Clarke, Hilary Laurence

Hilary Laurence 


1918 - 1943
Rank Fusilier
Service no.6482249
Born September 29, 1918
DiedJuly 14, 1943


Hilary Laurence

Gateway School 1929-34

Son of Ralph and Mahalah Clarke. Husband of Evelyn Clarke.

No 3 Commando was one of the units that took part in the invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) in July 1943. It was tasked with capturing the Malati Bridge on the main route north to Catania. The bridge was successfully captured from the Italians and after removing the demolitions which had been laid, held the bridge until reinforcements arrived under a heavy counter attack by Germans supported by Tiger tanks, which inflicted heavy casualties on the exposed men of No.3 Commando. Eventually they were ordered to withdraw but the bridge was saved from the demolition that the Germans had planned. After the operation, 153 men of 3 Commando were reported as killed wounded or missing. Among them was Fusilier Clarke who is buried in Syracuse War Cemetery, Sicily. Grave VI. D. 16. After the fall of Catania, General Montgomery ordered that the words “ 3 Commando Bridge” were to be carved into a stone which was cemented into the Malati Bridge.

History Information

On 10 July 1943, following the successful conclusion of the north African campaign in mid May, a combined allied force of 160,000 Commonwealth and American troops invaded Sicily as a prelude to
the assault on mainland Italy. The Italians, who would shortly make peace with the Allies and re-enter the war on their side, offered little determined resistance but German opposition was vigorous
and stubborn. The campaign in Sicily came to an end on 17 August when the two allied forces came together at Messina, but failed to cut off the retreating Axis lines. Commonwealth forces made their
landings in the south-east corner of the island between Pachina and Syracuse, and the majority of those buried in Syracuse War Cemetery died during those landings or in the early stages of the
campaign. Many graves belong to men of the airborne force that attempted landings west of the town on the night of 9-10 July, when gale force winds forced 60 of the 140 gliders used into the sea and blew others wide of their objectives. Syracuse War Cemetery contains 1,059 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 134 of them unidentified. There is also one First World War burial, that of a merchant seaman whose grave was brought to the cemetery from Marsala British Cemetery.