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Francis was born in Preston on the 1st June 1897 and was baptised at the English Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in the town by his parents Robert and Mary Smalley (nee Griffin), Robert and Mary married in Preston in 1891 and although they went on to have ten children, only Margaret (1892) and her two brothers (Francis 1897*) and Robert Stephen (1904) survived infancy.  On the 18th June 1900 Francis was enrolled at St. Mary & St. Wilfred`s RC Infant School, the school record noting his address at the time was 6 Jemmett Street. When the 1901 Census was recorded twelve months later the family had moved to 25 Albert Street where Francis` father was a stone labourer.

Francis was still at school in 1911 but the family had moved house again, now living at 17 Everton Gardens. His father was an outdoor labourer whilst his mother was working as a charwoman, his younger brother Robert was at home but his sister Margaret had moved out of the family home.

Pre-war Francis had gone to work as a packer at Fisher`s Cabinet Works on Kent Street but at some point prior to the outbreak of war he had left his job and enlisted into the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, service number 10671. Aged just 17 years and 2 months old Francis embarked for France with the 1st Battalion on the 12th August 1914 as part of the British Expeditionary Force, the Battalion coming under the Command of 2nd Brigade in 1st Division.

Sadly, Francis was one of many men posted missing a few weeks later but the actual date is the subject of conflicting information. The CWGC, Soldier`s Died records and the Register of Soldier`s Effects all state 31st October 1914, however, the Medal Rolls, the newspaper report and his family all give the date as 14th September 1914.

For more information about this period please see Diary of a Second Lieutenant (1st Battalion) CLICK HERE……

Several months passed without any confirmation as to Francis` whereabouts and then on the 19th April 1915 his father Robert joined the 4th Battalion LNL with the service number 35886. As he was too old for overseas service he would serve with a Home Garrison only and then later his papers show he served with 313 Protection Coy of the Royal Defence Corps.  The R.D.C. was used for security and guard duties, usually guarding ports or bridges and some were used at POW camps. Unfortunately, Robert Smalley`s papers also show several misdemeanours recorded on his misconduct sheet, usually for being inebriated at various places around the country. His punishment was mainly by the way of fines, although he did at one point serve 28 days Military Detention for his sins.

Finally, in December 1915 the Military Authorities confirmed that Francis Smalley was now, for official purposes, deemed to have been killed in action and the Preston Guardian published the confirmation of his death.

After the war Robert and Mary Smalley took receipt of their sons` 1914 Star & Clasp together with his British War and Victory Medals, they would also receive his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

As Francis has no known grave his name was later commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial to the Missing;

Francis` mother also made sure that their son was remembered in his home town of Preston by completing one of the Submission Forms for his name to be included on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library. Below the submission form, his name as it appears on the ROH.

Rank: Private
Service No: 10671
Date of Death: 31/10/1914
Age: 18
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “D” Coy. 1st Bn.

Janet Davis
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