Born on 15th June 1887 in St George Hanover Square, Middlesex, John Clive Darling was the only son of The Honourable Mr Justice Charles John Darling, 1st Baron Darling (1849-1936) and Mary Caroline Darling. He was educated at St. Neots and Eton before joining the British Army, taking his Commissioning course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and joining a cavalry regiment, the 20th Hussars, as a Second Lieutenant in 1906. Seven years later, he was promoted to Captain in 1913 and served through World War I until 1923 when he retired from the Army as a Major.
During the Great War he was wounded, mentioned in dispatches on 13th June 1916 and awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He served as Signalling Officer to the 20th Hussars upon the outbreak of hostilities in 1914.
The 20th Hussars went to France on 17 August 1914 with a strength of 24 officers, Darling amongst them, and 519 rank and file to join the rest of the "contemptible little army". The regiment served on the Western Front for the duration of the war until Armistice Day.
According to Captain Darling, writing about the regiment’s wartime service, the 20th took part in the first cavalry action of the First World War, and became involved in actions that were typical of the role played by cavalry in that conflict such as charging the enemy’s position. However, the retreat from Mons, the battles of the Marne and the Aisne and the First battle of Ypres involved the regiment fighting as infantry from trenches in the Messines area.
The regiment went on to see action at Bourlon Wood, more action on foot at Gouzeaucourt in 1917 and again the following year, this time to stem the enemy advance following the German Spring Offensive of 1918. A return to horses later that year saw the regiment in support of the infantry as the tide turned in the Allies' favour and the Germans began the retreat.
On 17th August 1918 Major Darling married Eleanor Joan Martin Powell of Lyndhurst. They went onto have two children: Robert Charles Henry Darling born 1919 and James Weyland Darling in 1922.
Major The Honourable John Clive Darling died on 5th February 1933, aged 45, in the Cottage Hospital at Lyndhurst following an operation. His obituary in The Times reports that his elder son, Robert, became the heir to his grandfather’s peerage. It also reveals Darling’s horsemanship skills:
“By Major Darling's death, Hampshire, and particularly the New Forest, loses a well-known sportsman and keen follower of hounds who achieved some distinction in point-to-point races.
He was a successful breeder and exhibitor of New Forest ponies. Little more than a fortnight ago he and his two young sons rode in some local point-to-point races in the course of which the father finished second to his elder son. The younger boy won the children's race. Major Darling took an interest in local affairs, and among other offices held that of vice-president of the two New Forest pony societies. He was a member of the National Pony Society, and also served on the executive of the New Forest Association.”