I have located a record for Alfred Clarke in the United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners' Service Records. The TNA record series number is WO 97, and the original images are available at Find My Past. Seven images are available on Find My Past for this service member, a four-page bound folder/jacket with his attestations and discharge information, plus three loose sheets with pay information and other details of his military career.
Alfred's records state that he was born around 1840 in Brighton, Sussex, England. His date of attestation is 26 August 1858; he served with the Royal Artillery, and was discharged on 2 August 1881. He married Emily Knowles on 24 January 1869 in Woolwich (where the Royal Artillery's headquarters was located).
One of the loose sheets, with a heading MILITARY HISTORY SHEET, has an outline of his service:
- Home 26 August 1858 to 6 April 1860
- China 7 April 1860 to 9 May 1861
- Home 10 May 1861 to 8 February 1875
- India 9 February 1875 to 11 May 1881
- Home 12 May 1881 to 2 Aug 1881
These are the Census Days for the period under study:
- 1861: 7 April
- 1871: 2 April
- 1881: 3 April
In 1861 Alfred is single, serving in China.
In 1871, he is serving at "Home", presumably somewhere within the British Isles. Wife Emily is enumerated in her father's household in Slapton in South Devon, along with son Alfred age 1, born in County Cork, Ireland. (Emily's age is slightly off, so son Alfred's age may not be accurate either. Alfred (the father) did spend some time in Ireland; he passed a course in Equitation at Dublin from January to March 1870.)
In 1881, Alfred is either in India, or on his way back from India. I can infer that Emily was with him for some of his service there, because I have baptism records for sons Walter Thomas (born 24 Aug 1875, baptised 28 Sep 1875 at Camp Ahmedabad) and Frederick Richard (born 24 May 1880, baptised 6 Jun 1880 at Camp Belgaum). Their baptism records show that Alfred had been appointed Sergeant Major for his battery.
I have not been able to find any other records for son Alfred except for the 1871 Census. It would be useful to find other records with the whole family while Alfred was still under age.
Were military families like the Clarkes, who were stationed overseas, enumerated in 1881?
Since writing the question, I have found more records which I think may belong to this family, so I will post a quick update.
The National School Admission Registers & Log-Books 1870-1914 on Find My Past contained an admissions entry for three Clarke children who came from India. These records include birth dates for the children, and often indicate what schools the children have transferred from. All three are on the same register page, on three consecutive lines, with an admissions date of 12 Sep 1881 (and an exit date of 23 Dec 1881). All three have as their father's name Alfred Clarke. The middle child (in age), a girl born in 1872, was previously unknown to me, but the other two are Alfred Robert (born 23 October 1869) and Walter Thomas (born 24 Aug 1875).
I will be cross-checking the information in the school register against the The GRO Regimental Birth Indices Supplement (1761 to 1924) on Find My Past which includes registrations from the British nationals armed forces births 1761-2005, and the Ireland Births and Baptisms on FamilySearch.org, and other vital records information, to fill out the timeline for the family.