 24 years old. Clarke was one of three recipients of the Victoria Cross who lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg. The street was renamed Valour Road.
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: December 1, 1892 (Hamilton, Ontario)
Date of Attestation: February 25, 1915 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Age at Enlistment: 22 years, 3 months old
Height: 5 feet, 7½ inches
Weight: 156 lbs
Description: Dark complexion, greyish green eyes, dark brown hair. Small club-shaped scar on the back of right hand. Presbyterian.
Home Address: 785 Pine Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade: Resident Engineer (paperwork indicates Construction Engineer)
Next of Kin: Father, Mr. H.T. Clarke, 785 Pine Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Also A.R. Clarke c/o Orient Co. Ltd., 51 King William Street, London East.
Theatre of War: France
Casualties / Medical History
- December 8, 1915 – Clarke is wounded by gunshot to his right side (hospitalized for only 3 days).
- April 10 to 25, 1916 – He is hospitalized for influenza, then rejoins his Unit on May 2, 1916.
- September 18, 1916 – He is sick and hospitalized again for 6 days.
- October 18, 1916 – “Dangerously wounded,” he is admitted to Étretat Hospital in France where the attending physician, W. Nicholson, Major RAMC, assesses and charts his condition: “Paraplegia. Admitted shortly after 11 p.m. from Ambulance Train No. 22. Lower limbs completely paralyzed. Very weak restless and groaning. Answered questions with difficulty. Passed a fair night with some sleep but restless and talking. In the morning was cyanosed and much worse; died 11 a.m.
P.M. [Post-Mortem]: Showed dark congested patches in lungs with pus in small tubes, and enlarged spleen. Spinal cord normal throughout. Blood everywhere quite fluid and very dark.”
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- October 1916 – Clarke is awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in combat against the enemy near Pozières, France.
- August 7, 1920 – “Memorial Cross (Mother).”
The London Gazette
The London Gazette – October 26, 1916, Supplement 29802, Page 10395
“No. 73132 Private (Acting Corporal) Leo. Clarke, Can. Inf.: For most conspicuous bravery. He was detailed with his section of bombers to clear the continuation of a newly captured trench and cover the construction of a “block.” After most of his party had become casualties, he was building a “block” when about twenty of the enemy with two officers counter-attacked. He boldly advanced against them, emptied his revolver and afterwards two enemy rifles which he picked up in the trench. One of the officers then attacked him with the bayonet wounding him in the leg, but he shot him dead. The enemy then ran away, pursued by Acting Corporal Clarke, who shot four more and captured a fifth. Later he was ordered to the dressing station, but returned next day to duty.”
Military Medals, Honours and Awards (1812–1969)
No records located.