Towards the end of the nineteenth century Cliffe was well catered by means of local shops: draper, clothier, general outfitter, boot provider, dress & mantle maker, milliner, grocer, hardware dealer, oilman, tobacconist, glass, china and earthenware merchant, a post office, fishmonger, harness maker, doctor, builder, shoemakers, cycle maker, butcher, grazier, haberdashery, tobacconist, hairdresser, stables, bookseller, newsagent, confectioner, baker, general stores and tailor.
Along Church Street there was a butcher’s shop owned and run by Thomas Charles Crane and family.
Thomas Charles Crane moved to Cliffe from Cooling in 1891 along with his wife, Emma, and their seven children one of whom was a fourteen year old Thomas Charles Crane Jnr. who worked alongside his father in the butcher’s shop.
The Crane family move into Allen’s Farm where Thomas Charles Crane raised cattle – probably for use in his own butcher’s shop where Elizabeth, the eldest daughter is employed as a butcher’s clerk and sixteen year old Edwin works on his father’s farm.
Thomas Crane’s eldest daughter, Emma Jane, marries a greengrocer from Cliffe named Frank Thorndike as so the family enter into the well-known and respected Thorndike family of Cliffe. The Thorndike’s run the Six Bells and Victoria Inn, greengrocers, coal merchants and, by marriage, related to the Elford and Filmer familes of Cliffe.
Whether it is to seek out a new life or seek their fortune there appears that a number of the villagers leave England to travel to Australia. Between 1919 and early 1912 the whole of the Crane family migrate to Australia. Edwin, his wife Lil and young son, Albert Edwin Charles (Ted) are the first to leave (July 1910) and arrive at Nanango, Queensland.
A second child was born, Hilda Mabel in 1912, and in 1917 a young son, John William (Jack) completed the family.
In June 1941 both Ted and Jack enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and sailed off to Singapore and Malaya early in 1942.
Ted and Jack arrived in Singapore at the end of January – just a few days before the Japanese attack which saw over 100,000 prisoners taken.
On 16th February the Crane family heard that both Ted and Jack were reported as missing and then later as prisoners of war. Their fate was to be used as forced labour on the infamous Burma-Thailand railway (Bridge over the River Kwai).
In May 1943 they heard that their youngest son, Jack, had died and, a couple of days before Christmas in the same year, that Ted had also died.
The boys had been buried where they fell but, at the end of the war, the Army Graves Service reburied many of the fallen. Jack was buried at Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery and Ted at Kanchanaburi War Cemetry.
One can only wonder how Edwin and Lil must have suffered in the not knowing and then in the deaths and non-return of their two sons. It is said that the circumstances surrounding their deaths left their sister heartbroken and it affected her all her life.
It was not until 2009 that a member of the family managed to visit the grave of Ted Crane. After attending a service of remembrance at Kanchanburi War Cemetery and given ten minutes to ‘look around’, Peter Thorndike, stumbled upon his great uncle Ted’s grave.
© December 2012, D. Green - Cliffe History