b. 26/10/1894 Wallsend, NSW, Australia. d. 12/10/1917 Passchendaele, Belgium
Clarence Smith Jeffries (1894-1917) was born on 26th October 1894 at Wallsend, New South Wales, Australia. He was known as “Jeff”. His father, Joshua, was the manager of Abermain Collieries. He married Barbara Steele in 1894. Clarence was an only child.
Clarence was educated at Dudley Public School, where he excelled at cricket, Newcastle Collegiate School and Newcastle High School. Clarence was employed as a mining surveyor at Abermain Collieries, where his father was the manager, and also undertook an apprenticeship as a mining engineer. He was interested in breeding thoroughbred horses, although not in racing, and had a fine collection of breeding stock. He served in 14th Infantry, Citizen’s Military Forces from 1st July 1912 under the compulsory training scheme. He was promoted Corporal in January 1913 and Sergeant on 1st July 1913. He was mobilised and commissioned on 22nd August 1914 for home defence duties. Having attended the School of Instruction, Duntroon, he was appointed to instruct volunteers for the Australian Imperial Force at Newcastle and Liverpool Camps, New South Wales.
He passed No 17 School and was appointed provisional Lieutenant on 1st July 1915. On 1st February 1916 he transferred as a Second Lieutenant to the AIF and embarked for Britain with C Company, 34th Battalion on 2nd May aboard HMAT A20 Hororata from Sydney. He arrived in June 1916 and was stationed in Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. He was promoted to Lieutenant in August and attended Officer’s School at Chelsea from 1st-21st October. Clarence embarked for France on 21st November. He attended the Gas School and the Snipers’ School between December 1916 and April 1917.
Having been attached to the School of Instruction 2nd-13th May he rejoined the Battalion and received a gunshot to the left thigh on 9th June at Messines. He was treated at 9th Australian Field Ambulancee before being transferred to No 2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station and 2nd Red Cross Hospital at Rouen on 11th June. He was evacuated to England, and was promoted to Captain. He was declared fit for General Service on 2nd August, and returned to France on 27th August.
On 12th October 1917, southwest of Passchendaele, Belgium, when his company was held up by enemy machine-gun fire from concrete emplacements. Organising a party, he rushed one emplacement, capturing four machine guns and thirty-five prisoners. He then led his company forward under extremely heavy enemy artillery barrage and enfilade machine-gun fire to the objective. Later, he again organised a successful attack on a machine-gun emplacement, capturing two machine guns and thirty more prisoners.
Clarence was killed during the VC action and was buried on the battlefield about 135 metres northwest of Heine House. The VC was presented to his mother by the Governor General of Australia, Rt Hon Sir Ronald Crraufurd Munro Ferguson GCMG, at Admiralty House, Sydney, New South Wales on 4th April 1918. His father travelled to Belgium in July 1920 to try and find his son’s grave, but was unsuccessful and returned to Australia. However, in January 1921 he was informed that his son’s remains had been exhumed on 14th September 1920 and interred in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele. Clarence’s parents visited their son’s grave in 1924.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. The VC was bequeathed by his mother in her will in October 1950 to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle to be kept in the Warrior’s Chapel. The VC was handed over following her death in 1954 and remains in the Warrior’s Chapel. The whereabouts of his other medals are unknown.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CHRISTCHURCH CATHEDRAL, NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA.
BURIAL PLACE: TYNE COT CEMETERY, PASSCHENDAELE, BELGIUM.
PLOT XL, ROW E, GRAVE 1
The Newcastle Herald – Image of Jeffries VC Medal Group at Christchurch Cathedral, Newcastle, NSW.