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Cpt Edwin Clarke - from Bartender to Artillery Captain to POW Guard

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

My grandfather was Edwin "Eddie" John Clarke, born in Southampton, who went to sea at the age of 15 working his way up to Cruise Lines as a cocktail barman. In the late 1930s he took up post at the American Bar, Savoy Hotel in The Strand where he was building a reputation as one of the prominent cocktail barmen of his time (he later became world champion, and ran the very successful Albermarle Club in the 1950s and 1960s in London).

When war broke out he was still at The Savoy. He moved my grandmother, my mother and her brother, to run a pub in Compton Chamberlayne in Wiltshire out of harms way.

He tried to enlist in the Navy but was selected instead for the Royal Artillery (service number 1734185). He served in the Orkneys and on the South Coast. Towards the end of the war having received his commission he became accountant at the Quorn POW camp (183 under Lt Col R Hartley as Commandant) in Leicestershire.

He wrote his memoirs out and attached is the section of his war service. However he also told me stories when he was alive:

- He always thought his war was easy compared to the 1914-1918 war which he described as terrible
- When stationed near Weymouth he had to guard a top brass meeting (Churchill and possible Eisenhower) at a country estate nearby
- His guns on the south coast were positioned by some American artillery. He said the US Officer remarked that they couldn't recognise the planes flying over and only started firing when the British did.
- At the POW camp the prisoners were paid for making things. Attached are photos of a doll's cot and doll's furniture they made for my mother. She also had a full dollhouse they made and a satchel from a leather flying jacket (now lost).
- At the camp after a tip-off they found one of the SS prisoners had somehow got hold of a small pistol and was planning on escaping (which they found).
- He said the normal German soldiers in the camp hated the SS. One morning that found they had hanged an SS soldier overnight.

After the war he returned to cocktail bar work and lived into the late 1980s.

History

Item list and details

1. Letter from Lt Col Willis Flemming to Grandfather 15/4/44 detailing the preparation for D-Day (83rd LTAA Reg, RA) 2. Demob leter 12/3/46 3. Reference letter from War Office detailing army career 4/1/50 4. Picture of Eddie Clarke as bartender 5. Various bits of doll's furniture and cot made by POWs 6. Memoir pages

Person the story/items relate to

Edwin 'Eddie' Clarke

Person who shared the story/items

Stuart Lee

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Grandfather

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID

114669