Posts Tagged ‘Commonwealth War Graves’

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: F. Hanlon
Born: 9 April 1890
Date of Death: 31 March 1918
Age at death: 27
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: West Yorkshire Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 15th (Service) Battalion (1st Leeds Pals Battalion) which later merged with 17th Battalion to become the 15th/17th Battalion
Enlisted: Leeds
Rank: Private (Service No. 15/425)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign Medals – Victory Medal, British War Medal, 1914-15 Star
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders) and WW1 (Egypt)
Manner of Death: Died of Wounds (whilst in German military field hospital)
Family Details: Son of James and Annie Hanlon of 19 Brudenall Road, Hyde Park, Leeds
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Yorkshire and East Midlands Division)
Civilian Rank: 
Cemetery or Memorial: Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calai (XX.E.14); Breary Banks Memorial to Leeds Pals; Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour, now hanging in Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1; and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London);



Frank’s mother and 4 sisters (Copyright: Cathy Ready)

Frank Hanlon was born on 8 April 1890, the oldest son and child of James Hanlon (1860-1931), a machinist an his wife Annie Shackleton (1867 – 1953) who came from Burley in Leeds. The growing family can be found in successive censuses, first in 1891, and then 1901 and 1911. In 1891 the Frank is living aged just 11 months together with his parents at 13 Carberry Place, Burley. By 1901,  the Hanlon family have moved to 180 Burley Road. Frank (aged 10) now has 4 younger sisters –  Shirley (1892 – 1970), Jeannette (1894 – 1993), Edith (1896 – 1979) and lastly Mildred (1898 – 1990). In 1911, the whole family are all living at 10 Beechwood Crescent, Burley. In this census, Frank is now aged 20 and working as a clerk for Leeds County Council in the Education Department.

At some point between 1911 and 1914, Frank joined the Yorkshire and East Midlands Division of the Labour Department (which at the time formed part of the Board of Trade).

In his private life, we know that Frank and his family had a life long connection with St Andrew’s Church located on Burley Street, Leeds, just a stone’s throw from their home in Burley Street. Sadly the church no longer exists, since it closed in 1958, as a result of a reorganisation of church boundaries. What was previously St Andrew’s parish now falls under St George’s parish.

However, we still know that Frank was baptised at St Andrew’s in May 1890. We also know that his father, James Hanlon was a choirmaster there as, according to family records, the church wrote to him in 1909 thanking him for his service in this role and asking him to continue. Frank was also active in church life and was one of the sidesmen (also known as ushers or assistant churchwardens). In this capacity he would have been well known to the congregation and local community, as he was responsible for greeting churchgoers, overseeing seating and taking the collection. As is common practice, he would most likely have been appointed by the church’s Annual Parochial Church Meeting.


“The Leeds Pals” book

Motivated by his faith and strong personal and moral upbringing, Frank enlisted as a Private in the 15th (Service) Battalion of the Prince of Wales’ Own (West Yorkshire Regiment). This  was one of the so-called “Pals Battalions” formed by local authorities or private organisations who provided the necessary clothing, accommodation and food alongside the army providing weapons and training. The young men of Leeds (as in other places across the UK) heeded the call of Lord Kitchener to enlist (and bolster the small standing professional army of 120,000 men). The connection between the volunteers and the city was intrinsically linked – for instance, as the authors of the Leeds Pals Researchers say “the city was part of them and they were part of the city”.

According to details of the regiment published on “The Long Long Trail” the battalion was formed in Leeds in September 1914 by Lord Edward Brotherton, the Lord Mayor and the City. Frank (alongside his friends and work colleagues) would undoubtedly have seen a recruitment poster similar to the one published here.

He enlisted alongside hundreds of other clerks, engineers, schoolteachers and other men from the city and so it is likely he knew a highly educated Leeds University graduate originally from Bengal in India, Jogendra Sen (1887 – 1916) who was also one of the first men to enlist in the Leeds Pals.

The regiment initially trained locally before moving to Silkstone (near Barnsley in South Yorkshire) in December 1914. In June 1915, the battalion came order of the 93rd Brigade, 31st Division. In December 1915 the battalion saw its first service overseas when it was sent to Alexandria in Egypt to defend the Suez Canal (according to Frank’s medal card he landed on 22 December 1915 which would have made for an unusual Christmas away from home). It would very likely have been Frank’s first time far from home and first time on a long sea journey.  The memories of the voyage to Egypt are remembered on the Remembering the Leeds Pals Battalions website by a fellow Leeds Pal who survived the war, Private Arthur Pearson. He recalls that the food served on board was ‘most unappetising and most of it uneatable. Boiled mutton day after day. We swore we got the same piece of mutton day after day too, as we couldn’t touch the stuff.’

Then in March 1916, the battalion was subsequently reassigned to serve in France.

Frank would undoubtedly have fought  alongside his friends on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916). During this action, the Leeds Pals were stationed near the village of Serre, where they were ordered to attack the Germany positions. This was a deadly day and the Pals were decimated by the German artillery and machine guns. By the end of 1 July 1916, 248 members of the Leeds Pals were either killed or fatally injured. Only 72 members of the Battalion were uninjured. As Private Pearson, again remembered: “The name of Serre and the date of 1st July is engraved deep in our hearts, along with the faces of our ‘Pals’, a grand crowd of chaps. We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying.”

Frank at this time was one of the ‘lucky’ ones and he went on to fight in the Battle of Arras (9 April to 16 May 1917) with the Leeds Pals. He was subsequently part of the remaining Leeds Pals who merged with the 17th Battalion or Leeds Bantams to form the 15th/17th Battalion on 7 December 1917.

By 1918, the surviving Leeds men spent the start of the year training and in reserve, in preparation to provide reinforcements to the front line. We also know (thanks to a Leeds Live online newspaper report from 11 November 1918 the circumstances which most likely led to Frank’s ultimate death). The 15th/17th Battalion that Frank served in was sent back to the front in March 1918 and so he would have have faced the German Spring Offensive, code-named Operation Michael. This German military operation consisted of an intensive bombardment on the British trenches across a 50 mile front line (stretching from Arras to La Ferre). On 26 March 1918, the Leeds Pals were isolated whilst fighting on the outskirts of Moyenneville. The Leeds Pals launched a counter attack to drive off the Germans but they continued to hit back and were able to hold out. The battalion was ordered to withdraw and hit by another attack on 27 March 1918. Subsequently, with the German’s looking to be gaining advantage, a Sergeant Alfred Mountain volunteered to take charge of 10 men and a Lewis gun to protect the battalion’s flank, killing up to 100 German soldiers. This action successfully repelled the German attack. For this action Sergeant Mountain (who ultimately survived) was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Germans however continued to advance and the Pals were were again outflanked and whilst 44 were able to retreat, the rest were captured. In all, during this whole 9 day battle, 74 soldiers in the West Yorkshire Regiment were lost and more than 1,070 men serving in the 93rd Brigade were either, dead, wounded or missing.

This reason for focusing in on this particular time period, is that we know that at some point during this military action, Frank Hanlon was captured by the Germans, after being injured. Frank was one of 10 million people, servicemen or civilians who were captured and sent to detention camps or treated in military hospitals.

Thanks to surviving Prisoner of War historical archives from the International  Committee of the Red Cross, we know that Frank was reported missing since 24 March 1918. An index card (Reference no A. 40491) also details that Frank died, aged 27, at a field hospital at Aniche on 31 March 1918 having been shot in the lung.

As a wounded prisoner, Frank Hanlon’s fate would have fallen under the 1864 Geneva Convention which stated in Article 6 that “Wounded or sick combatants, to whatever nation they may belong, shall be collected and cared for”.

The ICRC, an independent, neutral organisation, was founded in 1863 to “protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and violence and to provide them with assistance”. Their work continues to this day and you can find out more about supporting and donating to their ongoing work.

From records, we also know that Frank left a will and and probate (dated 10 September 1918) totalling £47 1 shilling 6 pence. Also touchingly his next of kin is named as his fiancee, Lucy Markinson.

Cabaret Rouge1

Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, France (Copyright: www.cwgc.org.uk)

Frank was initially buried at Auberchicourt Cemetery, in what was then German territory. However, in 1924 his body was re-interred in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France where it remains to this day. Frank’s reburial is not unusual during the period after WW1 as the battlefields were cleared of ammunition and debris and known burial sites were examined and moved to larger cemeteries. As a result, alongside over 3000 fellow British and Commonwealth soldiers, Frank has a uniform gravestone which bears a simple inscription chosen by his family – it says: “HE IS RISEN” MARK XVI. 6″.

As their eldest son and as a brother, Frank’s loss must have been deeply felt by the rest of the Hanlon family, and his death was rarely spoken of according to living descendants. His nephew Frank Hanlon Pollard was named after him.

The then vicar of St Andrew’s wrote beautifully and movingly of Frank in his Annual Report in 1918 as follows:

“There are other and sadder losses…Mr Frank Hanlon, one of our sidesmen, and all his life connected with St Andrew’s Church, has lost his life in battle. He was one of the best and we mourn his loss. He gave his life for his country and he could do no more.” 

Frank is remembered at the Commonwealth War Grave cemetery of Cabarat-Rouge in France. He is also remembered on two Civil Service War Memorials in London – the Ministry of Labour War Memorial located in Tothill Street and the Board of Trade War Memorial located at 3 Whitehall Place. A stone cairn memorial also stands in honour of the 15th Battalion (The Leeds Pals) which is located on Breary Banks. The memorial was unveiled on 25 September 1935 on the site of the first training camp of around 1,275 men who formed the Leeds Pals battalion.

The memorial in St Andrew’s Church, Burley has sadly been lost in the years since the church closed in 1958, however a photo of it still survives. It would be amazing to see if the memorial could be found or alternatively replaced. This happened as recently as 2017 when Leeds City Council rededicated the war memorial from the former  St Columba Church which also previously located in Burley, Leeds. As reported in the Yorkshire Post the restoration of war memorials is deeply symbolic, hence the ongoing work of the Department for International Trade‘s War Memorial Research Group, which cuts across all faiths, beliefs and places of origin (and other national organisations such as the War Memorial Trust). 

Chris Page, local Leeds branch secretary of the Western Front Association, who campaigned for the restoration of the St Colomba memorial, said in 2017: “It’s not really about us – it’s about them and their sacrifice which was really important.”


War Memorial from former St Andrews Church, Burley Street, Leeds

With massive thanks to the relatives (Cathy and Neil Ready) of Frank Hanlon for very kindly sharing surviving photos of Frank and his family.

(Note: Many more details of the history of the Leeds Pals can be found in books by Laurie Mills or the Leeds Pals Researchers).

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