Rank: Sapper
Number: 50058
Unit: 206th Field Company ROYAL ENGINEERS
Date of Death: 3 December 1918
Age: 30
Cemetery: Soumoy Communal Cemetery, Namur, Belgium

Frank Hackney enlisted into the army in September 1914, just weeks after War was declared, and came through the fighting unscathed. He died in a tragic accident less than a month after the Armistice. He and his comrades were salvaging a German ammunition dump when it exploded killing him and five others.

He was the son of Francis and Mary and had been born in the Stockport area. Francis was a railway signalman and the family lived at 101 Belmont Street and, later, at 29 Hatton Street. The 1901 Census records them having four children - William (then 22), Gertrude (19), Frank (12) and Mary (7). Frank was educated at Christ Church School and, later, went to work for a Mr Faulkner. Faulkner had a painting and decorating business in Hazel Grove. In his spare time, Frank was a keen fisherman and was a member of the Heaton Norris Anglers. He was also a member of the nearby Wellington Conservative Club.

When Frank joined the army, his craft skills were recognised and he was assigned to the Royal Engineers. The Field Company had about 200 men, most of whom were craftsmen of one form or another. Frank was one of probably six painters. The men undertook various construction and maintenance projects for the Army Division to which they were attached.

One of the men killed with Frank was his officer, 2nd Lieutenant William Bruce. In August 1922, Bill Bruce's older sister, Nancy, went to visit his grave in Soumoy. She kept a diary where she recounted meeting an elderly French woman "They had just a son and daughter and the son was killed at Namur. She pressed us to come in, so we went. We saw the photograph of her son and met Monsieur Gustave Maitre. Madame had been at the accident too and told us about the funeral. The boys were buried with all military honours and music. All the village had gone to the funeral carrying their flowers. The force of the explosion was so great that all the curtains in the windows of the village had been blown to the middle of the floor and many windows broken. There was such a smoke that nothing could be seen for some time. Then everybody ran. Some of the boys were very badly wounded and unrecognisable. Bill was hurt in the arm but there was no other mark on him. He was able to speak and told them to look after the men. They were carried into the chateau and buried next day. This old lady (Madame Maitre) goes to Namur twice and sometimes three times a year. She was overcome while talking to us. Here also we had to take wine. After tea time, we went to the Cemetery again and planted the thyme and heather that we had brought from home."

By the early 1920s, Francis and Mary Hackney were living at 7 Newton Street, Hyde. As well as his commemoration on the Stockport War Memorial, he is also remembered on those at Hyde and Godley.

(My thanks to the descendents of Bill Bruce for allowing me to reproduce the diary extract. JH)

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