CLERKE, Alfred Charles, Cpl., VX23112
(KIA 2 Feb 1942, Laha, Ambon Island)
Alfred Charles Clerke was born 22 July 1906 in London, the son of William Charles and Rose Matilda Clerke. A printer by profession, he was 33 years old and married to Inga Caroline (Nicholls) when he enlisted at Heidelberg on 25 May 1940. His address was listed as Bridgelands, Eltham. The Bridgeland Park Estate was established in the mid-1920s and consisted of Antionette Boulevard, Rodda Parade and Leonard Crescent. Harold and Inga were married in 1934 and from Electoral Roll records, it appears they settled in Bridgelands, Eltham, soon after their marriage.
Initially assigned to Infantry Training Depot, he was then posted to 2/21 Battalion from 15th Training Battalion on 16 July 1940. In August 1940 he was admitted to Camp Dressing Station Seymour with Pharyngitis and in January 1941 admitted to 106 General Hospital and then transferred to Albury District Hospital suffering from Septicaemia. In April 1941, 2/21 Battalion joined the 7th Military District at Darwin and on 22 May, Alfred was appointed Acting Lance Corporal, quickly followed on 1 June to Acting Corporal. Following the Japanese invasion of Malaya on 8 December, on 13 December, the battalion departed Darwin bound for Ambon, an island in the Dutch East Indies, now present-day Indonesia, disembarking four days later.
During the evening of January 30/31, 1942, the Japanese landed three battalions from the 228th Infantry Regiment and a battalion of marines from the 1st Kure Special Naval Landing Force at several locations on the north and south coasts of the island. By the afternoon of 31 January Dutch forces around Paso had surrendered. Outnumbered and lacking air or naval support, 2/21Battalion, which was guarding Ambon itself, was unable to prevent the advance despite determined resistance, and were pushed to the far west of the peninsula. Within 24 hours of the landing, Dutch forces on the island had capitulated. Meanwhile, B and C Companies of 2/21 Battalion at Laha Airfield were attacked on 31 January. Around 150 Australian soldiers and some Indonesians and Dutch were subsequently captured, and many were later massacred following a major Japanese offensive on 2 February. Alfred was reported ‘Missing’. His service file was updated following cessation of hostilities on 24 October 1945 as ‘Killed in Action’ on or before 2 February 1942 at Laha, Ambdina in the Battle of Ambon. The Dutch having already surrendered, the Australians followed suit on 3 February. Whilst Allied casualties were relatively light during the battle, more than 300 Australian and Dutch Prisoners of War were randomly selected and summarily executed by the Japanese near Laha Airfield. In 1946 this incident became one of the largest ever war crimes trials. As a result of the capture of Ambon, Australian fears of air attacks were realised when Japanese planes based at Ambon took part in major air raids over Darwin, Australia, on February 19th.
Alfred’s wife Inga died in 1945 at age 41 never really knowing what happened to her husband. Alfred’s service file is notated: wife deceased, daughter (Nora Ann) living with wife’s mother, Mrs (Inga Mary) Nicholls, Allandale, Strath Creek.
Alfred’s memory is commemorated on Column 2 at the Ambon Memorial, Ambon War Cemetery, Indonesia.
CLERKE, Cpl. ALFRED CHARLES, VX.23112. A.I.F.
2nd February 1942. Age 35.
Son of William Charles and Rose Matilda Clerke; Husband of Inga Clerke; nephew of Mr. G.E. Berry of Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia.
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LEST WE FORGET
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
ROLL OF HONOUR
Soldiers of the Shire of Eltham remembered on the Eltham Roll of Honour for their supreme sacrifice; located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall
- Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission https://www.cwgc.org/
- Electoral Roll Records via Ancestry.com
- Family history search , Births Deaths Marriages Victoria https://my.rio.bdm.vic.gov.au/efamily-history/-
- Service Records, National Archives of Australia https://www.naa.gov.au/
- World War Two Nominal Roll, Department of Veteran Affairs, Australian Government https://nominal-rolls.dva.gov.au/ww2
- Advertising (1946, May 10). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 21. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22240655
- Wikipedia contributors. (2020, April 25). 2/21st Battalion (Australia). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 6, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=2/21st_Battalion_(Australia)&oldid=953001844
- Wikipedia contributors. (2020, June 28). Battle of Ambon. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 6, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Battle_of_Ambon&oldid=964862353
Read the stories of all the men from the Shire of Eltham who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War and to whom the Eltham War Memorial is dedicated.