Private Frank BUTLER

Army Cyclist Corps
[Formerly: Middlesex Regiment]
6th Battalion, 24th Division
[Formerly: 13th Bn., Middlesex Regiment]
Service Number:
[Formerly: 4856 Middlesex Regiment]
Date of Death:
13 November 1918 - Died
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
S. III. AA. 11.

Personal History:

Frank was born on the 19th June1895, the son of Richard (Loco Engine Driver) and Eliza Sybil (née Stone) Butler. In 1901 (Census RG 13/3269) the family were living at 2 Windsor Road, Fairfield, Buxton. Frank had an older brother, George.
In 1911 (Census RG 14/21233) Sybil was widowed and working as a "Boarding House Keeper". His father Richard had died on the 11th March 1910 and the family had moved to 15 Windsor Road, Fairfield. Fifteen year old Frank was employed as a "Painter's Apprentice", working as a "House Decorator" for the "Co-operative Stores".

At the time of his enlistment Frank stood 5 ft. 6½ ins. [1.69 m.] tall and weighed 8 st. 12 lbs. [56.2 kgs.]. He had grey eyes, dark brown hair and a 'fresh' complexion. He gave his religion as 'Church of England'.

Military History:
Frank's Service Papers show that he enlisted in the 13th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, at Buxton in the first month of the War, on the 10th September 1914. The 13th (Service) Battalion was formed at Mill Hill in September 1914 as part of K3 (Kitchener's Third New Army) and came under the command of the 73rd Brigade, 24th Division. It moved to the South Downs and went to billets in Hove in December 1914 and from there to Shoreham in May 1915 and Pirbright in June. The Battalion landed at Boulogne on the 2nd September 1915.

His Service Record, however, reveals that by then (September 1915) Frank had transferred to The Army Cyclist Corps, probably on the 12th March 1915 and his Medal Index Card indicates that he was posted to France with his Battalion on the 31st August 1915.

In 1915 the first cyclist units went overseas to France and Flanders and to Gallipoli. They were usually broken up and employed as divisional companies in something of a reconnaissance role. Each infantry division then had, as part of its "mounted troops", a cyclist company with the same number as the division.

On the 16th October 1915 Frank was admitted to Hospital, in the Field, suffering from 'Scabies' and 'Boils'. He rejoined his Company on the 6th November 1915 and was attached to the 24th Division, Signal Company. Two months later, on the 8th January 1916, Frank was attached to the Town Major at Poperinghe.

After leave in England from the 15th February to 1st March 1918, Frank rejoined his Company and on the 3rd was re-assigned to the VIth Battalion. Nearing the end of the war in France and Flanders, the cyclist battalions had been reformed and the 6th Cyclist Battalion supported VI Corps. In 1918 VI Corps were engaged in many of the major battles of that year. In September of 1918 Frank began to suffer from a serious of illnesses for which he was hospitalised on a number of occasions. On the 3rd September he suffered a "Lac. Wd. Knee" and returned to duty 4 days later. In November he contracted "Broncho Pneumonia" from which he died in Hospital at Rouen on the 13th. He had served a total of 4 years 34 days with the Colours.

Hence, Frank's CWGC reference states: "Died" (i.e. as opposed to 'Died of wounds' etc.). He is buried near Rouen, close to one of the hospitals where he passed away.

"During the First World War, Commonwealth camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen. A base supply depot and the 3rd Echelon of General Headquarters were also established in the city. Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war. They included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross and one labour hospital, and No. 2 Convalescent Depot. A number of the dead from these hospitals were buried in other cemeteries, but the great majority were taken to the city cemetery of St. Sever. In September 1916, it was found necessary to begin an extension, where the last burial took place in April 1920." - CWGC

It is one of the many ironies of War that having survived for almost its entirety Frank lost his life just two days after the Armistice came into force. Hi effects were returned to his mother on the 14th April 1919 and were listed as: "2 Wallets; Letters; Photos; Relig. Bk.;Cig. Case; 2 pocket compasses; Safety razor; Pr. Scissors; 2 knives; Razor; Watch Key; Watch & 2 chains; Mirror; Purse; Cards; Cookery Cert.; Mirror in case."

"The Buxton Advertiser" reported his death by saying:

"Much regret was felt in the district on account of the death of Pte. Frank Butler, of the Middlesex Regiment, younger son of Mrs Butler, of 15, Windsor Road, Fairfield. Who has passed away at Rouen, as a result of an attack of pneumonia. Pte. F. Butler has served continuously since September 1914, and seen much service on the Western Front. He was over on leave last February. Much sympathy will go out to Mrs Butler. Her elder son who is in the Army is also in hospital."

· I am grateful to Paul Le Trevier for the photo of Frank's grave
· ... and to Val Stenson for Frank's photo
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 23 November 1918

Link to CWGC Record
Pt Frank Butler's grave