Frank GILL
Rank: Private
Number: 17791
Unit: 1st Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment
Date of Death: 10 April 1917
Age: 21
Cemetery: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

In the late autumn of 1890, Hartley Gill married Sarah Higginbotham in a civil ceremony at Stockport. By the time of the 1901 Census, they had three sons - Edwin (then 9), Hartley (7) and Frank (5). Hartley, senior, was 31 and worked as a machine grinder, whilst Sarah, also 31, was a newsagent. They lived at 3 Lillian Grove, Reddish.

Frank was a member of St Elizabeth's Church and, in his teens, was an officer in the Church's Boys' Brigade company. He was always a keen sportsman. As with many local lads, he went to work in the cotton industry when he left school and was at the Reddish Spinning Company when was declared. He enlisted into the army on 17 February 1915. The Company later included his name on their entry in the Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour (page 506). His brother, Hartley, also went to work in the industry and was employed by McConnel & Co, Ancoats, Manchester (and is included in their entry in the Book of Honour, page 499). It is thought that Hartley probably served with the Coldstream Guards.

Frank went overseas on 18 May 1915. His first major action will have been the following year during the Battle of the Somme which started on 1 July 1916 and went on until the autumn. The next major British attack would be north of the Somme, around the town of Arras.

Frank's Battalion would not take part in the first assault on 9 April, as it was intended to leap-frog the first wave and press on to capture other positions. The men were in their assembly trenches just north east of the centre of Arras. They advanced, on schedule, at 10.30am, reaching St Laurent Blagny about midday, with minimal casualties. However, as they passed through the village they came under artillery fire and over 40 men were hit. By mid-afternoon, they had passed through the village of Athies and were close to the German fourth line of trenches. These were well constructed and heavily protected by barbed wire which would have been costly to capture. The Regimental History records that the German garrison appeared to have lost its nerve and, by 4pm, they had taken the trench system, The 1st King's Own had advanced three miles. They dug in and spent a quiet night.

At midday on the 10th, the Battalion received orders to attack the town of Roeux. The Regimental History records "There was, across the line of advance, a railway embankment, running from a bridge over the river on the right, but leaving on its left an unobstructed view of a German strongpoint at the chemical works. The plan was for one Company to advance, seize the railway bridge and afford cover for the other three to cross the embankment. For this purpose "A" Company set out at 2.25pm, followed by the others five minutes later. The occupation of the bridge was accomplished, but not without loss. Three platoons established themselves along the embankment to the north of the bridge and one to the south, where an enemy machine gun prevented further advance......the other three companies moved up through Fampoux, but the moment they emerged from the village they came under such heavy machine gun fire from the chemical works that they could go no further. When a message was received at 2.40 to the effect that the cavalry would take over the advance, "A" and "D" companies were instructed to hold their position while "B" and "C" were withdrawn."

Frank was one of 28 men to be killed on the 10th. His body was never recovered and identified and his name is now commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Arras. The news of his death will have come quickly to Stockport and his employer flew the flag outside the mill at half-mast for a week. Hartley Gill is thought to have survived the war.

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