Abraham Joseph Clifford

First Name: 
Middle Name: 
Last Name: 
Alternate Spelling: 
Mother's Name: 
Mary Katherine Clifford (nee Duffy)
Father's Name: 
Cornelius Clifford
Date Enlisted: 
Thursday, February 24, 1916
Rank at Enlistment: 
Rank at Discharge: 
53rd Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Date of Death: 
Saturday, November 17, 1917
Place of Death: 
Belgium (as stated on the Roll Of Honour)
Cause of Death: 
Killed in Action

Abraham Joseph Clifford (Service No.1888A) was born in Benandarah, New South Wales in the year 1883. He was the eldest child born to Cornelius Clifford and Mary Katherine Clifford of "Farmborough", West Dapto. Abraham attended the Convent School in West Dapto. He was trained in Dairy farming and his occupation, at the time of his enlistment in the AIF, was as a Quarryman at the Port Kembla Government Quarry. Abraham also had military training, stating on his Attestation Papers that he had been a member of the Albion Park Light Horse for six years.

Abraham was very close to his brother Thomas Edwin Clifford and his sister Elizabeth Muriel Burgess (nee Clifford). They were the three eldest children in the family and were close in age having been born in the years 1883, 1885 and 1887 respectively. Abraham served as best man at the wedding of his sister Elizabeth Muriel to James Burgess of West Maitland. The wedding was celebrated in St John's Catholic Church, Dapto, on Wednesday May 10, 1911. Elizabeth Muriel Burgess named her eldest son Abraham (Abe) Cornelius Burgess, after her brother of whom she was so fond.

Abraham was involved in the formation of the South Wollongong Surf Life Saving Club in 1915. According to the Illawarra Mercury of Tuesday 2 March 1915, Abraham was elected to the office of Captain of the club on the 22nd of February 1915. The article mentions that Abraham and the Vice Captain, G. Kelly, were both "efficient swimmers and the captain holds a lot of medals, the vice captain is a bronze medallionist". An article titled ' Surf Club's Test and Conference' from the South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus, Friday 13 November 1914, mentions the examination of members of the Wollongong Life Saving Club by officers of the Surf Bathing Association of N.S.W as to their qualifications for rescue work. The examination had been held on the previous Saturday and Abraham Clifford was one of the members who passed and gained a medallion as a result.

Abraham Joseph Clifford enlisted in the AIF on the 24th of February, 1916. He had previously enlisted with the Light Horse Regiment in April 1915 but had been deemed medically unfit. Abraham was discharged in June of that same year as a result of suffering from pneumonia.

Abraham was attached to the 53rd Battalion, 3rd Reinforcements, Australian Infantry, and embarked with his unit from Sydney, on board HMAT A37 Barambah on the 23rd June 1916. One of the earliest childhood memories of his niece, Mary Veronica Johnson (nee Burgess), was farewelling her Uncle Abe as he set sail for the Great War.

Abraham served on the Western Front and was tragically killed in action, in the field. He died on the 17th November 1917 in Belgium (though some official documents state France). He was 34 years old. Abraham has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 29), Belgium. At the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Abraham's name is located at panel 156 on the Roll of Honour in the Commemorative Area.

After learning of their son's death, Cornelius and Mary Clifford placed a message in both the South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus and the Illawarra Mercury Friday 7 December 1917. The message read;

" Mr and Mrs C. Clifford and family, Farmborough, Dapto, wish to sincerely thank all kind friends for letters, cards and messages of sympathy in their late sad bereavement in the loss of their dear son, Private Abraham Joseph Clifford, killed in action in France, 17th November, 1917."

An article titled, ' South Wollongong L. S Club', in the Illawarra Mercury, Friday 4 October 1918, mentions the intention of the club to build a club room to commemorate the fallen. The article states;

" With over 70 members now on the roll the urgent matter of a club room has engaged the attention of the executive, and with a view to keeping green the memory of the first captain of the club and other members who have sacrificed their lives at the front,"

Private Abraham Joseph Clifford was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

A photograph of Abraham Joseph Clifford is held by the Wollongong City Library under the title CLIFFORD, Private A, Image Number PO1/PO1505. That image is reproduced here through the kind permission of the library for single use only and is "From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society" [Wollongong City Council Policy number 9.6].


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