Topic: Clifton Willoughby Bingham

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Clifton Willoughby Bingham (Service no. 34565) was a First World War Soldier with links to New Brighton.

Clifton Willoughby Bingham was born in Christchurch on October 31st 1886 - his parents were Sydney Clifton Bingham and Jessie Ellen Bingham nee Johnston - he was their first born child. Sydney Clifton Bingham was originally from Bristol, England. Clifton's parents were married on Christmas Day, at the Wesleyan Church on Durham Street, in 1885 (Marriages, 1885). Clifton Willoughby attended New Brighton School with his younger brother, Stuart Canynge Bingham. His brother Stuart actually enlisted in Sydney and joined the AIF, 12th Light Horse Regiment, 20th Reinforcement (after the war Stuart returned to Australia and settled there with his family).

There was also a mention of Clifton accompanying his mother to Hanmer Springs in the summer of 1904, by train. The Bingham family attended the 'Beach Church' or St Faith's Anglican Church in New Brighton, which was newly established in 1906. On the 17th of January 1911, Clifton was married by Reverend Thomas Purchas at St Faith's to Mabel Laurie Béllamey. The newlywed Binghams took up residence at 31 Gracefield Street, which is now known as Gracefield Avenue in Central Christchurch. Their new address was just two doors down from Clifton's parents - his father Sydney Clifton ran his accounting firm out of his place of residence. Clifton worked as a salesman for the Canterbury Seed Company.

Clifton enlisted at the newly built Featherston Camp on 26th August 1916. He had previously served in the Volunteer Force and was assigned to the 1st Specialist Company of the Machine Gun Section. At the time of his enlistment he was described as being of fair complexion and of slight build. He was 5"8, and only 130 lbs, but otherwise in good health. Clifton had brown hair and grey eyes, and he listed the Church of England as his religion. He also had a visible scar on his throat.

During his basic training Clifton's leadership skills were duly noted and he was promoted to Corporal. Whilst preparing to embark for war, Corporal Bingham, his wife Mabel, and their eldest son Sydney Clifton welcomed Billie Clifton to their family on the 2nd February, 1917. When he left Devonport for France on 2nd July 1917, Sydney Clifton Junior would have been just 2 years old and young Billie was only just shy of 5 months old. Corporal Bingham would have only seen his youngest for a few weeks after birth.

It is not specified why, but for some reason Corporal Bingham’s rank was reduced to Private by the time he embarked for France. Private Bingham marched onto Carmiers in the Western European Front in October 1917, which at the time was crucial in securing for the Allied Forces in order to defeat the Germans. Clifton found himself as part of the New Zealand Division supporting the 37th British Divisions. The Battle of Havrincourt-Epehy in Northern France, which began on 12th September in 1918, set the stage for attack on the Hindenberg line. The 37th Division and the New Zealand Division worked to storm the Trescault Ridge from the South-West. As a Machine-Gunner, Private Bingham would have been responsible for turning the captured German guns on the Hindenberg Line to assist in the overwhelming blows later that October. But sadly, Private Bingham died from wounds sustained on the first day of the eight day long Havrincourt assault on the 13th September 1918. He was 31 years old.

It is not known how long it took for the Bingham family to be informed of Clifton’s death, and hard to fathom in our days of instant messaging, skype and emails. The Press listed him as wounded in battle on the 16th September, 1918. And then he was named on the daily roll of honour in the same paper on the 9th of October, 1918:

"Corporal Clifton Willoughby Bingham, Machine Gun Section, 23rd Reinforcements. Beloved husband of M. L. Bingham and eldest and dearly loved son of J.E & S Clifton Bingham of Gracefield Street, Christchurch.” (Roll of Honour, 1918)

Private Clifton Willoughby Bingham was buried by Reverend Griggs on the 14th September, 1918 (Luxton, 1923) at the Metz-En-Couture Communal Cemetery in the British Extension (Plot 4, Row B in grave number 20). His Plaque, Scroll and British Victory Medals were dispatched for delivery to his wife on the 22nd February, 1922.

In 1923, his widow wed again to Alexander Percy Young at St Paul’s Trinity Church. Mabel & Alexander took Sydney Clifton Junior and Billie Clifton and they settled in Auckland. Sydney Clifton would serve in the NZ Army in World War II in the Middle East from 1940-1942. Sydney Clifton Bingham senior went on in Christchurch to hold various positions in local body affairs, and became a Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge of New Zealand. He died at aged 78, in December of 1939.  On March 22, 1942 Clifton’s mother Jessie Ellen passed away at 76. 


Related resources


  • Luxford, J. (1923) With the machine gunners in France and Palestine. Auckland, NZ: Whitcomb & Tombs Limited.
  • Marriages. (1885, December 30) Star, Issue 5504, p. 2.
  • New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force. (1918). Nominal Rolls of New Zealand Expeditionary Force Volume III. Wellington, NZ: Govt Printer. (57:24)
  • Personal Items. (1904, January 4) Press, Vol. LXI, Issue 11782, p. 7.
  • Roll of Honour. (1918, October 9) Press, Vol. LIV, Issue 15338, p. 1.
  • Stewart, Col. H. (1921). The New Zealand Division 1916-1919: A popular history based on official records. Auckland, NZ: Whitcombe & Tombs Limited.

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Clifton Willoughby Bingham

First Names:Clifton Willoughby
Last Name:Bingham
Place of Birth:Christchurch, New Zealand