Frank George WESTALL
Rank: Rifleman
Number: R/39072
Date of Death: 27 March 1918
Age: 19 (based on 1901 Census)
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

Regimental records published after the War indicate that Frank was born in Lewes, Sussex and was living Didsbury at the time he enlisted into the army. It has not been possible to identify him with absolute certainty but the 1901 Census only lists one person of later military service age called Frank G Westall and who was born in Sussex.

This boy’s birth was registered in Brighton in 1899 and he was the son of Frank and Margaret. At the time of the Census, the family was living at York Terrace, Kettleshulme.

When Frank joined the army it will have been as a conscript when he became 18 and he was assigned to Army Service Corps, enlisting at its main depot at Grove Park in London. He was given the service number of M/302995. Grove Park was a driver training depot and the “M” in his service number indicates he was going to be assigned to an ASC motor transport company. However, at some point before he went overseas, he was transferred to the Rifle Corps. Perhaps he had shown little skill as a driver or, perhaps, there was a far greater need for infantrymen at that time.

On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched an expected major attack. What was unexpected was the strength and force with which it was delivered. Within hours, the British front line had been overrun along many miles of the trench line and the Tommies were forced into a fighting retreat. The 9th Battalion was in the front line and was overwhelmed by 9am. Pockets of men continued to fight as best they could but, by the evening, the Battalion had effectively ceased to exist. A few stragglers were collected the next morning and came under the command of the most senior soldier – Sergeant Beresford of “B” Company. Other men attached themselves to the nearest unit they could find.

The German advance and consequent British retreat continued for days more, with miles of ground gained over the previous two years lost. It is known that Frank was not killed outright but died of wounds he’d received. It cannot be known when he was injured. It is likely that his body was buried by the advancing Germans but, unsurprisingly, they did not take great care to identify individual men and Frank has no known grave.

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