Frank Sutcliffe was born in Glodwick,Oldham in 1884,his parents were Frank & Annie. Frank had an older brother called William. At some point before the 1891 census Frank senior had died and Annie remarried. Her new husband was Richard Burrows a painter and decorator originally from Liverpool and they had at least three children together - Nellie, Dick and Maggie. Frank lived with his mother and stepfather first in the Westwood district of Oldham but by 1901 they were living in Waterhead. After the war he was put on the roll of honour for Royton's Blackshaw Lane School which strongly suggests the family lived in Royton at some point between 1891 and 1901.
Frank married at a young age, this was probably to Florence Hargreaves in 1903 when Frank would have been 18 or 19. The next time he pops up in the historical record is his second marriage, to Lily Collinson, on March 20th 1909. He is listed as being a widower although no likely record can be found as to when his first wife died. At the time of his marriage to Lily his address was 9 Bleasby Street, while Lily was next door at number 11.
Frank & Lily were still living in Oldham in 1911 but between then and the birth of their first child, Thomas, on May 9th 1914 they had moved to Sand Hole in Royton. Frank worked as a Stripper & Grinder at the Beech Mill and enlisted in the army at the Hollinwood recruitment office in April 1915. Lily was already pregnant by this point with Frank junior who would be born in January 1916, before his father left for France. By the time that day came, in April or May 1916, there was yet another child on the way.
When Frank was sent overseas he was allocated to the 15th Sherwood Foresters who had been out in France since that February. They had been raised in Nottingham in February 1915 as a Bantam Battalion. The pre war minimum height for the army was 5 ft 3 inches but the need for extra manpower and also the clamour of shorter men to join the colours saw Bantam Battalions raised throughout the country whose minimum requirement was only 5 foot. These units were drawn from industrial and coal mining areas where short stature was no sign of weakness and probably also rather more common.
The first severe action for Frank Sutcliffe and the 15th Sherwood Foresters was on the evening of May 30th when in the process of handing over the front line to another battalion an immense enemy bombardment commenced. The expected German raid followed and penetrated the several gaps that had been created in the line by the force of the shellfire. The German raiders were hotly engaged by the men of the 15th Battalion and after 50 minutes or so the line had been restored. The enemy withdrew with prisoners, mostly wounded men. The losses reported at the time were 10 killed, 32 missing and 33 wounded. The battalion had a quiet June but in mid July were sent into the Battle of the Somme that had been raging for other two weeks by that point. They entered the frontline on the night of July 16th/17th.
On the evening of the 19th the men were to take part in an attempt to wrest control of some 1000 yards of enemy trench from Maltz Horn Farm northwards. Only 2 (W&Z) of the battalion's 4 companies took part as it was decided that the other 2 were unfit due to being badly shaken by enemy shelling and having been in their gas masks for four hours under tear and chlorine gas shell fire. Morale was undoubtedly low as the men hadnt received rations for 3 days. It was around this time that Corporal Jesse Wilton from Y Company took his section of seven out of the line. He was court martialled for it and was shot at dawn on August 17th. Despite the obvious problems with morale in the battalion the attack by W & Z Companies went in gallantly at 5am in an attack that proved unsuccessful. The rising sun illuminated the troops as they advanced, the company on the right reached their objectives but were forced back, that on the left was devastated by enemy fire upon topping a ridge. Survivors from both arrived in dribs and drabs to the trenches manned by the 23rd Manchesters. Casualties were given as 10 officers killed, 9 wounded, 39 other ranks killed, 146 wounded and 36 missing.
August saw the battalion out of the line while it absorbed many new men, quite a few of whom were said to be of very poor physique. They manned the front line again in late August and twice had planned attacks cancelled. They moved out of the Somme area at the very end of the month. The unit war diary doesn't illuminate us as to what happened to Frank Sutcliffe but he was killed on August 31st, presumably by a German shell. Two other men of the 15th Battalion died that day:
BEARDMORE JAMES 29 Private 24195 from Stoke-on-Trent
BIGNALL TOM Lance Corporal 25448 from Nottingham
In late September, Lily Sutcliffe received news back at the family home in Royton that Frank was missing. A couple of weeks later she was informed that he was presumed to have been killed. She had a 2 year old, a 9 month old and their third son, Wilfred, wasn't born until January 7th 1917 over four months after his father's death. Wilfred was christened at St.Paul's Church in Royton and in the register his father was listed as being a soldier 'missing presumed dead'. Young Wilfred himself was to die within a few months. Lily remarried in 1919 to Peter Titman.
Date of Death:31/08/1916
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 10C