Frederick SWAIN
Rank: Bombardier
Number: 105149
Unit: D Battery, 159th Brigade ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY
Date of Death: 24 October 1917
Age: 27
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Almost nothing is known of Frederick’s early family life. He was born in Stockport and was one of at least three children, He had a sister and brother named Tom. By the time of the Great War, his father is believed to have died and his mother and sister were living at 204 Shaw Road.

On 13 August 1911, aged 20, he got married to Lily Rowland at St Thomas’ Church. She was five years older than he was and was a widow. She was born Lily Gregory and had married James Rowland in 1908 but he died the same year. Frederick was then living at 59 Ratcliffe Street and was working as a carter. The couple lived at 1 Police Street and had children but their names are not known. When he enlisted into the army, he was worked for Edward Plant, a corn dealer in Portwood. Assuming he was still a carter, he would have been delivering the corn to customers – perhaps the equivalent of today’s “white van man”.

On the day he was killed, the Brigade was at a position known as Wood House which is thought to have been near the village of Boesinghe, to the north of Ypres. The guns were firing preliminary barrages at targets in preparation for an infantry attack scheduled for the 26th.

His commanding officer later wrote to Lily “He was killed together with his gun detachment of three men. None of them suffered at all as death was instantaneous. I am terribly sorry for you in your loss and wish I could do something to make it easier for you. Your husband was a good NCO and was doing his duty when this unlucky shell arrived and killed four good men.”

In fact, it was no unlucky shell that killed Frederick. The Brigade’s War Diary at the National Archives confirms that, in the evening, enemy aircraft had carried out a bombing raid on the position, killing the men.

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