Poignant memories of wartime service

A poignant display in the window of Edwards newsagent's in Watton High Street marks the wartime experiences of Jack Clarke and his old mate the late Ernie Edwards.

Mr Clarke, 91, of Carbrooke, spent virtually all of the second world war at sea and a new book called Marine Jack has just been published giving an insight into his story.

Written by former Watton solicitor Robert Chalmers, the book is illustrated with pictures, maps, newspaper cuttings and also a copy of his 'Blue Nose Certificate,' which is given to a sailor when he crosses the Arctic Circle for the first time.

It recounts eventful years of operations from the Barents Sea to the Mediterranean and work from escorting Atlantic and Arctic convoys to protecting vessels to Malta.

Mr Clarke, who had joined as a Marine three years before the war, was on The Manchester when it sunk.

Mr Edwards – whose son Chris runs the newsagent's – died 15 years ago and was with the Royal Army Service Corps and was captured at the end of the Greek Campaign and spent five years in a German prisoner of war camp.

He was released by the Americans at the end of the war and he wrote his own story – called Kalmata Beach – which was published and tells his story.

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Chris Edwards has set up the window display and said it was important that the stories of local servicemen were written down and not forgotten.

Mr Chalmers, from Norwich, said Mr Clarke was very modest about his wartime experiences but had shared anecdotes and the author had then put them into the historical context.

'He was in most theatres of the war. He just got on with doing his job and is a very unassuming man.'

One section of the book – describing the torpedoing of The Manchester - neatly summed Mr Clarke's attitude to his job.

'Jack's tale in the midst of this campaign and mayhem was one of incredible nonchalance. 'There was an explosion and as there were so many ships about I had no idea what had hit us. We were still under attack and so I had to stay at my post until we were given the order to abandon ship. When the order came I stripped off as the ship was listing so badly I was virtually able to walk down the hull and then dive in to the sea.'

Mr Clarke modestly said: 'I do not want to be recognised too much.'

His wife Enid said: 'I am so pleased with the book and at last it has all been written down.'

Both books are on sale at Edwards in Watton.

Marine Jack is also available at Chambers in Dereham and Jarrolds in Norwich. It costs �5.99 and all proceeds are for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.