Private / Second Lieutenant
London Regiment; Machine Gun Corps
Queen Victoria's Rifles; 247th Machine Gun Company
Place of birth:
Date of death:
Cause of death:
Died of wounds
Grave or panel reference:
Plot 3 / Row E / Grave 21
Name of father:
Name of siblings:
George, Gertrude, John, Thomas, Nellie, Florence
Name(s) of children:
Date of birth:
Place of enlistment:
Age at death:
Cemetery or memorial:
Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension
Name of mother:
Ellen Reeves (née Durrant)
Name of spouse:
6 Charteris Road, Finsbury Park
Frank Reeves was born in Finsbury Park on 16 December 1895 and baptised at St Anne’s, Pooles Park on 5 February 1896. He was the youngest of eight children (two of whom died before 1911) born to George and Ellen Reeves (née Durrant). George worked as a signalman on the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and he and Ellen had married at St John the Evangelist Church in Finsbury Park on 24 September 1881.
The 1901 Census places the family at 6 Charteris Road, Finsbury Park, where George, then five, lived with his parents, his sisters Gertrude, Nellie and Florence, and his brothers George, John and Thomas. Various lodgers also lived at the house: the Duckland family, Agnes and Edward and their two-year-old daughter May; Alice Stephens, an 81-year-old widow; and Joseph Richardson, a 17-year-old who was also employed by GNR as a clerk.
From 1907 to 1912, Frank attended the prestigious Dame Alice Owen’s School, then in Islington but now in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, which celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2013. His education there would have been well above average, evidenced by the fact he stayed in school until he was 16 or 17 at a time when the leaving age was 12.
On 1 September 1914, aged 18, he joined the London Regiment, Queen Victoria’s Rifles. He served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from 4 November before returning to England in March 1917 where he attended training at Bisley.
In February 1916 a new system of training for officers had been introduced, after which date temporary commissions could only be granted if a man had been through an Officer Cadet Unit. Entrants would have to be aged over 18 and a half, and have served as a ranker or been with an Officer Training Corps (these were formed in 1908 at universities and public schools to attract young men into the army.) The training course lasted four and a half months. At any time 400 cadets were in training (although in 1917 this number was raised to 600 – if the unit could accommodate them). More than 73,000 men gained infantry commissions after being trained this way, with increasing numbers coming from ‘the ranks’ as the war went on.
Following his training, Frank was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the 247th Company Machine Gun Corps, which had been formed in October 1915 in response to the need for more effective use of machine guns on the Western Front. It served in France, Belgium and Germany between July 1917 and February 1918 and was disbanded four years after the War. Frank was posted back to France on 26 September 1917 and died at Bailleul on 30 December 1917, from wounds caused the previous day by shellfire. He was 22 years old.
Frank’s service history during the war is recorded in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, 1914-1919, a collection of more than 26,000 biographies of First World War casualties, 7,000 of which include photographs. It was compiled by the genealogist and author Melville Henry Massue, the 9th Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval.
The biography for Frank includes a quote from the Chaplain which explains that “he had gone out quite early (an instance of his keenness), about 6am, to visit some of his guns, of which he was in charge, and was wounded by a shell, which burst close to him. Of course, he knew he was exposed to shellfire, but in the midst of his voluntary and splendidly done work for his country, we ought not to grieve.”
Frank was buried at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Departement du Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, plot III.E.21. (The Graves Registration Report Form has his date of death as 2 January 1918) Inscribed on his gravestone are the words: ‘To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die.’ He is likely to have been awarded the Victory Medal and British War Medal and his next of kin would have received a Memorial Death Plaque.
At New Court Congregational Church, where Frank’s parents had remained members, his eldest brother George was also among the returning soldiers commemorated by the organ. An accountant with the GNR before serving in the Army Pay Corps in the First World War, George married Isabel Fulford in 1906 and they had two daughters, Marjorie Isabel and Betty Frances.