Private Frank Curtis Webb, 11th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment, d. 21st March 1918, aged 24
Frank Curtis Webb was born at Byde Mill Farm near Hannington, between Swindon and Lechlade, on 19th December 1893. His parents were James Thomas Webb, a farmer, and Florence Sarah Willis nee Eddolls. Frank was the third of eight siblings: Florence May (May), Edward James (Ted), Frank Curtis, Dorothy Helen (Dollie), Rawleigh Charles (Roll), John Eddolls (Jack), and two much younger brothers, Stanley Willis, and Ivor Cripps. In 1901 the family moved to Chaddington Farm, near the Wilts and Berks Canal, on the south eastern outskirts of Wootton Bassett, where they remained until 1918.
By 1916 three of Frank’s siblings had emigrated, and only Frank and Jack were left to help their father on the farm. James appealed on behalf of one of his sons at the local tribunal on September 8th 1916, although records do not survive to show which of his sons he was trying to keep on his 160 acre farm. He said that he had 44 or 45 cows and that two of his sons and a man who did not milk were responsible for all the work. His son was given a respite until November 1st 1916, but there is no record of the outcome. The Webbs contributed eggs to the ‘Eggs for the Wounded’ campaign.
Frank joined the Army in about April 1917 (according to the Herald). Soldiers Died in the Great War states that Frank was originally in the 6th Reserve Cavalry Regt (22874) however the Medal Roll does not record this regiment, and neither does the Herald mention it. The 6th was absorbed into the 1st Reserve Cavalry in 1917, and there is no link between either of these Regiments and the Leicestershire Regiments, so Frank’s time with the Reserve Cavalry may have been very short lived. Frank served in the 8th and the 11th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment (both under Army Number 46193). The 11th Battalion came under orders of 6th Division as a Pioneer Battalion.
Frank was gassed at the end of 1917 and sent home to recuperate. It is not clear whether he was in the 8th or the 11th Leicestershires at this time, but the 11th seems highly likely, as they took part in the Battle of Cambrai in November-December 1917. Roll embarked from Australia with the Australian Imperial Force in August 1917. Perhaps he was able to visit Frank in England before he went out to the front in December.
Frank returned to his battalion in February 1918. He had only been back in France for a month when the 11th Leicestershire Regiment were involved in the Battle of St Quentin, which took place on the first three days of Operation Michael in the German Spring Offensive. Frank was killed in action on the first day, 21st March 1918, aged 24 years. The news of his death reached England on April 3rd. Lieutenant T H Northan of the Leicestershire Regiment wrote to his mother, Florence on March 23rd:
Dear Mrs Webb, It is with the deepest regret that I have to inform you of your son’s death in action. He was killed on the 21st inst. while assisting to repel an attack by the enemy. It may be some little consolation for you to know that his death was instantaneous, and he died bravely for his country. His loss will be very much felt in the company, as he was a fine, cheerful soldier and popular with his comrades. Allow me to express my deepest sympathy in your great loss.
Frank’s mother was his sole legatee. Frank was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, Bay 5. He is also commemorated on Hook War Memorial. His mother kept a verse with his photograph:
Somewhere in France there’s a sacred spot
Tis a grave just newly made
And we think of his life, a duty done,
Manly, unselfish, and brave.