An Old Coathamian – Not Forgotten

Frederick Joseph CLAPHAM

No. 7612754 Private, Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

Died 9 September 1941, aged 25 years.

Buried in Imtarfa Military Cemetery, Malta,
Collective Grave 4.1B.18.

Malta was a British colonial possession in the Mediterranean, of prime strategic importance to the armies fighting in North Africa. From mid-1940 until late 1942, Malta was subjected to unceasing heavy bombardment and blockading by the enemy. Despite huge loss of life on the island and near starvation, its resistance was never broken and the island and its people were awarded the George Cross by King George VI for their heroism. The island’s full name thenceforth became Malta, G.C. Private Clapham died in Malta during those grievous times of unceasing bombardment and is buried in a ‘collective’ grave, because the earth is so shallow on the island that graves had to be cut into the underlying rock.

Frederick Joseph Clapham was the son of Frederick Thomas Clapham, who had fought as a private soldier in the First World War, in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and had been killed in action, in France, in September 1918. His mother was Jemima May Clapham and they lived in Darlington. Born in 1916, he joined Coatham School in April 1927 as a boarder in School House, and lived in Wynneholme, the school’s smaller residence for boarders. In his early years at school he participated in concerts, singing in the choir and playing the ukulele in the school orchestra. Often competing against Buglass (q.v.), he became a particularly successful athlete in track events and winning, for example, the 100 yards sprint for his age group in 1930, 1931 and 1932. He was the school’s record holder for the under-13½ 100 yards and 220 yards. He played cricket and rugby for his house and in 1933, in the same team as Coupe and Nichols, (q.v.), he played rugby for the school 1st XV, for which he received his colours. In that year he was also a school monitor and head boy at Wynneholme. The school magazine of March 1934 noted that “it was most unfortunate that he had to leave”, in December 1933, although “we hear he is progressing as satisfactorily in his new sphere of activity as in his old”. In 1940 he was on the first published list of Old Coathamians in H.M. Forces, and he was first recorded on the School’s Roll of Honour in July 1942. His widowed mother was still alive at the time of his death.