Belfast Telegraph

A soldier's paybook, a row of medals and a snap of him marching to war ...the treasured heirlooms of a hero

Into the unknown: Rifleman Jackson Clarke (circled) marching off to war
Into the unknown: Rifleman Jackson Clarke (circled) marching off to war
Jackson Clarke's paybook
Jackson Clarke in uniform
Military memories: Jackson Clarke's World War One medals
Jackson Clarke enjoying life after the war

By Nevin Farrell

An amazing family treasure trove of old photos which chronicle the experiences of a soldier who survived the carnage of the trenches in World War One has been unveiled.

Stephen Kerr (55) revealed the family archives for the Belfast Telegraph, and admitted he makes regular trips to mainland Europe to honour the service given by his grandfather, Rifleman Jackson Clarke, and the sacrifice of his stepfather's uncle, William John Moore, who was killed in action.

Stephen visits the First World War memorial sites and cemeteries at least three times a year and also regularly takes to a microlight aircraft to photograph the area from the air. He has captured some stunning images which show pock marks in fields and the remnants of shell craters 100 years on.

And in a poignant ceremony at the Menin Gate this year, the Carryduff man dug out his grandad's war medals and wore them with pride in a solemn mark of respect.

The photographic record of his grandfather, which includes pictures of him in military uniform (right), his soldier's paybook, and images of sporting teams he was in after the war are being hailed as among the best records of any individual from the war at that time.

"My mother had these photographs around her house and because they were small and starting to fall apart, I restored them and and was able to blow them up to A4 size. At the end of the day it is a lasting link to the service given," Stephen said.

"My grandfather was in the Royal Irish Rifles. When he enlisted, his family were living at Hurst Street in Donegall Pass in Belfast. He survived the Great War, remaining in the Army until 1931.

"He had enlisted in 1910 and had served in India before being brought back at the start of World War One. He was then sent off with the British Expeditionary Force and arrived in France around November 1914.

"He was wounded in the leg at Ypres in 1915 and after the war ended he was sent to Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq. After that we know he was a goalkeeper in a football team and also played for an Army hockey team which won an Egyptian Cup in 1923.

"He died in October 1959, shortly after I was born, and is buried at Roselawn."

Stephen revealed his grandfather was in an Orange Lodge in the Sandy Row area of Belfast called the Rising Sons of India and marched to the Twelfth field each year with his war medals displayed on his sash.

"I visit the Somme around three times a year because of my family connection and it is an area very close to my heart. I have a relative buried there, my stepfather's uncle, William John Moore. He was originally from Benwell Street in the Shankill area of Belfast and was in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme."

Regarding his photos from the skies, Stephen said: "I am a keen amateur photographer and it is really impressive from the air, it gives a whole different view. I have even been over the Ulster Tower at Thiepval."

Stephen's photos can be seen at http://www.skphotoscom.

Belfast Telegraph


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