Vivian Hastings Clay 1892 - 1916
Capt 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment
Killed in the Gird Trench S.W. of Ligny-Thilloy
18th October 1916 On his 24th Birthday
V. H. Clay
Day of his death 1
Day of his death_2
The Days before
His brother's dream
Vivian was born on the 18th October 1892 in Fovant Wilts.
He was killed on 18th October 1916 on the day of his 24th birthday. No doubt he had hoped that it would be a happy birthday.
The 2nd Wilts diary entry for the 18th October and the letters of condolences describe the manner of his death - killed by a single bullet whist demonstrating his fearlessness and leading by example.
Surprisingly, Vivian, who was brought up in the country, could not ride. His first cousin Dick (Robert Richard Clay M.C.) was a cavalry man who had fought with the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa. He taught Vivian how to ride during their spare time whilst serving together in the 2nd Wilts and earlier in the year. As can be read from his letter to Vivian's parents, was particulary upset by Vivian's death. Dick was serving as the Battalion Transport Officer and was unable to go to find Vivian body.
Vivian is remembered on the Thiepval Monument as one of the fallen of the Somme with no known grave. However, there is a beautifully clean marble memorial tablet commemorating Vivian on the wall of the Parish Church at Fovant.
It seems that the Clay's were a warrior family. Vivian's father, Dr Chaloner Clay, was younger brother to Charles Robert Clay.
Charles who was Dick's father, was before his marriage, Lieutenant, 14th Wilts Rifle Volunteers during the period 1870 to 1875 as noted in the Army Lists for the period. The Earl of Pembroke was his Captain at Wilton. It seems that 1875 spelt the end of his Military Service. However, Charles' grandson, Major Kenneth Archibald Holland TD, continued the tradition by also serving his country as a Dorsetshire Regiment Territorial both before and during the Second World War. Ken's brother in law, George Russell Wheeler OBE MM, served with distinction as a Commando during the Second World War. He earned his MM by evading capture, following the raid on St. Nazaire. He made his way home via Marseilles and Gibralter.
The medical tradition was continued by Vivian's brother Dr Richard Challoner Cobbe Clay. He continued the family tradition as Medical Practitioner in Fovant Wiltshire. He took over the practice shortly after their father's death in December 1916 and continued in practice until shortly before his own death at the age of 80 years on 27th February 1971 (obit: BMJ - 29 May 1971). In addition to being highly regarded in his community, Dr R C C Clay gave much of his time to the St John's Ambulance, writing their handbook on first aid which was used for some years after the Second World War. He was also active in Wiltshire Archeology circles and a number of his finds are on display at the Devizes Museum.
Vivian's service record at the PRO - (WO339/47991) - shows that whilst at both Epsom College and Durham University he was active in the Officer Training Corps and was appointed to a Commission in the Special Reserve of Officers in the Wiltshire Regiment in 1914. At over 6ft and 168lb he was a healthy man with a commanding figure but destined to see less than one day of his 25th year of life. He resigned a position as schoolmaster to join the Wiltshire Regiment.
According to some of the letters of condolence, just prior his death, Vivian sent a hand written report to his Commanding Officer. This report was not found in the War Diary file of the 2nd Wilts at the PRO in August 2000. Of course it may be in the confidential files. If any one knows of the whereabout of this report, particularly in its original form, the writer would be more than pleased to hear about it.