Frank Irvin Young was born in the Jesmond area of Newcastle on January 13th 1884. His parents were Ralph, a General Practitioner and Surgeon, and Mary Jane.
Ralph and Mary had 11 children with the names of nine of Frank's siblings being known - Frederick, William, Walter, Hubert, Norman, Charles, Hilda, Henry and Ralph. By the time Frank was five years old his father had taken up the position of Medical Officer for Royton. The family lived at Park House on Rochdale Road. As a boy Frank attended Rochdale Higher Grade School before going to Hulme Grammar School in Oldham in September 1896. He spent three years at Hulme before spending time at Knutsford Grammar School.
After leaving school Frank was employed as a clerk but then on April 12th 1902 he presented himself to army recruiters in Manchester with the intention of serving in the Boer War. He lied about his age, claiming to be twenty rather than his actual eighteen, and was admitted to the Army Service Corps. His terms of enlistment was that he would serve for 12 months but if the war lasted longer than that he would be committed for it's duration.
He was immediately sent to South Africa and the war ended shortly afterwards on May 31st. Frank served in South Africa until the start of April 1903 when he returned to England and was discharged.
After his brief spell in uniform, Frank went on to study dentistry at Manchester University and in the census of 1911 he can be found living in Darlington and working as a dentist's assistant. By 1914 Frank, by now a Dental Surgeon, was working in London and living in Islington but that year married May Coates back in the North East in Bishop Auckland.
Frank joined the Officer Training Corps in February 1915 and was commissioned on May 12th of that year. In early 1916 Frank and May had a baby daughter, Joyce.
Twelve months after he was commissioned he arrived in France on May 11th 1916 for active service with the 1st Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. This unit had been out in France since days after the outbreak of war in August 1914. Amongst their many dead by this point was Thomas William Teare. Frank's first experience of the front line on the Western Front came just three days later on May 14th whilst the Battalion was under considerable German artillery fire.
Spells in and out of the front line followed with much of June 1916 being spent in training for the forthcoming Battle of the Somme. The battle opened, with massive loss of life, on July 1st but the 1st NF were not involved that day. The 3rd Division of which the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, as one of the infantry battalions of 9th Brigade, were members were part of the reserve force. This remained the case until July 13th when orders were received to attack and take German trenches ahead of the village of Bazentin le Grand and then take the village itself. The battalion paraded at 21:20 and proceeded to the front line.
The 1st NF were in support to the two assaulting battalions of the Brigade,the 13th Bn.King's and 12th West Yorkshires. As the assault troops moved forward, two companies of the 1st NF took over the front line to observe the attack and reinforce it as circumstances might require. On the right the King's came under heavy rifle and machine gun fire and also suffered considerable losses from the German artillery. The battalion managed however to take the German trenches - some men rushed forward into the village before the British artillery bombardment had lifted their barrage. On the left the West Yorkshires met with less resistance and carried their objective with less casualties. In the course of the assault each battalion had slightly lost direction and a gap had developed between them. W Company of the 1st NF immediately went forward and plugged this gap in the line. Lieutenant Cooper in command of Y Company in the absence of any information as to how the attack ahead was going but seeing the amount of wounded coming back decided to push his men forward to assist. Reaching the old German frontline they found it sparsely occupied by men of the 13th King's . As W & Y Companies moved forward, X Company took over the original British front line. Cooper found the grievously wounded commanding officer of the King's,Lt-Colonel Gibbon who instructed him to take command of any men of the King's at hand and lead them forward with Y Company to clear the village.
Y and X Companies began to clear the village, along with some men of W. At this point the 1st NF's remaining Company, Z, were sent forward to protect the right flank of the battalion as reports had been received of Germans massing in that direction.
The battalion was to lose many men in the village whilst attempting to dislodge the stubbornly defending Germans but by 09:30 the capture of Bazentin-le-Grand had been completed. The casualty list for the Battalion was 24 killed, 153 wounded and 40 men missing.
After holding and consolidating for five days the positions won at the Battle of Bazentin the 9th Brigade was withdrawn on July 19th to Divisional Reserve. The Battalion was then part of the attacking force tasked with the capture of Longueval and the much fought over Delville Wood on July 24th. That morning an intense bombardment was to be opened on the German positions, and the men of the 1st NF were to creep forward under the cover of this barrage to a sunken road some 150 yards from Longueval. It was a bright moonlit night and considerable casualties were suffered from shell fire before the men managed to reach their assembly point. At 03:40, the moment when the British artillery were supposed to open fire, the men were surprised to find no barrage forthcoming.The men were ordered forward anyway towards Longueval.
An integral part of the plan was that two strongpoints near Longueval on the Battalion's left flank were to have already been captured by troops from 95th Brigade - the officers of the 1st NF were under the impression this was the case, sadly it was not and that attack had completely failed. So the men were advancing into opposition from in front that was not under the planned artillery bombardment and from the strongpoints on their left. At first as they advanced not a shot was fired and then, when they had covered nearly half the ground, heavy machine gun fire opened up on them from both ahead and the left. Those men who pressed forward were forced to take shelter in shell holes under machine gun and rifle fire and grenades lobbed by the German defenders ahead. The enemy also used incendiary bombs, one man who thankfully had already been shot through the head was completely consumed by flames. The survivors of the attack could not move without attracting fire and it was obvious now that the attack could not possibly succeed. By 08:30 that morning all the survivors were back in their original start line. At 09:20 the Battalion's Commanding Officer, Lt-Colonel Wild, received an order to attack again. Wild reported back that, at a conservative estimate, they had lost 50% of their strength and were unfit for further offensive action. No sooner had Wild despatched his report back to Brigade HQ that a body of men arrived commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Frank Irvin Young who had been sent up to consolidate the captured positions, which did not in fact exist. Wild informed Young that more men in the line at that point could only mean more casualties and to lead his men back to Brigade HQ. Young however replied that the Brigadier had been informed that the 13th King's had carried their objectives (they hadn't) and had given him definite orders which he must obey.
The Regimental History states that:
"Ultimately Wild found that nothing short of a direct order to withdraw at once could dissuade this staunch and determined young officer from acting on his instructions and so leading his men to certain destruction"
At about noon Brigadier-General Potter himself came forward and now appreciating the true situation on the ground ordered Wild to withdraw his men back to a line along a sunken road about one mile south west of Longueval. Here the Battalion remained throughout the 24th and 25th July under the considerable fire of the German guns.
2nd Lieutenant Frank Irvin Young, having had a lucky escape meeting Lt-Colonel Wild whilst heading forward towards the German machine guns was to be killed the very next day whilst on duty at an ammunition dump which presumably came under German shellfire.
It's currently not known as to what happened to Frank's widow and daughter but his parents are buried together in Royton Cemetery. Ralph died in 1920 and Mary Jane in 1924. Buried with them are Frank's brothers Ralph, Hubert and Henry.
Henry died from pneumonia, possibly connected with the great influenza epidemic, in December 1918 whilst serving in South Shields and his entry can be found here.
FRANK IRVIN YOUNG
Date of Death:25/07/1916
Cemetery:Quarry Cemetery, Montauban