Service number: 13279 | Rank: Private | Regiment: Norfolk Regiment
Killed in action, July 1, 1916, in Flanders. Aged 19.
Remembered at THIEPVAL MEMORIAL, Somme, France.
WHAT I KNOW ABOUT ‘FRANK’ …
Francis, or rather Frank as he was more commonly known, was the fifth son born to Alfred, a cooper, and Matilda, a fur puller, of 6 George Street, Brandon. A few weeks after war was declared 19 year old Frank, an agricultural labourer, went with a load of mates to the Army Recruitment Office in Norwich and took the oath to fight for his King and Country. According to the Thetford and Watton Times, printed just after his death, Frank “was mobilised with the 4th Battalion Norfolk Regiment (Territorials), and on being discharged from that unit enlisted in what was known as Kitchener’s Army”. We know that a month after enlisting he was based at Colchester until the end of April 1915, and on 1st May he was stationed at Codford, on Salisbury Plain, until 25th July when he landed at Boulogne, France, with the 8th Battalion.
On 1st July 1916 Frank and his Brandon mates found themselves at the frontline on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. At 5.30am the men were in the trenches preparing themselves for the onslaught and were served cups of tea and over the next two hours they watched an almighty artillery barrage pour down upon the German lines. Toward the end of this barrage huge mines were exploded from beneath the German trenches and the Brandon men had a front row view. Immediately after the mines exploded some of the men crawled from the trenches and lay on their stomachs 30 yards away in the open. At 7.30am precisely, the assault began and those men lying on their stomachs stood up to advance while the rest of the men stepped out of the trenches and followed. By 8am the men had reached the first German trench where they were met with a scene of utter destruction and any Germans left alive from the bombardment were too afraid to fight and simply gave up. This situation soon changed when the men advanced beyond the flattened trench. The German machine gunners were waiting and immediately inflicted heavy casualties on the men. Such was the heavy mortality rate that soldiers were left with no officer to command them as they had been killed or wounded, and so it was left for NCOs such as sergeants to push the men on. The surviving men were reinforced and by early evening they had reached their objective and captured 150 Germans in the process. But it came at a cost. Frank’s battalion had lost 105 men, a further 227 were wounded and 13 were unaccounted for, all in a little over 10 hours of fighting.
Two weeks later Alfred was notified of his son’s death by a friend of his son …
“I was not with him when he was killed, but he died like a soldier doing his duty.”
… and a few months after the War Office sent him Frank’s personal effects, which included a purse, a letter and a prayer book.
Frank was one of six brothers to see service in the war and by the time the youngest, Willie, had enlisted to serve with the Royal Fusiliers in 1917 Frank was dead and three other brothers had been wounded. (Fred moved away from Brandon to Essex before the war and had been sent home to convalesce after being wounded in France but returned to his unit when he was deemed fit again and was stationed in Egypt; Harry was in Folkstone, at H.S. Works; Bertie was with the Royal Irish Fusiliers and had already been wounded twice before Willie joined up; Walter, had also been wounded but had recovered enough to be sent to Mesopotamia with the Norfolk Regiment).