FENTON, Frank Harry

No.78056, Private, Frank Harry FENTON
Aged 35

31st Labour Group, HQ Labour Corps
formerly 48495, Middlesex Regiment
23rd Infantry Labour Coy., The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
Killed in Action on Wednesday, 22nd August 1917

Frank Harry Fenton was born in Ingham (Thingoe Q-3-1882 4A:611) son of Harry and Eliza FENTON (née OTTLEY).

1891 census...Aged 8, he was at the Street, Ingham with his father Harry FENTON [44] farm labourer born Whepstead; his mother Eliza [42] born Onehouse, Hessett; sisters Clementina L.E. [16] born Bradfield St George and Florence E [10] born Ingham; brother James W [14] farm labourer, born Ingham; great aunt Maria JAYNES [75] born Fornham St Martin.

1901 census...Aged 18, a horseman, he was at the Cottages, Ingham with his parents, brother William J (kennelman) and sister Elizabeth C L.

In 1906 he married Eva SMITH. They had 2 daughters, Christine Bertha (25th December 1906) and Gladys Jessie (18th September 1908)
Eva died in 1909

1911 census...Aged 28, a widower, assistant brewer, he was at Ingham with his parents and his daughter Christine Bertha [4] born Ingham and his sister Clementina Louise Elizabeth.

On 21st August 1915 in West Wycombe, he married Rose BODDY,[4-3-1888] a kitchem maid for the Marquis of Bristol.

The pension card has Rose at c/o Ingham Rectory, nr Bury St Edmunds, but later at Culford Hall. However the note record a "motherless! award to the guardian of the children, Mrs Eliza Fenton of Ingham, their grandmother

He enlisted in Bury St Edmunds.

His Army service records are somewhat confused as to which regiment/unit he was in at any one time. Middlesex Regiment is crossed out frequently but the form asking for family details was from Middlesex regiment in January 1920. The Queen's is seen on some pages. The overall picture though seems to be Labour Company.
He attested in Bury St Edmunds on 2nd December 1915, being 33 years 3 months old, an indoor servant but his defective eyesight appears to have ended that.
Later forms signify he was deemed to have enlisted on the 24th June 1916 and was mobilised on 26th February 1917. He was then 34 years 6 months old, was 5 feet 6 inches tall (165.1 cm), chest 40" to 43" (101.6 to 109.2 cm) from Ickworth Park. From Bury St Edmunds depot he was sent to join 29th Middlesex (crossed out and The Queen's inserted) on 2nd March 1917.
He embarked at Folkestone for Boulogne on 12th March 1917. transferred to the 131st Labour Company on 9th May 1917 and then the 31st Labour Group HQ on 1st June 1917. he was killed in action on 22nd August 1917

His personal effects sent to his widow Rose were Wallet, Letters and photos, notebook, razor and razor blade, parts of razor, purse with Franc note, watch, glasses and a gold ring.
Replying to the Army (Middlesex Regt) in 1920 Rose gave the living members of the family as herself at Culford Hall with two daughters Christine and Gladys, Frank's parents at Ingham, brother William James at Culford and sister Clementine at Ingham and sister Florence (now Mrs Burman) at 39 Stow Road, Creeting St Peter.

There is no indication as to how or where he was killed. Some presume that Labour Corps was a "cushy" number but fetching and carrying to the front line, repairing trenches etc meant they were in just as much danger as the actual combatants.

The Bury Free Press of 8th September 1917 reported :-

Added to the list of Ingham men who have given their lives for their King and country is the name of Prvt Frank Fenton. This man was rejected four times, and finally placed in category "C2", being called up for military service last February. He joined the Middlesex Regiment, but was transferred to the Queen's Royal West Surrey's Labour battalion and sent out to France after being in the Army only a fortnight. He acted as officer's servant out there and was killed while sleeping in his dug-out, as the following letters show:-
22/8/17 "Dear Mrs. Fenton - I very much regret to have to inform you that your dear husband was killed by a shell this morning while asleep in his dug-out. Death was instantaneous, so he suffered no pain......." G Jenkins, Captain and Adjutant, No.31 Labour Group.
25-8-17 "Dear Mrs. Fenton, On behalf of the N.C.O.s and men on the staff of the 31st Labour Group Headquarters, I write to express our deep sympathy with you and other members of your family on the death early Wednesday morning last, of your husband. He and three others were,I am sorry to say, instantaneously killed by a shell while asleep. There are only 18 of us in these Group Headquarters. During the past few months we have come to know one another very well indeed, and you will be able to realise the sad effect produced upon us when we lost four at the same time. Your husband's services were much appreciated, and he was always found cheerful and willing to do whatever he could. It will be some,. if only poor, consolation the remember that death was instant and painless. The remains of the four men were interred in Vlamertinghe New Cemetery and a cross, No.12 with inscription was placed upon the grave of your husband which is situated in Row E, Plot 7.I return, un-opened some letters which have arrived since your husband's death. Again assuring you of our united sympathy, I remain, yours very truly, Corpl F.A.Appleyard"
Prvt Fenton leaves a wife and two children, and his parents also reside in Ingham. Great sympathy is felt for them all, as this brave soldier was held in high esteem in the village, and also at Culford Hall,where he was employed previous to joining the Army

Frank Fenton is buried in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, grave 7:E:12
and commemorated on the Culford Estate memorial

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details