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87th Anniversary of Death of Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries VC


Tuesday, 12th October 2004 marks the 87th anniversary of the death of Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries VC at Passchendaele, Belgium during The Great War.

For those that may not know:

‘Clarence Smith Jeffries was born at Wallsend on 26 October 1894 and was the only child of Joshua and Barbara Jeffries. Joshua Jeffries, was the superintendent of the Abermain Collieries.
Clarence was educated at various public schools and later entered the Newcastle Collegiate School, with his education being completed at the Newcastle High School. On leaving school he joined the surveying staff of the Abermain Collieries, and for some years was in charge of the collieries’ survey department, at the same time serving an apprenticeship to his father as a mining engineer.
Jeffries’ military career commenced when the Compulsary Training Act of the Commonwealth came into force. He enlisted as a Private in the 14th Infantry Regiment under Major Edward Nash, of West Maitland. A few weeks after the declaration of war he was called up for home defence, and later was engaged in instructional work at Newcastle and Liverpool AIF camps, with the rank of Lieutenant.
Clarence received a commission on the formation of the 34th Infantry Battalion at Maitland in February 1916 and sailed from Sydney on 2 May 1916 with the battalion. He entered the trenches at Armentieres with the 34th Battalion in November of the same year.
In the battle of Messines in June 1917, he led a party of fifty volunteers in a reconnaissance of the enemy lines, and shortly after going over the parapet was severely wounded by enemy machine gun fire in the thigh, but carried on, and secured the information required.
Returning to the 34th Infantry Battalion after recovering from his wounds, Jeffries was promoted to the rank of Captain.

The Death of Jeffries:
The following extract from C. E. W. Bean’s Volume IV of The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914 – 1918 gives a description of the circumstances faced by the 34th Infantry Battalion at Passchendaele which lead to the death of Jeffries.

“Second Passchendaele - 12th October 1917
‘The machine gun fire at the start came, on the 9th Infantry 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 machineguns, and here occurred a delay, which threatened to wreck the whole attack.
It was not until an hour later after programme time that these places were rushed by the neighbouring portion of the 35th Infantry Battalion. The trench contained thirty five Germans and four machineguns.
Part of the line was also held up by a pillbox close to the Passchendaele road near the highest point of the ridge. Here there was practically no shelter for the attack but Captain Jeffries of the 34th Battalion managed to organise a party, with Sergeant James Bruce and another [sign in to see URL]. and a dozen men, and, outflanking it, charged the place from the rear, capturing twenty five Germans and two machine guns.
These actions set free the advance. The pillbox captured by Jeffries being not far short of the first objective, the 34th Infantry Battalion dug in there. Great loss had been incurred. The 34th Infantry Battalion had only three officers then left, and there were wide gaps in the line.
The hour was probably a little before that for the second advance. A German machine gun in the gap between the 9th Infantry Brigade's right and the railway immediately opened with deadly effect. Major Buchanan of the 36th Infantry Battalion, the senior forward officer of the brigade, was killed.
At this critical juncture Captain Jeffries (34th Infantry Battalion), again accompanied by Sergeant James Bruce, led out a few men from the first objective and made for the gun.
It was shooting in short bursts, and he was able to work up fairly close. Seizing a moment when it was firing to the north, he and his men rushed at it from the west. It was switched around, killing him, and sending his men to ground. But when its fire eased they worked around it, rushed the position, and seized twenty five Germans and two machine guns.
This gallant and effective action removed the chief danger to the advance along the crest, but as soon as the 35th Infantry Battalion crossed to the eastern side of the hill it became the target of a number of field and heavy guns which, from hedges and other cover in various parts of the landscape, fired over open sights.’

The final objective of the 34th Infantry Battalion was captured by Sergeant James Bruce, a 39 year old married coal miner, from Pelaw Main. Sergeant James Bruce was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at Passchendaele and later promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.”

The citation for Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries’ Victoria Cross reads:
JEFFRIES, Captain Clarence Smith
34th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF
12th October 1917, at Passchendaele, Belgium
(Posthumous Award)
CITATION: 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.
(London Gazette: 18th December 1917.)

Jeffries Memorials:
Every town wanted a Victoria Cross ‘winner’s’ name on their First World War memorial, and Jeffries’ name appears on at least two, these being at Wallsend where he was born in 1894 and at Abermain where he lived, worked and enlisted from early in 1916.
The Wallsend First World War memorial in Wallsend Park has the name of the Hunter Valley’s first Victoria Cross recipient incorrectly spelt with Jeffries’ name appearing as ‘Jeffreys’.
The Abermain First War Memorial is situated within Jeffries Park and a cast bronze plaque commemorating Jeffries as well as a transcription of his Victoria Cross citation is nearby in a small grove of native trees.
Another memorial to Jeffries was dedicated on Saturday 24 June, 1919 in the survey room of the superintendent’s offices at Abermain Collieries when Lieutenant–Colonel Edward Nash unveiled a full size portrait of the late Captain Clarence S. Jeffries, who at time of enlistment was in charge of the survey department at the colliery. This portrait is now housed in the Abermain Bowling Club.
Dudley Public School have perpetuated the name of their former one time pupil by naming the school’s library the ‘Jeffries-Currey Library.’ It also has Jeffries’ death plaque, memorial scroll, and wrist watch on display.
The Jeffries Victoria Cross
Captain Jeffries’ Victoria Cross and citation was presented to Mr. Joshua Jeffries at Admiralty House, Sydney on 4 April 1918, the same day that the 34th Infantry Battalion and the 9th Infantry Brigade were fighting it out with the Hun at the first battle of Villers-Bretonneux, the battle described as ‘the battle that saved Amiens.’
Today Captain Clarence Jeffries’ Victoria Cross is housed in Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral after being bequeathed to the Cathedral in Mrs. Barbara Jeffries’ Last Will and Testament dated 3 October, 1950. In part, Mrs. Jeffries stated in her will:
“I bequeath to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle, New South Wales the Victoria Cross posthumously awarded by His Majesty King George the Fifth to my son Captain Clarence Jeffries VC who was Killed in Action in the Battle of Passchendaele 1917 the said Victoria Cross to be deposited and kept in the Depository in the Warrior’s Chapel of the said cathedral. I bequeath the sum of two hundred pounds to St Luke’s Church of England Wallsend to be expended in the erection of a Memorial in the said Church to the deceased Servicemen of that District and I declare that the receipt of the Priest-in-Charge for the time being of the said Church shall be a sufficient receipt and discharge to my Trustees for payment of the said legacy.”
The original ribbon, which had faded with age, has been replaced after there had apparently been numerous complaints made about the ‘shabby’ state of the medal. “I wanted to make sure it was in pristine condition, to restore its lost lustre,” the Dean of Newcastle was quoted to have said in a Newcastle Herald newspaper report on the replacing of the original medal ribbon.
St. Luke’s Church of England erected a magnificent lead glass window on the eastern end of the church with the two hundred pounds (four hundred dollars) bequeathed by Mrs. Jeffries and it is still there today. The whereabouts of Jeffries’ Victory Medal and Service Medal remain unknown.

Extract from 'Coal Miner Diggers - Hunter Valley Coal Miners at The Great War' by David H Dial OAM.
© David H Dial 2004
For anyone who may be seeking further information about Captain Clarence Smith Jerffries VC, please visit my website at [sign in to see URL]
10/12/2004, 11:29 am Link to this post Send PM to diggerdave
 
Jonty4 Profile
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Re: 87th Anniversary of Death of Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries VC




Nothing else to add except that I've been to his grave. He certainly isn't forgotten.

Jonty
4/18/2005, 1:57 pm Link to this post Send Email to Jonty4   Send PM to Jonty4
 
crosschris Profile
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posticon Re: 87th Anniversary of Death of Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries VC


hi,im trying to research a digger called John Hines. any help on getting info. on him would be gratefuly recieved
6/27/2009, 10:51 pm Link to this post Send Email to crosschris   Send PM to crosschris
 
diggerdave Profile
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Re: 87th Anniversary of Death of Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries VC


Hi Chris
There were four (4) John Hines who embarked for service overseas with the AIF.
Go to [sign in to see URL] - biographical details - nominal rolls - embarkation rolls - type in John Hines.
The four John Hines regimental numbers that will appear are 2296, 102, 6284, 228.
You should also do a search on the National Archives of Australia website [sign in to see URL] First World War service records. There should be a digitised copy of each John Hines' service record.
This is all I am able to help you with.
Good hunting!
diggerdave
6/28/2009, 1:45 pm Link to this post Send PM to diggerdave
 
ebetja Profile
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Re: 87th Anniversary of Death of Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries VC


Great Read, Thank you! Clarence is my 3rd cousin.
9/20/2013, 6:03 pm Link to this post Send Email to ebetja   Send PM to ebetja Blog
 


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