Every man shall bear his own burden13
John Owen ClawleyHere was despair; the death of another young man, well-known in the Parish, during that long, cruel summer of 19164. Against the backdrop of the prolonged drought19 which threatened the prospects of a bountiful harvest, the uniformed telegram boy16 had again delivered the news that everyone had come to dread. Born twenty years previously14, no one had foreseen on that unexpectedly fair Winter’s day19, that John Owen Clawley’s life would end in such cruel circumstances.
John was born on 11th February 189618 to parents Elizabeth and agricultural labourer Owen Clawley2. His childhood was spent in the family home at Pike’s End2 where he would have been accustomed to helping with day-to-day errands such as collecting firewood38 and helping with his younger siblings38. From the age of six he was walking the four-miles round trip to Lyneal C of E School18, attending Church on Sundays, becoming “organ-blower and later, chorister at the Parish Church”42. It may have been a life of toil as the family endeavoured to financially support itself with his Father’s meagre and often sporadic income39, but it was also one based on traditional Christian42 values of family unity and consistency, values which he would always carry with him.
By the time he was fourteen18, John had left school and found employment with local farmers42 as a labourer. But within three years, all was to change; as Europe descended into the insanity of an insidious, barbarous and bloodthirsty war, John’s unassuming life abruptly changed course.
By October 191528 as the ongoing battles of attrition on the Western front continued, gaining little for either side, other than the slaughter of thousands of young men. The demand for enlistment intensified and John answered the call and voluntarily enlisted with the 3rd/1st Shropshire Yeomanry29, a third-line training unit29.
In mid August 1916 Private John Owen Clawley 269812 was posted to France26, and was subsequently transferred on attachment to serve with the 10th Battalion Cheshire Regiment26 as part of the Somme Offensive. Presumably he was part of a draft to make up numbers after the high casualties incurred at the beginning of July4.
Arriving in Hedauville40 on the 18th August, the Battalion engaged in several exchanges of heavy gunfire over several days, with the loss of many lives40. On 24th August 1916, amid ruthless and merciless fighting, Private John Owen Clawley was killed in action12. The entry for that day in the Battalion War Diary says
“A good deal of fatigue. Work carried on and we had 8 killed and 19 wounded. Heavy shelling by the enemy day and night.”40
And so, after a period of just eight days, the life of another of our Cockshutt boys23 had been brutally taken.
John Owen Clawley was laid to rest in Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authille Wood, France12. Honoured on both the Cockshutt10 and Colemere & Lyneal War Memorials11, he was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal6.
We Will Remember Him.CLAWLEY_JOHN_OWEN
Private John Owen Clawley, 2698, 1st/ 3rd Bn. Shropshire Yeomanry.
Killed in action in France on 24th August 1916.
Buried at Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood, France. Grave I. C. 26.
… These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.32