Donald Owen Clarke (05/03/1923 – 08/09/1942) was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his actions on 08-09/08/1942 off coast of Trinidad while a crewman of the tanker San Emiliano.
“On the night of the 8th-9th August 1942, Clarke was serving on board the tanker “San Emiliano” when it was hit by two torpedoes and her cargo of petroleum burst into flames, turning the ship into an inferno. Clarke was trapped in his cabin but fought his way out on deck and boarded the only lifeboat that was still intact. It was full of burnt and wounded men, and he himself was badly burnt on the face, hands and legs. When the boat was lowered onto the sea, it started to drift back towards the flaming tanker and it was evident that it would require a tremendous effort to pull it out of danger. Most of the occupants, however, were so badly injured that they were unable to help. Despite his injuries, Clarke took an oar and pulled heartily for 2 hours without complaint, and only when the boat was well clear did he collapse and then his hands had to be cut away from the oar as the burnt flesh had stuck to it. He died a few hours later of his injuries.”
Clarke’s body was lost at sea off the coast of Trinidad, and he is commemorated on the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill in London.
© DRW 2016-2018. Information from Victoriacrossonline
This memorial was one of the surprise finds I made in London in 2008, and I did not have a lot of time to photograph it all. Sighted within walking distance of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, it’s a place of awe for all the lives that are listed on its walls. This also makes it one of the more difficult memorials to photograph.
The original Tower Hill Memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was begun in 1927 and unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Mary on 12 December 1928 and is built of Portland stone. The 1914-18 monument consists of a vaulted corridor 21.5 metres long, 7 metres wide and 7 to 10 metres high, open at either end. It has three wide openings at front and back in which are placed pairs of columns and is surmounted by a solid pediment bearing the dedicatory inscription. The names of the dead are arranged alphabetically under their ships and inscribed on bronze panels covering the eight main masonry piers which support the roof.
When the question arose of commemorating the men of the Merchant Navy who lost their lives during the 1939-45 War and have no known grave, it was agreed a new Memorial should be combined with the existing Tower Hill Memorial to form a complete whole. The architect, Sir Edward Maufe, achieved this by designing a semi-circular sunken garden adjoining the 1914-18 memorial.
The memorial is difficult to describe as the amount of names on it are staggering. Trying to find a way to adequately encompass everything about it is almost impossible, and as such I can only really add in odd photographs to help convey what I saw.
© DRW, 2008-2018. Created 30/08/2008. Recreated and updated 04/05/2013. Moved to blog 02/03/2014
This Memorial to “Merchant Seafarers Who Gave Their Lives To Secure The Freedom Of The Falkland Islands” may be found within the grounds of the Trinity Gardens on Tower Hill, other Falklands War Memorials may be found in Southampton.
The SS Atlantic Conveyor, and RFAs Sir Galahad, Fort Grange and Sir Tristram are mentioned specifically on the Memorial.
© DRW, 2008-2018. Created 04/05/2013. Moved to blog 02/03/2014