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Selwyn Ackworth Percival CLARKE

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Pte 26 22y 24 Sep 1914 8 Feb 1918 1

Private Selwyn Ackworth Percival Clarke (1892-1936)


Family background and early life

Selwyn Ackworth Percival Clarke, known to his family as 'Toby', was born at South Brisbane on 6 May 1892, son of David James Clarke and Elizabeth Annie née Baker. Mr D. J. Clarke was a chemist with business premises in Finney’s Old Building in Edward Street in the city. The family lived at Elsdah in Hobb Street, Auchenflower. Selwyn attended Brisbane Grammar School in 1909 and 1910 and later passed a preliminary pharmacy examination enabling him to be articled as a chemist’s assistant in his father’s pharmacy.


On 24 September 1914, soon after the declaration of war, Selwyn Clarke at the age of 22 enlisted at Victoria Barracks in Brisbane to serve in the Australian Imperial Force. He was given an early regimental number 26 and appointed to First Australian General Hospital in the Royal Australian Medical Corps.

Private Clarke left Brisbane on 21 November 1914 on board HMAT Kyarra bound for Egypt. Just prior to the voyage the ship had been converted to a hospital ship for the purpose of transporting Australian medical units to Egypt. The hull was painted white with a large red cross on the side.


For nearly two years Private S. A. P. Clarke was attached to Heliopolis Hospital carrying out duties at auxiliary hospitals at Ras-el-Tin, Abbassia and Mustapha. In February 1916 he was in hospital himself with influenza at Abbassia.

On 15 September 1916, he embarked from Alexandria per hospital ship SS Hertfordshire and was transferred at Parkhouse Camp to the 8th Field Ambulance. On crossing to France in November 1916 he served with the 14th Field Ambulance carrying out dangerous duties in the field as a stretcher bearer.

Wounded in action

He was seriously wounded in action on 4 May 1917. Suffering gunshot wounds by high explosive shell to the thigh and buttocks, Private Clarke was transported to hospital in England and did not return to the Western Front.

Return to Australia

He embarked from London for return to Australia on board Themistocles on 3 January 1918. He was discharged from the AIF on 8 February 1918 in Brisbane, suffering from deafness in both ears.


For his services in the Great War Private Selwyn Clarke was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Post-WW1 life

Australian electoral rolls of 1919 and 1922 show Selwyn Clarke living at Montura in Gladstone Road, South Brisbane when his occupation was pharmaceutical chemist. He might again have worked in his father’s pharmacy though Mr D. J. Clarke senior died in December 1924 and Mrs Clarke his mother in 1927.

Work in New Guinea

In 1921 Selwyn Clarke moved to New Guinea working for the Australian Government Expropriation Board there where he was employed as a Medical Assistant.  (There are other records that showed he worked at Enclowa Leprosarium at Kavieng, New Ireland. The leper colony there housed 570 inmates including nearly 100 children. Appeals for “Christmas cheer for lepers” were advertised in Australian newspapers in the 1930s. It was said to be the only large leper colony in the Commonwealth Territories. Today the town of Kavieng is the capital of the Papua New Guinean province of New Ireland and the largest town on the island of the same name. The town is located at Balgai Bay, on the northern tip of the island. In 2009 Kavieng had a population of 17,248.). 

In 1927 he entered the service of the Melanesia Company, serving until 1932 when he moved to become an officer of the New Guinea Public Service.  In 1935, he joined the staff as medical assistant at Edie Creek for New Guinea Goldfields Ltd. 


Selwyn Ackworth Percival Clarke died at Wau, a distance of 698 km by sea from Kavieng, on 17 October 1936, aged 44 years. At that time, gold discoveries surrounding the settlement at Wau were attracting large numbers of people but the cause of Selwyn Clarke’s death there is not known.


• National Archives of Australia, World War 1 military records
• Australian War Memorial, Embarkation Roll
• Archives, Brisbane Grammar School, The Golden Book
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1913 – 1922
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• Ancestry, family records on line
Brisbane Courier, 8 March 1890, page 4
Queensland Figaro, 20 February 1913, page 1
Pacific Island Monthly Magazine, 24 November 1936, Vol VII, No 4.  Source:  NAA
Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October 1934, page 5
The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 9 Nov 1935, page 12

Compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane,  April 2016.   Additional information added by M. King January, 2024  ©



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