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Clogstoun, Henry Oliver (1881–1958)

by P. J. Greville

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Henry Oliver Clogstoun (1881-1958), officer, Royal Engineers, was born on 19 September 1881 at Madras, India, son of Herbert Frederick Clogstoun of the Indian Civil Service, Madras. Educated at Clifton College, Bristol, he entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in January 1898 and was commissioned in the Royal Engineers on 2 May 1900. After a course at the School of Military Engineering, Chatham, Clogstoun served five years with the 2nd (Fortress) Company in Cairo, and two years with the 42nd (Fortress) Company at Portsmouth, England. He was an instructor at the Royal Military Academy until April 1912, when he was seconded to the Australian Military Forces to help to reorganize the engineers.

Clogstoun arrived at Melbourne in the Orsova on 20 May. As director of works (later engineers) he threw himself into his work with keenness and enthusiasm: the efficiency of the corps of engineers at the outbreak of World War I was largely due to his influence and driving power. In August 1914 he was accepted into the Australian Imperial Force as the officer commanding 3rd Field Company, Australian Engineers, 1st Division. Shortly after arrival in the Middle East, the company was chosen to construct trenches, and floating bridges on the Suez Canal. It returned to Mena Camp on 25 February 1915 and took part in the Gallipoli landing on 25 April.

At Anzac Clogstoun had a great part in planning the defences on the southern flank, particularly to the front of Holly Ridge (June 1915) where he applied the new shallow tunnelling technique to the excavation of fire trenches in exposed positions. On 6 August he was shot through the windpipe in a daring attempt to discover what the Turks were doing to the front of Leane's Trench. He was mentioned in dispatches and promoted brevet major in November.

In July 1916 Clogstoun became commanding royal engineer of the 3rd Division, A.I.F. with the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel. After supervising the field companies of the division at Salisbury Plain he crossed with them to Armentières, France, in mid-November 1916. He took part in the Messines and Passchendaele offensives, serving until 9 April 1918 when he reverted to the British Army as C.R.E. XIII Corps Troops.

During his service with the 1st and 3rd Divisions, Clogstoun's professional expertise was highly respected. Like many other British officers, he did not fully understand the Australian soldier, but his courage and ability won him the loyalty of his men, even though few were spared his caustic tongue. Bean names him as one of the British officers for whom the diggers 'conceived deep admiration and regard'. 'Cloggie' was tall and strongly built, with a 'long, smooth, florid face'. At Anzac he is remembered as getting about 'in a battered slouch hat, torn shirt, very brief shorts, thick army boots with grey socks draped over them—and a monocle'. His eccentricities were the source of many anecdotes.

On 6 May 1919 Clogstoun was sent on special duty to Berlin in his substantive rank of major. He afterwards served in Ireland, Scotland and Malta, being promoted lieutenant-colonel on 1 October 1925. He was placed on half pay on 1 October 1929 and retired on 1 April 1930. In 1934-42 he was employed as a civilian under the director of fortifications and works, War Office, spending his last years at Blakeney, Norfolk, where he died on 23 April 1958. He was survived by his wife Norah Stanford, née MacIlwaine, whom he had married on 23 July 1910 at Holy Trinity Church, Kensington Gore, London.

Select Bibliography

  • History of the 11th Field Company Australian Engineers (Lond, 1919)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1921, 1924), and The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • T. H. Prince, Purple Patches (Syd, 1935)
  • G. Drake-Brockman, The Turning Wheel (Perth, 1960)
  • Reveille (Sydney), 1 Nov 1938
  • 10th Field Company Engineers: History (in the field), 1916-1918 (Monash collection, Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

P. J. Greville, 'Clogstoun, Henry Oliver (1881–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/clogstoun-henry-oliver-5686/text9609, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 21 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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