Frank Noel Thomas was the son of Thomas & Gertrude Thomas, a Confectioner (Baker) living at 28, Phoenix Street, Sandycroft, Flintshire on the 1901 census, Thomas having married Gertrude Rowlands in 1894 in a civil marriage in Chester (Cheshire West ROC/32/48). Thomas Thomas was 30 and working at home on his own account, he had been born in Chester. Gertrude, his wife, 27 had been born in Sandycroft. Their sons were George, 4, born in Middlewich, Cheshire, Tom C., 3 and Frank N., 1 had both been born in Sandycroft.
Their daughter Mabel (real name Mabel Elizabeth Joyce Thomas), who had been born in 1895, was living with her Grandmother Harriett (sic) Rowlands and her family at 50, Phoenix Street, Sandycroft, just a few doors away on the night of the census in 1901. Harriett was Gertrude Amy Thomas’s mother. Mabel had also been born in Hawarden, Flintshire. Harriett Rowlands was the head of the household, age 54 and had been born in Stafford. Her son, Alexander F. Rowlands, was single and age 25, John H. Rowlands, was also single, age 24 and both were he Iron Moulders. Beatrice Rowlands, 22, was single and an Assistant School Teacher and her sister Marjorie, 13, was a Pupil Teacher. All siblings had been born in Hawarden.
Frank Noel is seen on the School Registers at Sandycroft School and also Queensferry School , please see below.
The night of the 1911 census shows Frank Noel Thomas, 11, living with his Grandmother, a widow, Harriett Rowland at 12 Rose Terrace, Sandycroft, Flinthshire (5 rooms). Also in the household was Frank’s Aunts’, Beatrice Rowland, 30 and single who was an Assistant Teacher and Aunt Marjorie Rowland, 23, single and a Confectioner like her mother Harriett, who owned a Confectioner’s Shop and worked on her own account, at home. Harriett stated that 12 children had been born and 3 died, this was crossed out by the Enumerator as she was a widow.
Meanwhile in 1911, Frank’s family were living at Wilmslow Terrace, Mancot, Hawarden, Nr. Chester.( 6 rooms). Head of the household was Frank’s father, Thomas Thomas, 40, a Confectioner, Grocery Store, worker and his Mother Gertrude, 37. Joyce Thomas, 16, single who had been born in Sandycroft, (Mabel Elizabeth Joyce Thomas). Son George, 14, son Tom, 13, both at School, son Ronald, 9, born in Sandycroft, daughter Freda, 6, born in Queensferry and son Kenneth age 4, born in Sandycroft. Thomas & Gertrude had had 9 children born to them and 2 had died.
Mabel Thomas is seen on the transcription of Frank Thomas in the UK, World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923, (only seen as an extension of Ancestry on Fold3, where an additional fee is paid) as Frank’s next of kin and referred to as his Aunt, but I believe her to be his sister. It may be a transcription error, but you would need to see the original.
Frank’s Royal Welsh Fusiliers Attestation Papers show that he was attested in Flint on the 26th October 1915, examined in Shotton and declared fit in Connah’s Quay, all on the same day, so he was determined to get into the Army. He said he had been born in Hawarden and his physical description was:-
Complexion – Dark
Eyes – Brown
Hair – Black.
Height – 5 foot 5 inches
Frank I think was a character, as he had been determined to join the Army, giving his age as 19 years 17days, but his parent’s must have appealed to the Army and he was discharged on the 3rd of June 1916, but not before he had been in a bit of trouble on the 20th November 1915 at Parkhall Camp. He was accused of “Breaking out of Barracks about 10.0pm on the 20th November 1915 until reporting himself at 1.45pm on the 22nd November 1915 (39 hours 45 minutes).” He was awarded 72 hours Punishment No. II on the 23rd November 1915 and forfeited 3 days pay. Again at Parkhall Camp on the 24th May 1916 he was accused of “Irregular Conduct on Parade.” He was awarded 3 days C.B. Pack Drill on the 25th May 1916.
He then did re-enlist but his Attestation Papers for the later re-enlistment are missing, probably lost in WW2 Bombings in London.
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 about Frank Thomas tells us that he was formerly in the Lancashire Fusiliers, regimental No. 82581, he was then transferred to the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, with the regimental no. of 29256.
He eventually found himself in France and I appealed to the Great War Forum*, who have been so wonderful, helping me since 2011, when I first started researching my local War Memorials, I would be lost without them. I asked if anyone could tell me what happened to the Regiment that day, and hopefully what happened to Frank. As usual, they responded and I am grateful to all the Forum, but especially to “IRC Kevin” who gave me this information:-
‘Frank Thomas was one of seven KIA from the 2/5th that day. The battalion was tasked to carry out a two-company rescue mission to try to relieve a party of the 2/4th Loyals who were cut off and surrounded in ‘Z’ Trench. From my book on the battalion (The Lion and the Rose Volume 3)’
“At 10.20 a.m. on 3 October, an RAF observation aircraft flew over Z-Trench, then dropped a message at HQ reporting that although about 100-yards of the trench remained in British hands, the rest of Z-Trench appeared deserted. At 3 p.m., two platoons of the 2/4th attempted to rescue their ensnared comrades. Covered by a bombardment of medium and light mortars, the attackers only got 400-yards forward of the road leading northwards out of Proville, before coming under heavy machine-gun fire and after experiencing substantial casualties, gave their endeavour up. The 2/4th made one final attempt, this time working their way along the north bank of the canal, but were bogged down in the soggy terrain and came under heavy machine-gun fire. Clearly, if the men in Z-Trench were to be rescued, a stronger incursion was necessary.
As the freshest troops in the brigade, this task was given to two companies of the King’s Own. With Zero Hour set for 6 a.m. on 4 October, artillery arrangements were hurriedly planned and attackers briefed. With the covering barrage falling to their front, the companies advanced. Both found the tangled undergrowth extremely difficult to progress through and about 500-yards into their advance, the right company came under very heavy machine-gun fire from the houses to the south of the river. The left company pushed on and succeeded in reaching the houses in what is now the Rue Lucien Sampaix. After bitter house-to-house fighting using copious bombs, the company cleared the first part of the street, but houses further down the road proved too strongly-held. Another RAF aircraft had overflown Z-Trench at 7 a.m., but perceived no visible sign of British defenders and the strength of enemy opposition now made it practically certain that none of the Loyals remained in their isolated position. Barnes decided there was nothing to be gained by risking more lives and at 11.20 a.m., phoned Brig.-Gen. Ransome, ordering consolidation of the line just to the north of Pronville, work the battalion completed by 7 p.m. At 10.55 p.m., elements of 171 and 172 Brigade relieved the battalion and the tired men were withdrawn to the south of Pronville. When Z-Trench was subsequently taken, evidence of considerable fighting was found, the bodies of some of its late defenders still sprawled on the ground.”
“Edited to add: Z Trench can be found at 50°10’11.80″N 3°13’6.70″E if you put a placemark in Google Earth at these coordinates.”
Sadly Frank’s body was never recovered and he is one of the many thousands of young men who gave everything for our freedom, he must never be forgotten.
On the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 for Frank Thomas it show his Legatee was his father Thomas, who received on the 13th February 1919 – £2.18s. 0d credit and Frank Noel’s War Gratuity of £3 on the 9th December 1919.
However his family made sure he would be remembered as they added his name to the list of the Fallen for the Hawarden, WW1 War Memorial, the Sandycroft WW2 War Memorial in St. Francis’s Church and the Queensferry School Roll of Honour in the Queensferry War Memorial Institute, his name will live on in perpetuity. This account is speculative and assumes that they are one and the same person on the three memorials.We would welcome any information to help us identify this soldier with more certainty.
Many thanks to Carole JOnes for her help in telling Frank Noel’s story.