Storrington Local History Group

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Storrington Remembers

Clifford Henry Oliver

Second Lieutenant with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Clifford died on the first day of the Somme (1stJuly 1916) in the attack on Beaumont- Hamel. He is commemorated on The Storrington Roll of Honour and on the Memorial at Beaumont- Hamel but (like his brother Claude) is not named on the Storrington War Memorial nor in the Storrington Book of Remembrance but is listed with his brother Claude on the Pulborough Memorial.

Clifford was born in 1889, the third son of William and Marion Jupp. On the 1911 census, Clifford was shown as residing at 16 Stamford Street in Southwark, London, being an employee of Messrs Cooks and a “wholesale Manchester Warehouseman” which appears to be a reference to a cotton (fabric) wholesale or drapers business of the time. 

Clifford enlisted on the same day as his brother Leonard, 31stAugust 1914, at St Johns in Newfoundland (which was not at that time a part of Canada) His enlistment papers describe him as a single man, 5 foot 11 inches tall with brown hair and brown eyes – a description similar to his brother’s. They both embarked on the “SS Florizal” for England in October 1914 and by the time Clifford re embarked at Devonport for active service he had already been promoted to Lance Corporal. At the disembarkation at Alexandria, on 31stAugust 1915, he had gained promotion to Corporal and by the time he re- embarked at Alexandria for Gallipoli on 13thSeptember he was a sergeant. Clifford’s file does not detail his service in Gallipoli although it seems that the Battalion landed on Kangaroo Beach on 20thSeptember. Clifford had further promotion in May 1916 and on June 5th1916 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.

In December 1915 the Allies agreed to launch a major offensive on the Western Front. The offensive was to begin in August and would be led by the French with 39 Divisions, the British suppling 25-30 Divisions. The plans then changed when the Battle of Verdun started in February 1916. As more French troops were sent to Verdun, fewer were available for the Somme and it became clear that the British would bear the brunt of the fighting. By May, the situation in Verdun was so difficult that the French requested the Somme attack should be brought forward. The date of June 29thwas agreed but was postponed to July 1stdue to the weather.

The plan was for two Divisions under General Allenby to draw away the German reserves at Gommecourt while the 4thArmy under General Rawlinson broke through the German trenches on a 20 mile front, creating a gap for the cavalry. General Haig – the new commander of the British Expeditionary Force – believed with the others that an artillery barrage over several days would destroy the German defences and cut the barbed wire enabling the infantry to march in and destroy any remnants. The plan did not take account of the technical difficulties that were being experienced with the armaments nor past experience that showed that attacking infantry should move as fast as possible – the orders were for the infantry to move at a steady pace, shoulder to shoulder, in advancing lines.

The bombardment began on 24thJune and at 6.25 am on 1stJuly the bombardment increased, firing 3,500 shells a minute for an hour. The noise was such it could be heard in England. When the shelling stopped the mines laid under the German Redoubts and defences were blown. After that, the whistles were blown and the infantry climbed the ladders and lined up to walk towards no man’s land and the German defences on the high ground. After the rainfall of the previous days the weather and visibility were good and it was broad daylight.

The Germans had dug in deeply – some dugouts were 30 foot (9 metres) deep. When the shelling stopped they emerged with their machine guns.

Part of the 29thDivision, the 1stBattalion Newfoundland Regiment (as it then was) attacked Beaumont Hamel on 1stJuly 1916. This was the Regiment’s first severe engagement , the Regiment started the day with 801 men and officers. 233 were killed or died of wounds, 386 were wounded and 91 were missing. Every officer who went forward in the attack was either killed or wounded.

Private A Coombe made a statement to the effect that while he was lying wounded he saw Clifford hit in the chest – “he must have been killed as he did not move again”.

Clifford was one of those originally reported missing. Although his death was confirmed by 7thJuly he has no known grave.

Clifford was awarded the British, Victory and 15 Star medals.

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