b, 05/03/1923 Chester le Street, Durham. d. 08/09/1942 at sea.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 08-09/08/1942 off coast of Trinidad.
Donald Owen Clarke GC was born on 5th March 1923 in Chester le Street, County Durham. He was the son of Thomas and Bertha Clarke and had one sister. He attended Chester le Street Secondary School, and at the age of 16 enlisted with the Merchant Navy. Prior to the actions which led to his George Cross, he saved a dock gateman from drowning during the Liverpool Blitz.
On the night of the 8th-9th August 1942, Clarke was serving on board the tanker “San Emiliano” when it was hit by two torpedoes and her cargo of petroleum burst into flames, turning the ship into an inferno. Clarke was trapped in his cabin but fought his way out on deck and boarded the only lifeboat that was still intact. It was full of burnt and wounded men, and he himself was badly burnt on the face, hands and legs. When the boat was lowered onto the sea, it started to drift back towards the flaming tanker and it was evident that it would require a tremendous effort to pull it out of danger. Most of the occupants, however, were so badly injured that they were unable to help. Despite his injuries, Clarke took an oar and pulled heartily for 2 hours without complaint, and only when the boat was well clear did he collapse and then his hands had to be cut away from the oar as the burnt flesh had stuck to it. He died a few hours later of his injuries.
Clarke’s body was lost at sea off the coast of Trinidad, though he is remembered on the San Emiliano Memorial in Tower Hill, London. His medal is held by the Chester le Street Council.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CHESTER LE STREET COUNCIL.
BURIAL PLACE: LOST AT SEA OFF TRINIDAD.
Merchant Navy Memorial, Tower Hill