‘A gallant death in the cause of freedom’: Percy Archer Clive (1873-1918)

Dr Kathryn Rix, Assistant Editor of the Commons 1832-1868 Section continues with our blog series to commemorate those MPs who died during the First World War. Today we remember Percy Archer Clive of the Grenadier Guards and MP for South Herefordshire… 

Percy Archer Clive (1873-1918)

On 5 April 1918 Percy Archer Clive became the twentieth MP or former MP to die while serving with the forces during the First World War. His memorial in Hereford Cathedral records that he ‘died a gallant death’, being killed at the village of Bucquoy in northern France ‘in the act of rescuing a fallen comrade’. He was shot while conferring with an officer commanding a neighbouring battalion, who had been wounded. The other officer, Captain Sutton, was rescued by stretcher bearers and survived.

Clive’s great-great-grandfather was a first cousin of the 1st Baron Clive, better known as Clive of India. Several generations of the family had served in Parliament, including Clive’s great-grandfather, Edward Bolton Clive (1765-1845), who sat for Hereford, 1826-45, a seat later represented by Clive’s great-uncle George (1806-80). Edward Bolton Clive had estates in Herefordshire, Warwickshire and Ireland, most of which passed to Clive’s grandfather, Rev. Archer Clive, and then to Clive’s father, Charles Meysey Bolton Clive, who died when Clive was ten years old.

After his education at Eton and Sandhurst, Clive embarked on a military career, joining the Grenadier Guards in 1891. He served in the Niger field force in 1898 and fought in the Boer War in South Africa from 1899, the year in which he was promoted to captain. In April 1900 Clive was named as the future Liberal Unionist candidate for the Ross division of Herefordshire (also known as South Herefordshire), where the long-serving MP, Michael Biddulph, planned to step down at the next general election. As Biddulph was a Liberal Unionist, it fell to that section of the Unionist party to select his successor as candidate, but Clive also had the backing of the local Conservative party. (The parties formally merged in 1912.)

Austen Chamberlain

Clive was serving in South Africa when the general election took place in October 1900. With the Unionists in a strong position at the ‘khaki’ election, the local Liberals did not challenge Clive, and he was elected unopposed in his absence. Having returned to England after being wounded in South Africa, he finally addressed his new constituents for the first time in February 1902, when he devoted the bulk of his speech to the Boer War. Military matters, particularly the supply of horses in South Africa, were also the subject of his maiden speech in the Commons on 7 March 1902. In June Clive was appointed as (unpaid) parliamentary private secretary to Lord George Hamilton, the Secretary of State for India. He subsequently performed the same role (from December 1903) for E. G. Pretyman, the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, and (from February 1905) for Austen Chamberlain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who later became godfather to Clive’s younger son.

At the 1906 election Clive was among many Unionists who lost their seats as the Liberals swept to power in a landslide victory, being defeated by Colonel Alan Coulston Gardner by a majority of 312 votes. During a hard-fought campaign Clive was assisted by his wife Alice, whom he had married the previous year. She proved herself ‘an indefatigable and winning canvasser, and also an able and pleasing speaker’. The key election issue was free trade, with Clive a staunch supporter of Joseph Chamberlain’s policy of Tariff Reform. One of his election slogans promised that ‘Clive and Tariff Reform will give the Working Man Bread and Beef’. In a striking example of the visual propaganda deployed at elections in this period, the Unionists sent a horse and trap displaying a sirloin of beef around the constituency. The Liberals retaliated with ‘Remember! Every vote for Clive is a Slice off your Loaf’, and a donkey and cart paraded a Liberal ‘big loaf’ adorned with yellow ribbons (their party colour) alongside a ‘little loaf’ with blue ribbons (the Unionist colour). During the election, the driver escorting the Unionists’ beef captured these loaves and transposed the ribbons.

Gardner’s death gave Clive the opportunity to regain the seat at a by-election in January 1908, and he retained it at the two general elections of 1910. When the war broke out in 1914 Clive rejoined the Grenadier Guards and went to France. In March 1915 the press reported that he had been presented with the Légion d’Honneur by General Joffre, the French commander-in-chief on the Western front. This followed what The Times described as ‘a brave adventure’ in a German trench, undertaking a daring act of reconnaissance which provided vital information about the enemy’s position. Later that year Clive was wounded by the explosion of a German mine. In 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and took command of the 7th Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment. He was seriously wounded that November, when he was shot in the hip and the arm, and subsequently appeared in the House of Commons on crutches. He recovered sufficiently to return to France in 1918, this time as commanding officer of the 1/5th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, with whom he was serving at the time of his death. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

Clive was survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters. Both his sons followed him into the Grenadier Guards. His younger son, Lewis Clive (1910-38), won a gold medal for rowing at the 1932 Olympics. He resigned his army commission in 1937 and joined the International Brigade to fight in the Spanish Civil War. He was killed during the Battle of Ebro in August 1938. During his time in the Grenadier Guards, Clive’s elder son, Meysey George Dallas Clive (1907-43), served as aide de camp to the viceroy of India, 1931-3. He rejoined the regiment at the outbreak of the Second World War, took part in the retreat from Dunkirk, and was killed while serving in North Africa on 1 May 1943.


See here for more blogs in this series.

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