William Clinch was born on 24th March 1895 in Pagham, West Sussex. His birth is registered at Westhampnett, West Sussex. Westhampnett was the registration area for the Bognor Regis area until 1835 when it was consumed by the Chichester Registration District. William was baptised on 21st April 1895 in Pagham.
William is found in the 1901 Census as a six year old boy living with his parents and his siblings at Bognor Road, Pagham. His Grandmother Fanny Madgwick is also at the house at the time of the Census.
William appears to be the third child of his father William and mother Eleanor (Ellen) Clinch. His father was an Agricultural Labourer and his mother was a Laundress. William senior, and Eleanor Matilda Madgwick married in 1892. The marriage is registered in Westhampnett.
William has two elder sisters, Nellie and Lillie, and two younger brothers and sister Henry, Leonard, and Edith.
The 1911 census found William, who is now 16, as a Gardener. He is still living with his parents although the family has moved to Old Barrack Lane, Aldwick, Pagham, West Sussex. His parents have now been married 19 years. The elder girls have left the family home and six other additions have been made. His new brothers and sisters are Frederick Enos, Bertie Edwin, Alfred Ernest, Millicent Elsie, Albert Edward and Violet Matilda. The grandmother is still at the premises. William Senior is a Farm Labourer.
On 16th October 1914 William became a Police Constable with the Brighton Borough Police Force. It is not known where he was living at the time.
William Clinch appears on both WW1 Plaques within The Old Police Museum Cells at Brighton. He is shown to be with The Royal Sussex Regiment.
William applied to the then Chief Constable of Brighton Borough Police William Gentle for permission to join the Army. With others, Jack Cheesman, Sydney Millen, Richard Lintott, Sidney Waylan, and Frederick White permission was granted to leave on 11th May 1815.
William Clinch attested on 11th May 1915 at Brighton, Sussex along with Jack Cheesman, Richard Lintott, Sid Millen and George Catt for the Royal Sussex Regiment. William declared his age to be 20 years and one month. He declared his father William Clinch of Hall House, Barrack Road, Aldwick, West Sussex to be his next of kin.
William Clinch stated his home address was 10 Terminus Street, Brighton.
On 21st May, along with PC Avis and PC Catt and PC Cheesman he was posted to 10th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment for training at Colchester until 13th September 1915. He was allocated service number GS/6815. His record shows the number prefixed with the letters “GS”, which was used to signify that the soldier was conscripted for “General Service”.
On 8th September William passed a course of instruction in stretcher bearing and first aid. Catt, Avis, Cheesman and Millen were also on this course. After initial training William was posted to Shoreham Depot between 13th September 1915 along with Catt, Cheesman and Avis.
On 23rd September 1915 he was posted to France to join the 9th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. On 28th September he was promoted to a Lance Corporal. On the same day he embarked for France at Folkestone.
The 9th “Service” Battalion was raised at Chichester in 1914. At the time the 9th Battalion was already in France and had been so since 1st September and had moved up to the battle trenches at Vermelles on 25th September. The 9th had joined up with other battalions to become part of the 24th Division. William would have joined up with the 24th.
The 24th Division was a completely untried unit and although it is unclear exactly what day William would have caught up with the Division he was probably thrown into “the thick of it” at Vermelles where they were ordered to advance on “Fosse 8”, a large and conspicuous mining slag heap. The Fosse was to be held at all costs despite several German attacks from heavy artillery and machine gun fire and a lack of food and water. The 9th Battalion held on until withdrawn to Sailly-Labourse during the night of 27th.
The following months found the 9th Battalion at Proven near Ypres after several days of marching, trains and lorry journeys. The rains were constant and the trenches were flooded. The Battalion was busy filling in excess of 200 sandbags daily, a total of 5000 were required to stem the flooding. The men were exhausted and were receiving little respite from the trenches and training.
The whole of December was spent in Houlle, some 35 miles west from the fighting zone. Intensive training continued. Christmas and the New Year were spent safely in that quiet area of France.
January 1916 found William still with the 9th Battalion in France. It was at this stage that George Catt had joined the Battalion when they entered the trenches at Zouave Wood on the 18th where significant enemy shell and sniper fire was experienced for four days until relief arrived. The Battalion was so close to the enemy line that gas masks had to be worn day and night.
The Battalion Heavy shelling continued into February near Hooge where the 9th were still occupying trenches. On 13th February the Germans put down a tremendous bombardment over the British front line causing a great deal of damage. 30 casualties along with several fatalities were recorded.
The 6th July brought the Battalion out of the trenches for a period of rest only for them to return on 11th where on 20th they were relieved and moved by buses and trains away from the Ypres area and travelled to Montagne.
August continued to see the 9th Battalion in the thick of it, and was involved in hand to hand fighting in the village of Guillemont where over the course of two days casualties amounted to 7 officers and 183 other ranks. After 7 days rest they were again in the trenches where they were attacked by the Germans after heavy bombardment on 31st August. The 9th managed to hold on and repulsed the attacking party. 30 men were killed and 80 injured. The problem was exasperated by the complete lack of food and water during continued attack.
During the first week of October three men died from wounds while the Battalion held the line in front of Souchez, north-west of Arras prior to returning to trenches in Loos.
On 27th October 1916 The London Gazette published the following in a special supplement: “His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the field to the undermentioned non-commissioned Officers and men:-
Page 10477 6814 Cpl.J Cheesman R. Suss. R.
Page 10477 6815 L./C. W. Clinch R. Suss. R.
Page 10481 6812 Cpl. R. Lintott R. Suss. R.
The Sussex Daily News on 1st November 1916 published the following
Honours for Brighton Policemen, in the list of NCO’s and men of the Royal Sussex Regiment awarded the Military Medal which appeared in Saturdays Sussex Daily News, the names of Corporal R Lintott, Corporal J Cheesman, and Lance Corporal W Clinch were included. It is interesting to learn that these gallant men were all in the Brighton Police Force.
It can now be proved that the Trio of Cheesman, Clinch and Lintott were together at the time of an amazing act of bravery between the three of them, which earnt them the Military Medal each.
November and December were quiet months considering the history of the rest of the year. The Battalion remained around the Loos area either in the front line or in reserve and enjoyed a Christmas dinner. The beginning of 1917 found William on leave in the United Kingdom between 15th January to 25th January. February was also relatively quiet. The Battalion was at Hesdigneul, where they had “moved out” to rest.
March found the 9th Battalion back in the thick of it, returning to the line in the area of Arras where an enemy attack was thwarted. The German bombardment caused several casualties.
April came in with a blast of cold weather, snow blizzards and fighting. In full action on 12th and 13th the British attacked the German positions in Bois-en-Hache. At the cost of 60 Battalion casualties, through a snow blizzard, the enemy’s first and second lines were taken. The ground had been churned up through shelling activity and snow into a sea of mud. The Battalion finally was given a well-earned rest falling back to Estree Blanche for a week of reorganisation which ended with a forced march to Houchin where during May they rested, trained and integrated new men.
June 1917 saw one of the most successful British attacks of the war at the Battle of Messines Ridge. The 9th were fully involved on the 7th despite gas attacks and shelling. The battalion suffered 134 wounded with 3 men missing. This action was the prelude to the 3rd Battle of Ypres.
On 13th June 1917 William along with others was transferred as a Corporal to the Military Foot Police under Army Council Instruction No. 1733. The instruction is long and tedious but in short explains that the system of policing such large numbers of soldiers at home and abroad required trained Police Officers. As a result it would appear that soldiers who were Police Officers prior to the war were being transferred to either the MMP (Mounted Military Police) or MFP (Military Foot Police).
The General Duties of a Military Police Officer include:
- The detection of crime, and the arrest of offenders.
- The maintenance of order under all circumstances.
- The surveillance and control of all civilians and followers within the area occupied by their formations.
- Assisting in maintaining march discipline of troops and transport and in regulating traffic.
- The collection of stragglers.
- The custody of prisoners of war until their transfer to railhead or to a P.O.W. working company.
- The protection of the local inhabitants against acts of violence on the part of soldiers or followers.
In addition there were numerous special duties they were expected to see to, amongst which were :—
- Taking measures to prevent troops getting into contact with undesirable characters—prostitutes, enemy agents, provocateurs, etc.
- Ill-treatment of animals.
- Civilians found within the lines without passes or identity cards.
- Plundering, marauding and looting.
- Ill-treatment of inhabitants.
- Soldiers and civilians trafficking in rations or Government property.
- Unauthorised cameras and photography.
- Collecting and returning of horses.
- Careless talk and the apprehension of anyone giving military information.
- Arrest of suspicious individuals.
- The shooting of dogs found unattended near the forward lines, and search of the bodies for messages, etc.
- Seizure of carrier pigeons.
- Surveillance for means of communication with the enemy.
William was temporarily transferred to the Military Foot Police for the duration of the war.
On 12th December 1917 he joined up with the 2nd Army at the Adjutant-Generals Office in Rouen, probably for training. William is still a Lance Corporal. He remains until 8th December 1917 where he joins the 3rd Army in the field. The same date that Jack Cheesman also joins the 3rd Army.
William is on leave in the UK during February 1918. He is still with the 3rd Army on 1st June 1918. On 11th January 1919 William is sent on leave to the UK until 7th February and although not stated probably returns to the 3rd Army.
William was medically examined on 25th 1919 where he signs that he has no disabilities. William is transferred to Class Z reserves at Aldershot on 29th August 1919 having arrived at the dispersal unit Crystal Palace on 2nd August 1919. His address on demobilisation is 2 North View, Chichester Road, Bognor Regis. He notifies the Army that although the Bognor Regis address is his home address he permanently lives at 2 Quebec Street, Brighton.
William was awarded the Military Medal along with the 1914-1915 Star, The British War Medal and Victory Medal. The medals below are not the actual medals issued to Clinch.
1914- 1915 Star
British War Medal
British War Medal
Post warIt is known that William rejoined the Brighton Borough Police after returning from the War. The Chief Constable of Brighton Borough Police, William Gentle reported to the Brighton Watch Committee that the William Clinch had reported for duty on 28th August 1919.
At some stage William Clinch is promoted to Sergeant and becomes a Detective Sergeant. He is a Detective Sergeant in July 1931 where he is mentioned in the Kent and Sussex Courier as a Brighton Detective Sergeant investigating a Golf Club burglary.
He was a Detective Sergeant until his promotion to Uniform Inspector on 21st May 1937 as reported below by the Brighton Post on 26th May 1937.
The 1939 Register is our next insight to William and finds him living at 129 Overhill Drive, Brighton. William is shown as being born on 24th March 1895. He is shown as a Police Inspector. William is living with wife 45 year old Cecilia Croke who he had married in 1922 at Brighton.
Also living at Overhill Drive was his son William K Clinch born 1923 along with a daughter Maureen E Clinch born 1932.
No death certificate for either William or his wife can be found. It may be that they emigrated but no records can be found with regards to their possible travel.
Copyright Researched and reported by
Ian Borthwick 2017 Retired Sussex Police Officer AB579, Served between Nov 1976 to March 2007.