On this day, July 19, 1916, 100 years ago at the Battles of Fromelles on the Western Front in Belgium, my Great Uncle Trevor (53rd battalion) won a Military Cross at the Battle of Fromelles “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in action. Though severely wounded when leading his platoon in the attack, he continued for four hours to command the party protecting the exposed flank of the main body against a heavy attack.”
Trevor was my grandmother (Ruby) Win Francis’ second of four beloved brothers. Shot in the leg and arm he was taken from the Battle two days later. He was evacuated to England and during this period of convalescence, Trevor had a brooch made and sent to his sister Win – a replica of his Military Cross – with the engraving: TREVOR TO WIN, FROMELLES 19/7/1916
Trevor rejoined his battalion on 27/10/1916 and was made Captain on 11/11/1916. He was killed-in-action in France on 14/3/1917. He was 28. Ironically he was probably shot by a sniper when on adjunct duties, as he and his Seargeant were originally buried 1 mile east of Henin sur Cojeul, five and a half miles south east of Arras which is behind the lines and not a battleground. He was later reburied in Guards Cemetery (Les Bouefs, France FR.374) where I visited his grave with my son Ned Reilly in 2008. His Seargeant was buried beside him. Trevor Francis’ name is included on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Trevor was the first of his brothers to sign up on 24/8/1915. He received his commission as Second Lieutenant on 16/3/1915. Trevor’s older brother Vincent and younger brother Eric were also both officers in WW1 – their stories will follow as anniversaries of the battles in which they fought arrive. His youngest brother Stan drew the ‘short straw’ literally and was forced to stay home, against his will, to help his father on the family property. I was fortunate to meet both my great uncles Stan and Eric Francis at their respective homes in Qld in 1974 when they were old men.
RIP Trevor … I would love to have met you as an old man too, many many years later … It’s a bugger you had to go to war … but today is your day and somehow I reckon there’s a bit of you in all of us.