Lieutenant Colonel Clifford Charles Horace Twiss DSO, East Yorkshire Regiment
Clifford Twiss was born at Beverley, East Yorkshire on 22nd January 1879 (the day of the gallant defence of Rorke’s Drift in South Africa by the 24th Foot), and was the son of Edward E Twiss and Fanny M Twiss*. In 1891 the family, which also included siblings Edward F, Arthur M and Bertha M, was living at N. Bar Street, Beverley. Clifford married first in 1904 at Scarborough but was a widower by 1914; he had one child, Cynthia Eve, who was born in 1907 and died in 1968. Clifford was head boy at Shrewsbury school before moving on to study classics at Christ Church College, Oxford. He served for two years in the Oxford University Volunteers and, on leaving university, went to India to work in the Indian education services where he remained for twelve years. He also served for some time in the United Provinces Light Horse. In 1900, at the age of 21, he applied for a commission in the Infantry.
*(The Peerage website states he was the son of Godfrey Twiss).
When he joined the Army in 1914 he was listed as a widower and resident at Beverley, East Yorkshire. On 16th November 1914, he was appointed Captain in the 12th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, becoming its adjutant on 16th August 1915. He was promoted to Major on 25th June 1917 and transferred to the 13th Battalion. On 17th September 1917 he was promoted Temporary Lieutenant Colonel of the same battalion. Awarded the DSO on 18th December 1917, which was gazetted on the 1st January 1918, he eventually took command of the Battalion on the 21st January 1918.
On 15th March 1918, when the Pals were stationed near to the town of Arras, their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Campbell Taylor, took command of the 93rd Brigade and Lieutenant Colonel Twiss was given Temporary command of the 15/17th Battalion. However, when the Battalion was attacking the German front line, near to the town of Moyenneville (the same action in which Sergeant Albert Mountain won the Victoria Cross) on 27th March 1918 Lieutenant Colonel Twiss was knocked over by a bullet, which had penetrated his helmet, and on his recovery he moved forward to find his men surrendering as they were being fired on from several directions. Hoping to avoid detection, he hid in a shell hole although a section of German troops passing by spotted him and threw a grenade at him. Upon being attacked by two more soldiers wielding rifles and bayonets he finally surrendered. He spent the remainder of 1918 as a prisoner of war. His German POW card shows he was held at Stralsund, Dänholm, an officers’ camp on the Baltic coast. His mother was recorded as Mrs Fanny M Twiss of Beverley, East Yorkshire.
The 31st Division Narrative of Operations recorded: ‘This Battalion (The 15th West Yorks Regt) had covered a front of over 2,000 yards for 36 hours and continued to sustain the weight of the enemy’s attacks until practically the whole Battalion was overwhelmed. Only 4 Officers and 40 Other Ranks of those who were forward subsequently reached our lines, but this Battalion by its gallant action relieved the pressure on our front throughout the whole day, and gave the Division ample time to establish its position near AYETTE.’
Clifford Twiss was repatriated on Christmas Day, 25th December 1918, nine months after being taken prisoner, and was given two months leave prior to taking up a new post with Eastern Command in England. He retired from the Army in 1920. After the war he was again in India State Service and in 1929 was recorded in the Passenger List on P&O ship Narkunda returning from Marseilles to London with his daughter Cynthia Eve, whose age is given as 21. Clifford Twiss married his second wife, Winifred Mary Wellesley (née Parker), born 10th November 1883, on 24th October 1933 at Erpingham and they lived at Barn Hill, Sheringham, Norfolk. He died on 13th February 1947 at Depwade. For his war service he was awarded the DSO, British War Medal and Victory Medal and was Mentioned in Despatches on 18th December 1917.
Ancestry – Birth, marriage and death registers
Findmypast – 1939 Register
The National Archives – Lt Col Twiss’s Service Record, Operational Report and Prisoner of War Records
Hull Pals East Yorkshire Regiment Pen & Sword 2014 by David Bilton
Researcher: David J Owen
- All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
- Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.