Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Francis Harrison

Francis Harrison :

Francis Harrison : (L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; Italian Medaglia Commemorativa della Guerra Italo-Austriaca 1915-1918

(L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; Italian Medaglia Commemorativa della Guerra Italo-Austriaca 1915-1918

Francis was born in around 1895 in Manchester. His father was called Thomas and his mother was Elizabeth Ann. We don't know anything else about his family or early life.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Francis joined the Army in late 1915 or early 1916. He enlisted into the 7th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and was assigned to the 2/7th Battalion. This had been formed from new recruits when the original 7th Battalion had been sent overseas at the beginning of the war.

Francis trained near Colchester in Essex before going overseas to France with the 2/7th Battalion in February 1917. At around the same time soldiers serving in units of the Territorial Force were given new service numbers. Francis became 276818. We don't know his original number.

The 2/7th Battalion served in the Givenchy area after it arrived in France. We don't know much about what Francis did in France. At some point he was promoted to Lance Corporal. He was detached from the 2/7th Battalion and joined the 199th Light Trench Mortar Battery, although we don't know when.

Light Trench Mortar Batteries used the 3" Stokes Mortar to support infantry battalions. Mortars fire explosive bombs high in the air, so gravity means the bombs drop onto their targets. This allows them to hit targets that flatter-shooting rifles and machine guns cannot.

Mortars were essential weapons in the trenches because they could accurately fire into trenches and dugouts, but being a member of the crew could be dangerous. Mortar units were often kept on the move, after arriving in a front line trench they might fire on a target and then leave the area. If they were spotted mortars would often attract German artillery fire. This could kill or injure the crew, or if they had already left then the infantry battalion holding the trench would be the one to suffer. This meant that mortar crews were not always popular with their own side either!

Francis had only been in France for a short time when he was wounded. He was taken to the 33rd Casualty Clearing Station in Bethune, but died from his injuries on the 12th April 1917. He was 22 years old. Casualty Clearing Stations were not used for long term treatment; men would either be returned to duty or sent up the chain to a Base Hospital. This suggests Francis died within a few days of being wounded.

Francis was buried along with 3009 other men in the cemetery that grew up around the 33rd CCS. After the end of the war it was named Bethune Town Cemetery. Francis' modern grave reference is VI. D. 9.

We don't know when or why Francis was awarded the Italian Medaglia Commemorativa della Guerra Italo-Austriaca 1915-1918. Often foreign governments would present a number of their medals to the British Army and allow the British to decide who would receive them. All 3 of his medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in August 1997.

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