Henry Francis Clifford
Henry Francis Clifford was born on 19 August 1871, the only son of Henry James Clifford and Annie Frances Hilton-Green. Home was The Grange amongst five sisters, three of whom became nurses during the war : Edith Katherine, Mabel Constance and Elaine Annie. Henry was educated at Haileybury College, Hertford, and Christ Church College, Oxford. He enlisted in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Imperial Yeomanry and while serving in South Africa he was commissioned in the field, having been wounded during mounted operations. After the Boer War he continued with the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, rising to the rank of Major. He married Adelaide Hilda Clay at St Peter's, Eaton Square, London, on 12 November 1913.
At the outbreak of war, his regiment was deployed in East Anglia to guard against German invasion, during the first Zeppelin bombing raids. In 1915, to his immense disappointment, Henry was tasked with commanding the 'Stay Behind' party in Egypt, which looked after the horses whilst the regiment served in Gallipoli on foot. He was mentioned in despatches whilst commanding 'B' Squadron RGH during the tragic Battle of Qatia in the Sinai on 23 April 1916. The 'Cavalry raid on Rafa', near Gaza, was to prove his final action (see the photo in our Gallery). The detail is told here by Frank Fox (The History of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry: 1898-1922) :
In January it was decided to make an attempt to clear the enemy out of a strong post which he held at Rafa. The place was distant 29 miles from our position; it was held by over 2,000 Turkish troops, and it was the advance post of his main force based at around Beersheba. It was not our idea to capture and hold Rafa but to raid the place, inflict as much damage as possible on the Turkish force, and then retire to our base at El Arish. It was necessary that we should advance a strong force secretly across 29 miles of desert, reduce Rafa before the Turk could send reinforcements from his main body, and then get away at once.
The problem was a difficult one. It was whether a force of 5,000 men could surround and cut off the retreat of a force of about 2,000 and then carry an entrenched position held by this enemy with machine guns, mountain guns in well-placed modern entrenchments, backed up by a force of unknown strength within twelve miles. The attacking force had only field guns to support the attack, had to operate 29 miles from their base, and to fight after a night march. The place had to be taken "against time", and, if it did not fall, there was some doubt if the attacking force would extricate itself without grave loss.
The task was undertaken by Lieut.-Gen. Sir Philip Chetwode, commanding a force which had been recently formed and named the Desert Column. It was wholly a mounted force. His troops consisted of the 5th Mounted Brigade (in which were the RGH), the Anzac Mounted Division (less the 2nd Light Horse Brigade), the Imperial Camel Corps, with a battery of the HAC [Honourable Artillery Company].
Our force marched out on the night of January 8 and pushed on rapidly, so as to surround the Turkish position as far as possible before daylight. The attack opened shortly after 7am. The Turkish position was found to be of great strength, dominated by a redoubt, with field guns and machine gun posts, and surrounded by open country which gave to his entrenchments a perfect glacis. After 10 hours' fighting the attack was completely successful. Practically the whole Turkish force was destroyed. The enemy lost in killed 252, and over 1,600 unwounded prisoners were taken, and a mountain battery and six machine guns. The British force lost 71 killed, 415 were wounded, and one reported missing.
Turkish reinforcements were coming on rapidly during the later stages of the battle and it was necessary for our attacking force to detach troops to delay their advance. This was successfully done, and that night we marched back to El Arish victorious but deadly tired. The British force had marched 29 miles throughout the night of January 8, had fought for 10 hours on the day of January 9, and on the night of January 9 marched back 29 miles, an important objective fully attained. It was a cavalry operation of the first order, and an operation only possible for cavalry.
Henry Clifford was among those who lost his life, shot while commanding his squadron. He was buried at Rafa and later reinterred in the CWGC Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Suez, Egypt. His ultimate sacrifice is remembered on Frampton's war memorial and the plaque in the village hall, and also at Haileybury College and Christ Church, Oxford. Major Clifford was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. On 19 January, a memorial service was held at St Mary's, schoolchildren having been given a half-day in order to attend. His daughter, Henrietta Hilda Elizabeth Clifford, was born three months later, on 8 April 1917.