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Frank Robinson was born in Prescot near St. Helens on the 12th October 1897, the son of a blacksmith. His parents Nathan Thomas Robinson and Mary Leather had married in Prescot in 1895 and their first child, Nathan, was born in 1896. Sadly, Frank`s father died in January 1898 aged 32 years and he was buried on the 27th January 1898 in St. Mary`s Churchyard in Prescot.

Frank`s mother remarried in 1899 to James Smith, an insurance agent, the wedding taking place in Prescot and the following year a son, James Jules was born, his birth was registered in Prescot in 1900. By the time of the 1901 Census Frank and his family had moved to Preston and were living at 56 St. Thomas` Road which runs from Deepdale Road to Garstang Road parallel to Moor Park. Frank`s stepfather is recorded as being an insurance agent and his mother a housewife. In 1908 tragedy struck Mary again when she lost her second husband James, his death was registered in the third quarter of that year. By 1911 Frank, his mother and two brothers had moved to 171 Ellen Street in Preston. Times were obviously now harder for Frank`s mother and she is recorded as a `charwoman` in this Census. Frank and his brother Nathan were both errand boys for a local grocer while the youngest lad James was at school.

On the 15th September 1914 Frank presented himself at the recruiting office in Preston, he was a month short of his 17th birthday at the time. He attested into the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was issued with the service number 2583 (later 200637) and was initially assigned to the 2/4th Battalion. At his medical inspection it was noted that Frank was 5`4” tall and had a chest measurement of 34” and his `declared age` was shown as being 19 years which of course was wrong. Prior to his enlistment he had been employed at the tinsmith`s factory of Nelson`s Engineering at 26 Vauxhall Road in Preston. He named his mother Mary of 171 Ellen Street as his next of kin.

Frank underwent a second medical inspection at Blackpool on the 28th March 1915 which he passed, and again he declared his age to be 19 years. At some point around this time he was transferred out of the 2/4th Battalion and into the 1/4th Battalion LNL. Frank then sailed to France on the “SS Onward” on the 4th May 1915 with the 1/4th Battalion. After landing in Boulogne the following day, the Battalion marched to a rest camp at Ostrohove before eventually moving on to the railway station at Pont De Brique where they joined up with the regimental transport. Together they moved to be billets in Lillette, classed as the starting point. During the next few days the Battalion moved to several billeting locations and carried out further training. Eventually they moved into the trenches on the 25th May 1915, relieving the Black Watch, their allotted sector being 1 mile W.N.W. of the town of Festubert. On the 26th the Battalion saw their first enemy action and first casualties, 2 men wounded. The next four days saw routine trench life, coming under artillery fire and carrying out extensions and improvements to the trench network. Casualties were light, 1 man killed in action and a few men wounded.

On the 1st June they were relieved by the 58th Vaughan’s Rifles (Infantry Regiment of the British Indian Army) and the Battalion moved first of all into billets at Cornet Malo and then onto La Bassee. By the 13th June 1915 the Battalion had moved into the trenches again with the 1/6th Scottish Rifles to their left and the 22nd Brigade to their right. An attack on the enemy front line salient was planned for the evening of the 15th June with the intention of overrunning the enemy line and reaching a road to their rear called Rue D`Ouvert.

The assault began at 6pm after a massive artillery barrage had supposedly wrecked the enemy wire and trench system. Within a very short time the assault had reached and captured the German trench with minimal opposition, but the second line of wire had not been sufficiently damaged, and along with the enemy having more reserve troops than envisaged, the advance began to falter. At about midnight the enemy began to counter attack behind a barrage of their own artillery and by the early hours of the 16th the British was having to carry out a tactical withdrawal to the reserve trenches. At about 5am the Battalion was relieved by the 1/8th Battalion Liverpool Irish.

You can read more about the Battle of Festubert on 15th June 1915 by clicking HERE

The remnants of the 1/4th Battalion assembled at Le Touret where they had breakfast and received a rum ration. Just 243 men answered the roll call. The Battalion`s first general action had been a costly one, with a loss of; Officers – 4 killed in action, 6 wounded and 2 missing; Other ranks – 19 killed in action, 255 wounded and 145 reported missing, many of whom would later be declared dead.

Private Frank Robinson was one of the 145 men reported missing and he was never seen again. He was still four months short of his 18th birthday. His family had to wait for almost two years until March 1917 before the Military Authorities finally confirmed that he had died on or since the 15th June 1915.

After the war Frank`s family took receipt of his 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and also his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Frank`s body was eventually found and recovered from the battlefield and was later reinterred in the Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, the cemetery located at Cuinchy in the Pas de Calais. According to the CWGC records his details had been found on the waterproof sheet that had been used to cover his body.

His obituary above indicates Frank`s two brothers also served, unfortunately neither of their service records survived but the two men did survive the war.

Rank: Private
Service No: 200637
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Cemetery: GUARDS CEMETERY, WINDY CORNER, CUINCHY

Ron Crowe

Ron Crowe

Ron has had an interest in WW1 for most of his adult life, reading many books and accounts of the war. He has visited most of the western front on several occasions and visited the various museums, including the Verdun battlefield. He volunteered for the St Marys project at MoL, and having enjoyed the experience felt he would like to do more. These lost stories of old soldiers needs to be brought back to life both for relatives to see what their great grandfathers did, and the modern young generation to see the sacrifices made by them for them
Ron Crowe

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