Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Leonard Frake

Leonard Frake :

Leonard Frake : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'South Africa 1902'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'South Africa 1902'

Leonard was born between April and June 1882 in Birmingham. His father was called Robert and his mother was Elizabeth. He had at least 2 siblings: Sarah and William, who were both older than him. The family were members of the Church of England.

We don't know anything about Leonard's early life. By the time he was 17 he worked as a piecer in a cotton mill in Oldham, Lancashire. He lived at 8 Back Moss Street in Watersheddings, Oldham. Leonard must have wanted more from life, because on the 29th December 1899 he joined the 4th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in nearby Ashton-under-Lyne. This was a unit of the Militia, so Leonard would train as a soldier for a short period every year, but spend the rest of the time living as a civilian.

When he enlisted Leonard was 5 feet 2 3/4 inches tall and weighed around 100 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and fair hair. He was given the service number 6975.

The Boer War had been going on in South Africa since October. It had not begun well for the British and they were soon sending all the soldiers they could to the country. During 1900 many Militia units were called into service to fight in the war. On the 4th May the 4th Battalion was embodied, but as many units from Lancashire had already gone to South Africa, it was not deployed. On the 15th October Leonard was released. In April 1901 he was living with his sister Sarah, her husband David Adshead and their children Lily and Elsie at 31 Duke Street in Ashton. He worked as a labourer.

The 4th Battalion was renamed the 6th Battalion during this period, and it was called up again on the 6th January 1902. This time the battalion was sent to South Africa, arriving in February. They saw little fighting, and spent most of their time manning blockhouses and the fences between them. These were intended to restrict the movements of Boer guerrillas, and force them to fight the British. It was a successful strategy and the war ended on the 31st May. At some point during his service Leonard was promoted to Lance Corporal. He returned to the UK in September.

Leonard must have taken to Army service, because on the 11th July 1903 he travelled to Stockport and enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment. He had grown over the past 4 years; he was now 5 feet 4 3/4 inches tall and weighed 122 pounds. Leonard was given the service number 7176 and began his training at The Dale Barracks in Chester.

During his training Leonard obtained the 3rd Class Army Certificate of Education on the 11th September. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion, based in Aldershot, Hampshire, on the 10th November. He went into hospital on New Year's Day 1904 to be treated for an abscess, and was not discharged for 2 weeks.

On the 18th March Leonard left the UK for India. He joined the 1st Battalion, although they were on the verge of returning to the UK. The 2nd Battalion came out to India that October and Leonard rejoined them. He was to serve in India with them for the next 10 years.

Leonard received his first Good Conduct badge on the 1st April 1905. Later that year, on the 11th September, he obtained the 2nd Class Certificate of Education. In March 1906 he received an increase in pay of 6 pence (6d) per day; we believe this was for Good Conduct. A year after that in May 1907, Leonard received a second Good Conduct Badge. He also trained as a Signaller during 1907, and passed a course of instruction in Telegraphy on the 4th April.

The 2nd Battalion had been stationed in the Madras area since arriving in India. During 1909 they moved to Schwebo in Burma. They were posted to Jubbulpore, now Jabalpur in central India, during 1911. In this year Leonard extended his service. He would now serve in the Army for 12 years.

The First World War broke out in August 1914, and British units in India soon began to be sent to France to join in the fighting there. The 2nd Battalion left India on the 19th November and arrived in the UK on Christmas Eve. They were stationed near Winchester, where they joined other battalions that had returned from foreign stations to form the 28th Division. This unit landed in France on the 16th January 1915.

Leonard spent 40 days in France before being returned to the UK on the 26th February. He was suffering from frostbite. After around 2 months in hospital Leonard was posted to the 3rd Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, a training unit based in Birkenhead, near Liverpool. Three days after he arrived, on the 11th May, he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

The Army will have hoped that Leonard would recover enough to be able to return to the front, but this was not to be. His frostbite seems to have developed into rheumatism in his knees and ankles and he was unfit for anything other than service in the UK. He was promoted again, to Corporal, on the 26th February 1916.

On the 1st May Leonard was transferred to the newly created Number 6 Observer Company of the Royal Defence Corps and given a new service number: 52139. These units manned observation posts aimed at giving early warning of German air attacks. We don't know where Leonard was based.

On the 30th August 1917 Leonard married Margaret Jane Houghton in Birkenhead. She lived at 16 Craven Street in the town. We believe they already had a daughter, Edith, who was born between April and June 1916.

Leonard served with Number 5 Observer Company from the 5th January 1917 until the 31st August 1918, when he returned to Number 6 Company for a month. He then joined Number 15 Observer Company and was with them when the war ended on the 11th November. By this point he held the rank of Lance Sergeant.

In February 1919 Leonard served with what we believe was 100 Reserve Protection Company of the Royal Defence Corps. This may have been when he was given the service number 97952.

On the 2nd May 1919 Leonard was serving at Horsham in Sussex when he reported sick. He had swelling in his ankles, knees and shoulders and a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit. This swelling was accompanied by stiffness and aching. It was worse in the morning, but could also be brought on by physical work.

Leonard was discharged from hospital on the 25th May and left the Army on the 24th June. During November he was medically examined to decide whether he qualified for a pension. By this time he had recovered a little, there was no swelling and his shoulders seemed well. There was still 'creaking in left knee joint' though, and he had flat feet. At this time he lived at 14 Clifton Street in Ashton-under-Lyne. We don't know whether he was awarded a pension.

The rest of Leonard's life remains a mystery. We don't believe he and Margaret had any other children. He died between October and December 1952 in Manchester, at the age of 70. Margaret died aged 81 between April and June 1967.

Leonard's medal had been donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in mid 1937. As well as his Queen's South Africa Medal, Leonard was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.

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