Burnley woman traces grandfathers’ First World War history

John Howarth
John Howarth

A Burnley woman whose two grandfathers suffered different fates in the First World War believes there were no winners from her family.

Mrs Jan Redmond has only tiny photos in two brooches to remember her grandfathers John Howarth and Wilson Clarke, the latter of whom was killed in the war.

Pte Wilson Clarke

Pte Wilson Clarke

But although her paternal grandfather John survived, Jan believes part of him died on the battlefields and he returned a broken man, physically and mentally, suffering epilepsy due to a head wound and eventually dropping dead at work.

Mrs Redmond said: “I recently tried to find out a bit about my grandfathers.

“No-one in the family had said much about them. I knew a lot about the women in the family from my mum’s tales but grandad Wilson was just a picture in a brooch, so young and trusting. He had left a wife and two small girls. After research into his life I felt I could walk the cobbles of Burnley with him holding his hand. I will plant a cross at Towneley for him.”

Pte Wilson Clarke was listed as missing in action, fighting with the 1st Highland Light Infantry in Mesopotamia, now Iraq. He is commemorated at Amara War Cemetery in the country.

Mrs Redmond added: “I had always thought of grandad Wilson as the hero, and he was, but I hadn’t thought much about grandad John, the stern mostaccioed man in another brooch who died before I was born.

“He had come back from the war so I decided to look into his war life as well.

“He had been a weaver but on his return he ended up as a road sweeper. I was told he dropped down dead at work.

“I then found his war papers which explained it all. He returned back not the man who went. His papers stated he was wounded in the head and then was sent back to the front developing epilepsy.

“Part of grandad John had also died out there. He is now my other hero. I wish I could put a cross to commemorate the sacrifice he made.”