Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Frank Bleakley Norris

Frank Bleakley Norris :

Frank Bleakley Norris : (L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

Frank was born in early 1886 in Bury, Lancashire. He was baptised on the 8th March at St James' Parish Church in New Bury. His father was called George and his mother was Amelia Ann. He was one of 11 children. We know the names of Florence Emily, James Edward, Edith May, Maud Hilda and Charles who were older and George Arthur who was younger. Only 6 were still alive in 1911.

In 1891 George was self-employed as a timber merchant. His family lived at 418 Manchester Road in Great Lever, Bury. Amelia's widowed mother Emily Bleakley was also living with them.

Ten years later in 1901 George, Amelia and their children had moved to 24 Bradford Avenue in Bolton, Lancashire. George was now a bookkeeper for a timber merchant, rather than one himself. Frank had begun to work as an ironmonger's apprentice.

George, Amelia, Florence and George junior still lived at 24 Bradford Avenue in 1911. Frank though had left home. He was lodging with the Trickett family at 16 Christ Church Terrace in Stockport, Cheshire. He worked as a shop assistant for an ironmonger.

The First World War broke out in early August 1914 and Frank joined the 7th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment before the end of the month. This was a unit of the Territorial Force based at Burlington Street in Manchester. He was given the service number 2324. It had been called into service at the outbreak of war and on the 10th September it set sail for Egypt. Frank went with them and arrived in Alexandria on the 25th. Half of B Company did not land in Egypt and were sent to Cyprus; the rest of the battalion was sent to Khartoum in Sudan. We don't know which unit Frank was with.

The 7th Battalion went to war on the 6th May 1915 when they took part in the invasion of Gallipoli. We don't know anything about what Frank did in Gallipoli. His unit was renamed the 1/7th Battalion, and took part in heavy fighting during June, July and August. The rest of the year was quieter, but still dangerous.

The 1/7th Battalion left Gallipoli on the 21st January 1916 and returned to Egypt. They moved into the Sinai Desert and began preparing defences to protect the Suez Canal against a Turkish attack.

In March 1917 Frank and the 1/7th Battalion were sent to the Western Front in France and Belgium. At around the same time soldiers serving in Territorial units were given new service numbers: Frank's became 275289.

The 1/7th Battalion fought at Havrincourt during April 1917 before moving north to take part in the Passchendaele Offensive around the Belgian city of Ypres (now Ieper). Frank took part in this campaign and fought at Nieuport (now Nieuwpoort) on the Channel coast. In November they returned to France and by the end of the year they were stationed near Givenchy.

On the 21st March 1918 the Germans launched a major offensive aimed at defeating the Allies before large number of American soldiers could enter the war against them. The 1/7th Battalion did their best to slow down the attack as they retreated through Bucquoy and Gommecourt. They were relieved in early April.

By the summer of 1918 the Allies had defeated the German offensive. On the 8th August the Allies began their own attack. This would become known as the Hundred Days Offensive and it led to the end of the war in November 1918.

Frank was demobilised and returned home in May 1919. He had reached the rank of Colour Sergeant by the end of his time in the Army. We don't know if he had ever been wounded, and we have nothing to suggest he ever left the 1/7th Battalion.

We don't believe Frank ever married or had children. By the early 1940s he lived at 13 Mallowdale Road in Lancaster. He was a patient in the Lancaster Royal Infirmary when he died on the 7th January 1942, aged 55. He was buried in Great Lever Parish Church in Bury.

Frank's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in July 1949.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf

Telephone: 0161 342 5480
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Army Museums Ogilby Trust logo
Tameside Metropolitan Borough logo
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Army Museums Ogilby Trust logo
Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council