Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Francis John Earles

Francis John Earles : Photograph of Francis in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: MR4/23/91/273

Photograph of Francis in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/23/91/273

Francis John Earles : Allied Victory Medal

Allied Victory Medal

Francis was born on the 13th April 1887 in Macclesfield, Cheshire. His father was called John and his mother was Eliza Ann. He had an older sister called Florence.

John worked as a schoolmaster, and Francis grew up at 58 Byron's Lane in Macclesfield. By 1911 he had moved away from home and in 1912 he entered Christ's College at Cambridge University. We don't know what he was studying, but his sister had decided to follow in her father's footsteps and become a schoolteacher, so it is possible that Francis had too.

Whilst he was at Cambridge he joined the Officer Training Corps (OTC). This was not an organisation that aimed to recruit for the Army, just to give its members some insight into the military, but the experience Francis gained in it will have served him well.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and by the 8th September Francis had applied for a commission as an officer in the rapidly expanding Army. He was accepted and commissioned into the Manchester Regiment as a Second Lieutenant on the 10th December 1914.

Francis joined the 7th City Battalion, a 'Pals' unit being raised by the men of Manchester. His OTC experience must be the main reason why he had been made Adjutant of the unit by the 11th January and then promoted to Temporary Captain on the 6th February 1915. The 7th City Battalion would later become the 22nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He also served as the commander of D Company for a time.

The 22nd Battalion went to France in November 1915. We don't know whether Francis went overseas at the same time, but he was with them when they took part in the first day of the Somme Offensive on the 1st July 1916. One of Francis' friends in the 22nd Battalion was Captain Charles May, in command of B Company. His medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection. Charles had recently married and he had a young daughter. He asked Francis to look after his family if he did not survive the attack.

Charles was one of hundreds of 22nd Battalion men killed on the 1st July, but Francis survived the day. We don't know what he did between then and the 1st August. On that day he joined the 18th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and served with them for the rest of his time in France.

On the 12th October Francis took part in the 18th Battalion's attack on the German trenches near Bapaume. During this attack he was shot in the back. The bullet went through his right lung. He was also injured in the head, back, thigh and buttock by shrapnel.

Francis' injuries were severe and after treatment at Number 36 Casualty Clearing Station and Number 8 Hospital in Rouen he was evacuated to the UK on the 26th October. He was taken to Empress Eugenie's Officers' Hospital in Farnborough Hill, Hampshire. Francis was assessed as being 'unfit for any service' until March 1917 and began a slow recovery. His injuries caused severe surgical emphysema, or air trapped under the skin; a pleural empyema, which is a build up of pus in the lung cavity; an abscess in his head and haemorrhaging, or severe bleeding.

When he was reassessed in March 1917 Francis was still unfit for duty, and continued to receive hospital treatment. He lived at the Queen's Hotel in Farnborough. By April Francis was fit enough to take up light duties at a Command Depot. He was assigned to the Irish Command Depot at Ballyvonare Camp in County Cork, Ireland. During May he was on light duties there, but would still struggle to breathe after heavy exercise.

We don't know when Francis left this camp, but at some point he spent 'over 6 months' at the Southern Command Depot at Perham Down near Andover, Hampshire. He served as a Treatment Officer, arranging concerts and entertainments for the soldiers stationed there. By April 1918 he had been reassigned to the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment at Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire.

During April the Commandant of the Perham Down Depot asked the Army to return Francis to his camp as he was having great difficulty finding another Treatment Officer as capable as Francis. By this time however Francis had been assigned to the 17th Officer Cadet Battalion (OCB) at Kinmel Park near Rhyl in North Wales. On the 7th June Francis was ordered to report to Perham Down, but by that time he had already arrived at the 17th OCB, and asked to remain. The Commander of the 17th OCB backed Francis, so the order was cancelled.

At the 17th OCB Francis was responsible for training Officer Cadets. He attended a Course of Instruction at the Commandant's Instructor's School at Unity Hall in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire that began on the 24th June 1918. This course would teach him the skills he required to lead a Company of Officer Cadets. We don't know how long the course lasted but by early December Francis had 'just been appointed a Company Commander' at the 17th OCB.

By this time the war was over. Francis stayed with the 17th OCB as they moved to Number 4 Camp at Codford in Wiltshire. They had arrived there by the 22nd January 1919. Francis relinquished his commission and left the Army on the 30th March 1919.

Francis kept his promise to Charles May. We don't know when he had first met his widow Bessie Maude, but they had clearly become very close and eventually the two married at St Mary's Church in Woodford, Essex on the 19th May 1919.

By October 1919 Francis had found work with the Lipton Company, famous for their tea. He was based in their Paris office for a time and lived there with Bessie and his stepdaughter Maude Pauline. Later they returned to London and lived at 7 York Mansions in Earls Court, London.

We don't know anything about the rest of Francis' life. By the 1960's he and Bessie lived in Folkestone, Kent. She died there between April and June 1966 aged 78. Francis died between October and December 1972. He was 85 years old.

Maude married Harris Woolf Karet in Kensington, London between January and March 1950. They had no children. She was 56 when she died in nearby Marylebone between April and June 1971. Harris died in December 1999 aged 93.

Francis' medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in March 2004, at the same time as Charles May's. As well as the Allied Victory Medal, Francis was also awarded the British War Medal for his Army service. We don't know whether he was eligible for the 1914-15 Star.

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