Captain CLARENCE SMITH JEFFRIES, VC
Regiment/Service: 34th Australian Infantry, A.I.F.
Cemetery: TYNE COT CEMETERY XL. E. 1.
Additional Information: Son of Joshua and Barbara Jeffries, of Abermain, New South Wales. Native of Wallsend, New South Wales.
Captain Jeffries was Officer Commanding “B” Company of 34th Battalion. He was in a position between the location of Tyne Cot cemetery as it is now and the German cemetery near the railway at DASH CROSSING. There were numerous German blockhouses and pillboxes to be knocked out which were holding up the Australian attack. The advance of the 34th and 35th Battalions was held up by enemy fire from their left at AUGUSTUS WOOD, from their centre at HILLSIDE HOUSE and on the right from a house near DEFY CROSSING.
The machine-gun fire at the start came, on the 9th Brigade’s right, from the ruined house near Defy Crossing; on its centre, from “Hillside Farm”; and, on its left, from Augustus Wood. The pillbox opposite the centre was supported from the rear by a trench in which were Germans with machine-guns, and here occurred a delay which threatened to wreck the whole attack. It was not until an hour after programme time that these places were rushed by the neighbouring portion of the line under Captains Carr and Dixon of the 35th Battalion. The trench contained 35 Germans and 4 machine-guns.
Captain Jeffries also organised a party of men to attack a pillbox which was firing at the attack from near to the Zonnebeke-Passchendaele road, north-east of HILLSIDE FARM and at the highest point of the ridge.
The Adjutant of the 34th Battalion, Lieutenant A Gibson Farley, gave details of the action in which Captain Jeffries took part. Being held up by a German machine gun post, Captain Jeffries led a party of 2 N.C.O.s, including Sergeant Bruce, and 12 men. They captured a machine gun post, which included 4 machine guns and 35 Germans. Another enemy strong point later caused problems for the advancing unit and so, under heavy machine gun fire, Captain Jeffries led another party of men against the enemy strongpoint. He and his party of men captured more enemy machine guns and another 30 German soldiers. Captain Jeffries was mortally wounded by a machine gun bullet in the stomach. For his actions Captain Jeffries was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. These actions set free the advance. The pillbox captured by Jeffries being not far short of the first objective, the 34th dug in there.
An extract from “The London Gazette,” No. 30433, dated 18th December 1917, records the citation for the award of the Victoria Cross to Captain Jeffries:
“For most conspicuous bravery in attack, 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. This gallant officer was killed during the attack, but it was entirely due to his bravery and initiative that the centre of the attack was not held up for a lengthy period. His example had a most inspiring influence.”
For many years he was included in my book on the Cemeteries of the Ypres Salient as having attacked the three pillboxes within Tyne Cot Cemetery. Once something is printed it becomes a fact and I found this ‘fact’ in several other books. Fortunately in my new version of my book on the Ypres Salient I have corrected the rubbish that I had written earlier. The new book is available from Naval and Military Press with many other stories, a few of which have been revised from the earlier version.
Also to win the Victoria Cross on this day is
Albert Halton VC (1 May 1893 – 24 July 1971) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross.
He was 24 years old, and a private in the 1st King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), during the First Battle of Passchendaele of First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 12 October 1917 near Poelcapelle, Belgium, after the objective had been reached, Private Halton rushed forward about 300 yards under very heavy fire and captured a machine-gun and its crew which was causing heavy losses to our men. He then went out again and brought in 12 prisoners, showing the greatest disregard for his own safety and setting a fine example to those round him.
After the war Halton was an ironworker until his retirement in 1961, and during World War II he served in the Home Guard.