Clarence George Hollinshead was born in 1898 and his birth was registered at Tunstall. His parents were George Henry and Elizabeth (née Jones). In 1901 the family lived at Childerplay where George was described as a ‘steam engine mechanical labourer’. Clarence, then aged two years, was the couple’s only son and the baby of the family. By 1911 family life had changed drastically for Clarence. In 1902 his father died aged 39 and in 1905 his mother married Nathaniel Bourne at St. Matthew’s, Etruria. Sadly, this ‘new’ family also suffered tragedy as Elizabeth died at the age of 42 in 1909. Clarence, aged 12, appears on the 1911 census at 69, New Buildings with his step-father Nathaniel Bourne, his step brothers and his younger brother Silas.
Service records survive for Clarence and show that he enlisted at Biddulph on April 17th 1915, giving his address as 5, Fan Row, Brindley Ford. He enlisted in the 3rd/5th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. His number in this second line battalion was 4777 however, by May he had been transferred to the 2nd/5th Battalion. This was initially a home based unit that trained at Luton and St Albans.
In April 1916 the battalion went to Ireland during the uprising where they stayed until January 1917 when they were recalled to England. They were based at Fovant and received extra training for overseas duties. The 2nd/5th North Staffords attached to the 59th Division (2nd North Midland) 176th Brigade and were inspected by King George V on February 13th 1917 prior to crossing the channel to Le Havre on February 25th. They had moved forward to their assembly area at Mericourt by early March and although not fully battle trained, were ordered into action on the old Somme battlefield at Estrees.
April found the battalion on the Hindenburg Line and into May at Havrincourt, Flesquieres area, near Cambrai. Out of line in June for a short rest at Barastre; then holding their lines until transferred to the Ypres Salient to join the fighting during September in the Third Battle of Ypres. Clarence and his mates fought in the Menin Road Ridge and Polygon Wood actions and endured abysmal conditions on the salient battlefield. The battalion even suffered out of line at their Mersey Rest Camp when an enemy aircraft bombed their billets during the night.
Christmas and into 1918 was spent at rest in the village of Le Cauroy. They were then sent back into battle at Bullecourt in February with further actions in March at St. Quentin and Bapaume. The 59th Division were now in action during the enemy offensive at Bailleul and Kemmel Ridge. Many men were taken prisoner, including another Biddulph man in the battalion, Wilfred Whitehurst. About this time Private Hollinshead became seriously ill. He was taken out of line for treatment in Flanders and on March 20th was transferred back to England.
Although his service records have been found, water damage has made them difficult to read but they tell of an initial stay in the Queen Mary’s Military Hospital at Whalley, Lancashire and then on May 20th 1918 Clarence was transferred to the 2nd Western General Hospital, Stepping Hill, Hazel Grove. He was suffering from exhaustion and pulmonary tuberculosis. His condition deteriorated and at 22 years of age Private Clarence George Hollinshead sadly died in hospital on June 26th 1918. He was returned to his family at Biddulph and now rests at St. Lawrence Church.
Clarence is remembered on the Biddulph memorials and also the Brindley Ford memorial.
Michael Turnock and Elaine Heathcote.