Able Seaman James Clarke

Rank or Title

Date of Birth

20 May 1878

Date of Death

22 Sep 1914

Media files and documents


Medals Awarded

Service Number


Place of Birth

United Kingdom

World War I Address

5 Tavistock Street
United Kingdom

Place of Death

Lost at Sea
North Sea
United Kingdom

Grave Location

Lost at Sea
United Kingdom

War Memorial Location

Luton ward

Soldier or Civilian

  • Soldier

James Clarke of Tavistock St, Dunstable served 12 years with the Royal Navy before transferring to the Royal Navy Reserve in 1908. When WW1 commenced the thirty six year old  was called up to  to serve aboard HMS Hogue which was part of a patrol of armoured cruisers in the North Sea. These old slow  ships were very vulnerable to a raid by modern German surface ships and the patrol was nicknamed the "live bait squadron".

James Clarke  lost his life on 22nd September 1914 when the patrol came under torpedo attack from the German submarine U9 in one of the first clashes  with U boats in World War 1. The ship was hit by two torpedoes whilst lowering boats to rescue the crew of HMS Aboukir which had been hit 30 minutes before and sunk. HMS Hogue was sunk within 10 minutes and a third ship HMS Cressy was sunk 15 minutes later. The encounter took less than one hour and 1459 lives were lost. James' body was never recovered.

A court of enquiry found that the senior officers involved were at fault for not considering the submarine threat and taking precautions such as zigzagging or summoning destroyers. The Admiralty was criticised for persisting with a patrol that was dangerous and of limited value against the advice of senior sea-going officers. The wrecks of the three ships lie 40 miles off the Hook of Holland and are designated war graves.

Photographs, medals and service papers for James Clarke were donated to Wardown Museum and will be on display in the WW1 Exhibition from August 5th 2014.


Individual Location

Author: HillC

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