Private Frank Alton
20548, 10th Bn., Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) who was killed in action on 14th February 1916, aged 29
Remembered with Honour
Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 39 and 41)
Frank Alton Senior was living with his parents at Eden Cottage, Barrow Hill in 1881. He married Elizabeth Luke at Handley Church on 1st January 1885 and their daughter Elizabeth May was born later that year. Their eldest son, FRANK HERBERT ALTON, was born in January 1887 and baptised at Staveley on 5th May
By 1891, the family were living at 6a, River Street in Castleton, near Rochdale. In common with many railway workers, steam engine driver Frank Senior had moved with his growing family a number of times. 2 year old Clara had been born in Royton, Lancashire whilst 1 year old Walter Edward had been born in Manchester but sadly died whilst the family were in the Rochdale area.
14 year old Frank Junior had started work as a pony driver in a coal mine by 1901. The family had lived for a time in Bradford, where 9 year old Annie had been born, before returning to live in the Staveley area, at 139, Poolsbrook, where 6 year old Florrie, 3 year old Hetty and baby Emily were all born. Another daughter, Ethel, was born in 1903.
On 2nd October 1909, Frank married miner’s daughter Lily Parsons and their son, Cyril, was born on 6th August 1910. The young couple were living with Lily’s family in 1911 at 75, Speedwell Terrace, Staveley, and Frank was working as a fitter in a coal mine. By the outbreak of the war in 1914, they had moved to live at 118, Speedwell Terrace. Records show Frank’s residence as Barrow Hill and it is known that Lily was living at 9, Lees Buildings in 1917 in what was then part of Barrow Hill.
Frank responded to the call for men to volunteer despite being married with a child and working in an essential industry. He enlisted at Staveley on 7th December 1914 with the 10th (Service) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) which had been raised at Derby in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army and joined 51st Brigade in 17th (Northern) Division. He was almost 26 years old, 5’5 ½ “ tall and weighed 8 st 6lbs.
After initial training close to home, the battalion moved to Wool then to West Lulworth in October and back to Wool in December. In June 1915 they moved to Winchester for final training. The division had been selected for Home Defence duties, but this was reversed and they proceeded to France, landing at Boulogne on the 14th July 1915 and then concentrated near St Omer.
The battalion moved into the Southern Ypres salient for trench familiarisation and then took over the front lines in that area. Frank was twice treated for trench foot in December 1915 and re-joined his battalion on 14th January 1916.
Having been in the Ypres Salient almost since their landing seven months prior, the 10th Sherwood Foresters relieved the 7th Lincolnshire Regiment in four frontline trenches in a position three miles south of Ypres (Ieper), Belgium, known as The Bluff, immediately north of the Ypres-Comines canal. Frank served in “B” Company, which was given trench F29, Crater and Supports. The first night passed quietly, until the next morning (14th) an intermittent enemy bombardment of the trenches began, continuing until 3.30pm when their position came under a “terrific bombardment”. Then at 5.40 pm the first of several mines was exploded under the Sherwood Foresters, “battering (the trenches) to the ground”.
Frank Alton, along with Fred Brooks, Donald Houston and Lister Wilson, all Barrow Hill men serving in the 10th battalion, is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial which suggests that they could have been killed by the mine which exploded on 14th February 1916.
Frank was listed as officially missing on the 14th February 1916 but not assumed dead until 15th December that year. He was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
His widow, Lily, was awarded a pension of 15/- per week. She re-married, in 1919, to William Johnson.
Reference: 10th (S) battalion, The history of the battalion during the great war by Lieut W N Hoyte.