Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Frank Henry Adams

Frank Henry Adams : Photograph of Frank by kind permission of Mr William Adams

Photograph of Frank by kind permission of Mr William Adams

Frank Henry Adams : (L to R) 1914 Star with Rosette representing the clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves

(L to R) 1914 Star with Rosette representing the clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves

Frank was born on the 29th November 1883 in Monmouth in Wales. His father's name was Robert and his mother was Alice Mary. He had two older sisters; Florence and Dora, as well as a younger brother named Harold. Robert had served in the Army with the Royal Engineers. By 1891 the family were living on St. Mary Street in Monmouth because Robert was a Colour Sergeant attached to the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers Militia.

Frank was a member of the Church of England and was educated at Monmouth Grammar School. By 1901 the family had moved to 4 Vernon Street in Bristol and Frank was working as a tram conductor.

This life may not have suited Frank, or maybe he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. Whatever the reason, he enlisted as a Driver in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) on the 8th September 1902. He was given the service number 26502. When he enlisted he was 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall and weighed 116 pounds. He had grey eyes and brown hair.

Frank trained at the Royal Artillery Depot in Woolwich, and served in the UK until the 24th October 1905 when he went to India. Frank was to stay in India until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

Frank received two Good Conduct badges during his time in India, and his conduct was described as 'Exemplary'. This is possibly why he was allowed to extend his term of service three times, to 8 years in April 1904, to 12 years in May 1911 and then to 21 years on the 12th August 1914.

He also took his education seriously, and obtained all three classes of Army Certificates of Education. The 3rd Class on the 6th December 1902, the 2nd Class on the 23rd June 1903 and the 1st Class on the 25th September 1906.

Frank was promoted to Sergeant in January 1910 and to Staff Sergeant on the 1st March 1910. Soldiers moved around a great deal during their service, and Frank was no exception. He was based in many places, including Sialkot between 1905 and 1907, Rawalpindi from 1907 to 1910 and Agra during 1911 and 1912. One location that will have stuck in Frank's memory was Murree, now in Pakistan, where on the 16th August 1911 he married Ethel Elizabeth Bridge at the town's Anglican Church.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914 British Army units in India were quickly mobilised and began to be shipped to France. Frank was not assigned to a unit at this time; he was on the Indian Unattached List. He was sent to France as part of the 1st Reinforcement Brigade RFA in the rank of Saddler Sergeant. This was a specialist position that meant Frank was responsible for maintaining all the saddles and other equipment worn by the Brigade's horses.

We don't know what Frank was doing in France between his arrival and the 20th August 1915. On this date Frank was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment and assigned to the 1st Battalion. This unit left France on the 11th December and was sent to Basra in Mesopotamia, now Iraq.

Frank's war would now be very different. As an infantry officer he was expected to lead men in the frontline. He was the commander of a Company of soldiers from the 24th April 1916 and given the rank of Acting Captain. His official rank became Lieutenant on the 8th October 1916

Frank led his Company until the 4th March 1917 when he was appointed Adjutant to the Battalion. This was not a safe, behind the lines job. On the 5th November 1917 the 1st Battalion was operating near Tikrit when they were involved in an attack on the Turkish positions around the town. The Turks counter attacked during the afternoon and at around 5:30pm Frank was wounded by artillery shrapnel. He kept up his work, and after the war he was awarded the Military Cross. The citation for this award was published in the London Gazette on the 11th January 1919:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He went out under heavy fire and assisted many wounded men by dressing their wounds and placing them in positions of safety. Though wounded by shrapnel he continued at duty collecting ammunition from casualties for distribution to the Lewis guns which were running short, and reorganising the troops who had become scattered during the advance.

Frank continued as Adjutant to the 1st Battalion during the rest of their advance through Mesopotamia. They entered Palestine on the 23rd April 1918 and were still there at the end of the war in November 1918.

The 1st Battalion stayed in Palestine for almost another year. Frank returned to the UK in October 1919 and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, based in Aldershot.

Later that year Frank was offered a 'small house with about an acre of ground'. We don't know who offered this to Frank, but he wanted to accept. He decided to leave the Army and on the 22nd December 1919 applied to retire. On the 21st January 1920 he wrote a letter asking that he be allowed to commute 50, which was one third of his pension, so that he would have enough money to buy the house.

Frank left the Army on the 14th February 1920 and moved to Sydney Villa in Keynsham near Bristol. Ethel had spent some of the war in Burnley, Lancashire. Her family lived in the town and Ethel had been a nurse at the military hospital based in Bank Hall.

Instead of receiving his retired pay as a pension Frank elected to receive it all at once as a gratuity of 1050. He remained in the Reserve of Officers so he could be called upon if his services were needed.

In April 1921 they were. A General Strike had been threatened and the Government was worried the police would not be able to control it. They established a Defence Force to help the police, and Frank was one of the officers called up to be part of it. He spent two weeks at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne before the emergency passed and the Defence Force was shut down.

Ethel and Frank decided not to stay in the UK. In 1923 they emigrated to Victoria, Australia. We don't know why they chose to do this, although their son believes that they wanted a fresh start after the war.

Frank had always loved agriculture and gardening and this seems to have been the life he established for himself in Australia. He spent time at Longeronong Agricultural College in Wimmera and worked for a Captain Payne on his property in Lilydale called 'Yarra View'.

In the late 1920s Frank and Ethel moved to a Soldier Settlement farm at Shady Creek near Warragul and farmed it with a man named David Love, who lived with them until the Second World War broke out in 1939.

Frank and Ethel had no children, but in 1931 they began to foster a baby named Brian James Dainton. They were able to adopt him in 1934 and named him William Francis John Adams.

In the same year the family moved to a 40 acre farm at Yarragon. Life was not easy for Frank, Ethel and William, especially once the Second World War began and David Love joined the Army. William remembers them bringing in one harvest with just a scythe, pitchforks and a horse and cart.

Money was always an issue for the family, during this period Frank would earn extra income working as an agent for Watkins Products. He would drive large distances from farm to farm in an unreliable car selling household cleaning and cooking supplies.

Despite this hard work when Australia was threatened by the Japanese advance Frank wanted to defend his adopted country. He joined the 11th Battalion of the Volunteer Defence Corps in Warragul on the 5th July 1941, and by the 15th October 1942 he had risen to be a Lieutenant Colonel and its Commanding Officer! Frank was so determined to serve that he lied about his age, saying he had been born in 1890.

Frank was so enthusiastic that he formed a Drum and Fife band in the Battalion. Traditionally Bass Drummers wear an animal skin for decoration and Frank was able to obtain a cheetah skin for his drummer from Ethel's family, who had moved to Australia in 1926.

There was serious duty to attend to as well. Frank attended a refresher course for officers between the 20th April and the 18th May 1943. He was described as being 'quiet and pleasant', but 'out of touch at the commencement of the course'. Frank 'improved rapidly' and 'showed ability in practical work'. He passed the course with a score of 60% and his instructors were satisfied that he was a suitable Commanding Officer.

He was not able to remain one though. The farm required too much of his time and he was forced to resign his commission on the 17th July 1943. The family's lease on the farm was terminated just over 2 years later in August 1945, so they moved to the town of Trafalgar, where Frank found a job with the Victoria State Electricity Commission, at Yallourn Works. By 1949 Frank was past retirement age, when he was required to produce his birth certificate this was discovered and he had to retire.

The family moved again that August to the town of Moe. They rented a house from the State Housing Commission and Frank made great use of its large back yard for growing vegetables. Frank's mushrooms were in great demand and William remembers that growing them made Frank very happy. The family still struggled with money, as they only had their state pensions to live on, so both Frank and Ethel took small jobs. Frank became a greenkeeper for the local bowling club and also helped Ethel with her work as a seamstress, making sheets, aprons and other items to sell at local markets. Despite William helping them too they were never able to build up very much in savings and did not own any property.

Frank had been a heavy smoker ever since the First World War. He died in late 1959 when he was 76 years old. Ethel moved into a nursing home soon afterwards. She died in 1970.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council