William Edward Francis 1884 - 1955

William Edward Francis born 18th January 1884 and called Bill to his friends.  When he met my Great Gran for the first time, she asked 'what is your name?' He answered 'Fred’.  The story goes for some reason he did not want her to know his real name nobody can remember why probably his weird sense of humour but to my Gran he was always 'Fred'.

NB: Members of the services carried postcards so that if they were killed during the conflict the postcard was returned to the family and the family would know they were not coming home.

The two pictures below are the post card Grandad Fred carried with him on the one side was a picture of my Nan and on the other side was the following details:

Finder please return to Mrs Francis 8 Ash Road, Oswestry, Salop, England.

  His details were given as 188889 Pte W.E. Francis, 286SBAC, BEF (British Expeditionary Force) France.


Mary Jane Francis (nee Groves)

World War 1 Postcard c 1914

Thankfully, my Grandad Fred was able to bring this photograph home himself.  His brother Tommy was not so lucky.


Gas was one of the biggest fears of the soldiers. Seventy percent of those gassed were mentally scarred by the exposure.  After being gassed they were considered fit for duty after six weeks.  Grandad Fred was gassed which left him with a bulbous red nose and those were the physical signs you could see. I cannot begin to imagine the horrors my Grandad Fred witnessed but he always strove for self improvement and was kind to others.

My Grandad Fred must have had a good memory because he could recite poetry with little effort and I think this was all part of his way of self-improvement having has to leave school at the age of 12.  As a child my Grandad Fred used to chase me around his garden reciting a part of this poem.


Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy in fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But some still was yelling out and stumbling,

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As Under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, choking, drowning.


The above poem was written by Wilfred Owen, and is a verse taken from Dulce et Decorum Est:

Incidentally, Wilfred Owen was born in on the 18th March 1893 at Plas Wilmot, Oswestry and died on 4th November 1918.  The romantic in me would like to think that my Grandad Fred and Wilfred Owen may have met at sometime as there is only 12 months age difference, and both where in France around the same time.  However, this is highly unlikely as both would have moved in different circles.

On the 2nd May 1945, my Grandad purchased his Burial Plot at Oswestry Cemetery I have no idea why he did this at that time.  Thankfully, he lived another 10 years. 


Death & Funeral

On the 2nd May 1945, my Grandad purchased his Burial Plot at Oswestry Cemetery I have no idea why he did this at that time.  Thankfully, he lived another 10 years.

My Grandad Fred died when I was four but I do have very clear memories of him, his kindness, his sense of fun but also he could be very strict like most of my family at that time they had a real sense of etiquette.  We were all brought up with the sense that we were as good as the next person, but it was instilled in all of us that to do that we had to learn how to behave properly.  In many families at that time children where seen but not heard.  We were given a voice, but we had to learn when to speak.