Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Francis William Thompson

Francis William Thompson : Photograph of Frank in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference:  Acc3653

Photograph of Frank in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: Acc3653

Francis William Thompson : (L to R) Military Medal; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) Military Medal; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

Francis, or Frank, was born between October and December 1893 in Holmpton, East Yorkshire. His father was called George and his mother was Louisa. He had an older sister called Eva and 9 younger siblings that we know of; Fred, George H., Allan Branton, Linda O., Daisy, Cyril, Grace M., Edmund and Dora.

In 1901 George and his family lived on Main Street in Holmpton. He worked as a hind on a farm. A hind was a farm labourer who mainly did jobs that involved working with horses, such as ploughing.

Ten years later the family had moved the short distance to the village of Keyingham. George was now a farm bailiff. He lived at Marsh Cottage with Louisa and their 8 youngest children.

Frank lived a short distance away at The Marsh with George Clubley and his family of a wife, 4 children and 4 other boarders. Frank was working as a horseman on a farm. Fred was also a horseman and lived at Land's House in the village.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Frank joined the Army on the 3rd February 1915. He enlisted in the Transport Branch of the Army Service Corps (ASC) and was given the service number T4/057608.

Frank's experience with horses will have served him well in his new job. He was a Driver, responsible for driving teams of horses that pulled wagons carrying supplies. Fred also joined the ASC and we know the brothers spent some time serving together in the same unit. We believe Fred's service number was T4/057564, which suggests they enlisted at around the same time.

Frank was posted to the 137th Field Ambulance. This was not an ambulance in the modern meaning of one vehicle, but a unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). It had a strength of around 235 men and included around 40 attached ASC soldiers. The ASC men were not medical personnel; they drove ambulances and supply wagons.

The 137th Field Ambulance was part of the 40th Division. In February 1916 it was based near Farnham in Surrey. At this time Frank lived in Hut B, Number 7 in Haige Hutments in Twyeldown Camp.

Frank and the rest of the 40th Division moved to France in early June 1916. The Division was based around Loos until October. It then moved south to join the final phase of the Somme Offensive, the Battle of the Ancre.

During early 1917 the Division stayed in this part of France. They were not involved in a large scale offensive, but trench warfare will have kept a steady stream of wounded men coming into the 137th Field Ambulance.

Frank's war changed during the autumn of 1917. He was transferred to the Manchester Regiment and given the service number 53000. It is likely that Frank was transferred because of a shortage of infantrymen. He must have been considered fit enough to fight on the front lines.

Frank's pay book was signed by the same RAMC officer from April 1917 until the entry on the 29th August. The next entry, on the 16th September, was signed by a different man, who did not give his unit. This suggests that Frank was transferred between these dates.

Frank joined the 12th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He is likely to have fought with them during the Passchendaele Offensive of autumn 1917, and to have been involved in the desperate fighting to stop the German Spring Offensive in March and April 1918.

During May Frank was trained as a Lewis Gunner. The Lewis Machine Gun was a light machine gun that could be carried and used by one man. It provided a great deal of firepower to infantrymen during attack and defence.

The British began an offensive of their own in early August. It was extremely successful and soon forced the Germans back. By mid October the 12th Battalion had reached the Selle River at Neuvilly. The Battalion needed to get across if they were to continue the advance.

Frank earned the Military Medal for his part in the crossing. The award was published in the London Gazette of the 14th May 1919. This is his citation:

On 12.10.18 near Neuvilly Private Thompson with Lance Corporal Cooper and Privates Buckley and Perry were acting as scouts for the leading companies and cut gaps in the wire for the troops to pass through. On reaching the river they waded in and upheld the uncompleted bridges for the troops to cross over themselves standing in the river whilst so doing.

By this means a large number of men got over quickly and dry-shod. These men then carried on as scouts and in the outpost line did extremely valuable work. Nothing could be finer than the sense of duty and great determination that they displayed, whilst the example they set did much towards making the attack the success it was. All men speak most highly of these four men whose conduct was beyond praise.

Lance Corporal 9831 John H. Cooper, Private 75021 John Buckley and Private 45483 Edmund Perry were also awarded the Military Medal for their actions that day.

After the Selle was crossed the 12th Battalion continued to advance. The war ended on the 11th November. All 4 MM winners survived. Frank was promoted to Lance Corporal at some point during this period.

Frank had returned to the UK by the 21st January 1919. On this day he was demobilised from North Camp at Ripon in Yorkshire and returned home to Keyingham.

We don't know much about the rest of Frank's life. We believe he married Mary J. Ford between October and November 1920 in the Keyingham area. They had 2 children that we know of; Jessie between October and December 1922 and Joyce between July and September 1925.

Frank seems to have lived in this area all his life. Mary died in 1960, at the age of 60, and Frank died between April and June 1965, aged 71.

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