GREAT WAR MEMORIAL PLAQUE NAMED ‘ALBERT CLARKSON’. HOUSED IN ITS PROTECTIVE CARD ENVELOPE WITH OUTER POSTING ENVELOPE ADDRESSED TO: ‘MTS A CLARKSON, 56 SHAW ROAD, BLACKPOOL’, POST DATED 12 JANUARY 1922.
The recipients name is not unique, however the addressed envelope matches confirms the recipient as being the one of was shot down by Manfred Von Richthofen. The address not only confirmed in published books on ‘The Red Baron’ but in period newspapers. Additionally, accompanying the plaque is an original 17.5 x 11cm photograph of Clarkson in R.F.C. uniform, this marked to reverse ‘Sgt A Clarkson, picture from Great Nephew’. This unpublished photograph is clearly of the same man pictured in both publications and newspaper reports (see PDF).
Albert Clarkson was born and brought up in Lonsdale Road, Burnley, Lancashire and after leaving school, he served and completed his apprenticeship as an electrician with a local company and with the Great War, he volunteers for service with the Royal Flying Corps and was accepted on 23 January 1915. In August that year, his parents moved to Blackpool, taking ip residence at 56 Shaw Street. In meantime, Albert had successfully undergone training as an Observer and was flying operationally in France with 11 Squadron, R.F.C. Having been promoted Sergeant (No.3049), by September 1916, Clarkson had considerable fling experience, so much so that reports following his death credit him with numerous encounters with enemy machines and “having accounted for three German aeroplanes”. On the morning of 30 September 1916, FE2b 6973 of 11 Squadron, piloted by the relatively inexperienced Lieutenant E C Lansdale, with Clarkson as Observer, took off on a bomber escort sortie:
“At 09.10am on the morning of the 30th September, Lieutenant Ernest Conway Lansdale of 11 Squadron Royal Flying Corps, took off from the airfield at Izel-Les Hameau with his observer Albert Clarkson. Flying an FE2b biplane Ernest and the rest of 11 Squadron were to provide fighter escort for bombers whose target was German support lines behind the town of Bapaume. Ernest was new to 11 Squadron and had only qualified as a flying officer eleven days before. Nevertheless, he was sent into combat with the far more experienced Clarkson who already had three kills to his name. Climbing to about 9000 feet in clear blue skies the squadron rendezvoused with the bombers and continued towards Bapaume. At 10.45am and approaching the target the British planes came under attack from German machines and dog fights broke out between the fighter planes. Within minutes a German Albatros D11 biplane closed on Ernest's plane from behind and began firing its machine gun. The fight would be brief and unequal for the German pilot was the greatest air ace of World War One, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the infamous 'Red Baron'. Von Richthofen describes how he fired about 200 rounds into Lansdale's plane before it began to descend into an uncontrolled spin. In the days before parachutes there was nothing that the pilot could do except hope to make some sort of controlled landing. Probably barely alive Lansdale was in no position to control anything and the plane crashed behind enemy lines. German soldiers dragged both flyers from their plane but Albert Clarkson was already dead and Ernest Lansdale would die soon after.”
By tragic coincidence, Clarkson’s father had died on 16 October 1916 and news that her son was missing was received by Mrs Clarkson at the very moment of her husband’s funeral entourage was about to leave Shaw Street in Blackpool for his burial in their original home town of Burnley.
On 30 September 1916, Von Richthofen, of Jasta 2 was flying Albatros DII491/16. His combat report reads that:
“About 1150 I attacked, accompanied by four planes of our Staffel above our aerodrome at Lagnicourt and at 3,000 metres altitude, a Vickers squadron. I singled out a machine and after some 200 shots, the enemy plane started gliding down towards Cambrai. Finally it began to make circles. The shooting had stopped and I saw that the machine was flying uncontrolled. As we were already rather far away from our front lines, I left the crippled plane and selected a new adversary. Later on I could observe the aforementioned machine, pursued by a German Albatros machine, crash burning to the ground near Fremicourt. The machine burnt to ashes.”
Despite the burnt state of the aircraft, Von Richthofen was able to secure a souvenir, which over the next year and a half, would be joined by many more from other victims aircraft.
From the ‘Burnley and the Great War’ website:
Both Albert Clarkson and Ernest Lansdale is buried in Bancourt Communal Cemetery, France.
Condition is very good, envelope with tears and delicate. Sold with copy research.