Lieutenant-General S.F. Clark, CBE CD Scholarship

Samuel Findlay Clark (1909-1998)

From a speech given by Dr. R.H. Roy:

"When General Clark was born in 1909, King Edward VII was the reigning monarch of the British Empire and William Taft was President of the USA. Florence Nightingale was still alive; the Girl Guides movement had just started; Louis Bleriot crossed the English Channel by aeroplane in 37 minutes; and Robert E. Peary reached the North Pole.  More important, perhaps, Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics - and certainly General Clark's future was going to be tied up with his inventions more than anything else.

"Canada, of course, was only 42 years old as a nation; Sir Wilfred Laurier was the Prime Minister; Alberta and Saskatchewan had been created only four years earlier; and the nation's population was a shade over 7 million.  When one spoke of the veterans in those days, one thought of the old men who were veterans of the Crimean War, or younger men who were veterans of the Riel Rebellion or the Boer War.

"All of this might make you think that General Clark is a very ancient man indeed - but in fact he would be considered only middle-aged in Victoria.  It's only when you are over 90 that you are considered to be "getting on".

"General Clark was born in Winnipeg, grew up there and in Rivers, and in 1926 went to the University of Manitoba and obtained a BSc degree in electrical engineering.  This was the period of the Roaring Twenties, but when he graduated the Great Depression had started.  When he went to the University of Saskatchewan and obtained his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, the depression was at its worst.  During the summer he worked at a variety of jobs at wages which, in today's world, would not be allowed.  However, hard work, long hours and minimum pay was good experience for the career he was about to enter.

"General Clark was commissioned on February 10, 1933 into the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.  The Corps at this time was engaged in work relating to Radio Range Beacons across Canada, to help aircraft find their way over the vast ranges of a still thinly populated country.  For the next five years he was involved in designing and building receivers and transmitters, and also teaching Corps personnel at Camp Borden.  He was posted to the Royal Military College (RMC) in July, 1938, promoted to A/Captain and as an Associate Professor taught electrical and mechanical engineering.

"The commandant of RMC at the time, by the way, was Brigadier Crerar (later Army commander). Aside from his teaching status, A/Captain Clark was second-in-command of a cadet company commanded by Major Simonds, later II Corps commander in North-West Europe.

"I might mention here that the Permanent Force Militia, as the army was called, was very small and greatly under-funded in the 1930s.  On a per capita basis, in 1937 Canada was spending $1.41 on defense while Britain and France were spending about $15.00.  To put it another way, in the year before the war broke out, the federal government paid about $18 million to support the army - both the permanent force and the militia.  In 1938 there were 4,268 officers and men and 354 horses in the regular army with over 86,000 in the reserve.  The equipment was First World War vintage.  There were no tanks, only a few modern machine guns, and the RCA field artillery had enough ammunition to supply its guns for one-half an hour fire at a normal rate, and then everything would be expended. As for signalling equipment - we didn't even have enough flags, and as a regimental signaller I remember one piece we trained with was a heliograph which dated back to the Boer War.  I won't say more because I hate to see adults weep.

"In 1940 A/Captain Clark received the first of a number of postings and appointments which marked his wartime career.  In that year he became Adjutant of I Corps Sigs, went overseas as a Major in August, but returned early in 1941 to take command of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division signallers with the rank of Lt.-Colonel.  He landed on that rather complacent group like a ton of bricks, but within a short time he had them whipped into one of the most disciplined and efficient units in the division.  He took them overseas late in 1941 and looked after their advanced training until posted to Canadian Military Headquarters in 1942.  In December of '42 he attended the British Senior Staff College and while there was promoted to full Colonel.  He was now earning $12.00 or $13.00 a day, a fabulous sum.  Certainly we $5.00-a-day lieutenants used to wonder what Colonels did with all the money they got.

"In May 1943, he was appointed A/Brigadier and Chief Signals Officer of I Corps. Lt. Gen. Guy Simonds came up from Italy to assume command of the Corps and almost immediately fired about 80% of the staff at Corps headquarters.  Clark and one or two others retained their appointment.  The Corps was about to go into training for the Normandy landing in the following year and it was Brigadier Clark who would be responsible for communications in battle.

"From the time he landed in Normandy in June, 1944 until the end of the war, Brigadier Clark was a very busy man.  He was in the unique position of being at the heart of operational planning with the Corps commander, L.Gen. Simonds, who was without a doubt the best we had in the Canadian Army. Simonds was professional, expected very high standards of efficiency and competence, and those who could not provide it were quickly relieved of their command no matter how high their rank.  He was also innovative, which meant his communications network had to be flexible as well.  I could say much more on this but I've written a book on the Normandy Campaign and if anyone wants proof of the need for good communications in battle, I would refer them to that book.  Very frequently Simonds would leave the choice of his Corps headquarters to his Chief Signals Officers because he fully realized that without a good location for his signallers - and thus without good communications - his control of the Corps would be lost.

"The war ended in May, 1945 and two months later Brigadier Clark was made Chief Signals Officer, Canadian Forces in the Netherlands.  That fall he returned to Canada where he was appointed one of four deputies to the Chief of the General Staff.  Late in 1947 he went to the Imperial Defence College and a year later he was appointed the Canadian Military Observer to the Western Union Defence Committee.  When NATO was created in 1949, Clark was promoted to the rank of Major-General and became the Canadian Representative on the NATO Military Committee.  In 1951 he also became Chairman of the Canadian Joint Staff in London.

"After a total of four years in London, Major-General Clark returned to Canada when he was appointed Quarter-Master General (QMG) in August, 1951.  By this time the "cold war" was heating up. South Korea had been invaded and for the first time Canadian troops were being sent overseas in peacetime.  The Canadian Brigade in Korea was to be matched by a Canadian Brigade to NATO. All three arms of the services were being expanded to reach a total of some 125,000 officers and men, and naturally there was great pressure on the QMG to provide everything from boots to barracks.  It was an era of intense activity, but a period of comparative quiet came for Major-General Clark in September, 1955 when he was appointed GOC, Central Command.

"This turned out to be the easiest job he had since he joined the army, but that brief interlude changed in 1958 when, as a professional soldier, he reached the top rung in the military ladder when he was appointed Chief of the General Staff (CGS).

"It was the first time an officer in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals had been promoted to this high army office - but let us hope not the last.  He was also promoted to Lieutenant-General.

"Once again these three years as CGS were packed with interesting challenges ranging from the stupid howl from the press about horses on the UN to the Congo.  This was a period of great debate respecting nuclear warheads and their storage and potential use by Canadian forces.  Weaponry was getting extremely pricey; politicians were as usual very nervous; and the CGS's office never found life dull.

"When his tour of duty was finished in 1961, Lt. Gen. Clark was asked by the Prime Minister to be the Chairman of the National Capital Commission. He assumed this task on the condition that he be seconded from the army.  It was while holding this "civilian" job that he became Honorary Colonel of the Signal Corps, later renamed the Communications and Electronics Branch. He retired in 1967 and moved to Victoria, retaining his honorary title until 1972.  He then became Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of 744 (Vancouver) Communication Squadron (now regiment) from 1972 to 1979, and then Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of 741 (Victoria) Communication Squadron in Victoria in 1979, an office he held until the end of October 1988.  At that time he had put in 55 years of service with the armed forces and, incidentally, had been one of only four men in Canada wearing four bars on his Canadian Forces Decoration ribbon.

"I have just touched the highlights of General Clark's career.  His interests are as varied as his career - boating, duck hunting, rugby, squash, tennis, fly fishing, mathematics, and pistol shooting, just to name some off the top of my head.  His lifetime interest, however, has been soldiering.  He has been made a Commander of the British Empire, a Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau with Crossed Swords and has received the American Legion of Merit for his military accomplishments.

"General Clark retired, at the age of 79, in October 1988 and passed away in 1998.”

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