This Thursday will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Abermain’s Victoria Cross recipient, Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries.
Captain Jeffries was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele on October 12, 1917, after heroically organising and leading a combing party that cleared the path to the German lines, and allowed the company to capture 35 German prisoners.
Later that morning he led another advance during a break in enemy fire, but the Germans saw them coming and turned to fire, fatally shooting Captain Jeffries.
He was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions on the day of his death.
Abermain RSL Sub-branch held a writing competition some years ago for local primary school students to research Captain Jeffries.
Below is Chloe Musgrave’s winning entry.
CLARENCE SMITH JEFFRIES 1894-1917
By Chloe Musgrave, 5/6C
Ever since I can remember, my family and I have been going to the park in Abermain for the Anzac Day ceremony.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, when my principal (Mr Boughton) set a challenge, I didn’t even know the name of the park. So I decided to accept the challenge and look into it, and find out who the park was named after and why.
My first job was to find out the name of the park. I asked Mum to take me to the park and explore. I found out that the name of the park is Jeffries VC Park, and is named after Clarence Smith Jeffries.
Clarence Smith Jeffries was born 26th October 1894 and died 12th October 1917. He was only 22.
Clarence’s father was general manager at the Abermain Colliery. Clarence worked as a mining surveyor at the Abermain Collieries before he went to World War I. He liked cricket and horses.
Clarence left Sydney in February 1916 to fight in the First World War. On the day Clarence died he was very brave, because he captured four machine guns and thirty-five prisoners and later that day he got another two machine guns and thirty prisoners even though men were dying around him.
I was very sad when I learnt that when he was capturing the sixth gun the enemy turned the gun around and shot him.
Clarence died, but his men finished the job he started.
Clarence was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery, which is the highest award for gallantry in the war. Sadly, he wasn’t alive to receive it.
The people of Abermain wanted to name the park after their hero, and the Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries Memorial Park was established in 1947.
Abermain was presented with a cannon that was captured at the end of the war as a memorial for Clarence’s bravery in receiving the Victoria Cross. The cannon was removed at some stage because parents were concerned about children climbing on it.
Two hundred people from Abermain fought in World War I and thirty-six of those did not return home.
So in learning about Clarence, I also learnt a little bit of history about my town.
This year at the Anzac Day ceremony I am going to give special thoughts to Clarence Smith Jeffries and all the other people that fought for us.
Thank you Clarence.
BARR TO PAY TRIBUTE
As Captain Jeffries is the sole Victoria Cross recipient from the Cessnock electorate, Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr will pay tribute to him in Parliament on Thursday.
“During this Centenary of Anzac, we have heard countless stories of the heroism and bravery demonstrated by Australian men and women during World War I. It is only fitting to recognise and commemorate the heroic actions of one of our own local men,” Mr Barr said.
“Clarence is the only Victoria Cross recipient from our area and it’s important that we remember and reflect on his sacrifices. He holds a very special place in our local and national military history”.
“The Battle of Passchendaele was terrible for Australia, in terms of loss of life, and by taking the time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Clarence’s death; we remember all those who sacrificed their life for our safety and freedom.”