FRANK SWINDELLS 

Rank: Private
Service Number: 26319.
Regiment: 7th Bn. Kings Shropshire Light Infantry
Formerly: 1952, Cheshire Regiment
Killed In Action Monday 13th November 1916 Age 26County Memorial Congleton
Commemorated\Buried THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
Grave\Panel Ref: Pier and Face 12A and 12.
France

Son of Mr Jonathon Swindells and Mrs. Sarah Swindells, of 10, Stonehouse Green, Congleton, Cheshire and 10, Princess Street, Congleton, Cheshire and husband of Mrs. Mary Ellen Swindells, (nee Hughes), of 9, New Street, Congleton, Cheshire and Albert Street, off Victoria Street, Congleton, Cheshire. They were married in a Civil Ceremony, at Congleton, Cheshire, in 1908. He had five children, Sarah, Ada, Mary, Annie and George Robert Swindells. He had four sisters, Emma, Elizabeth, Annie and Sarah Swindells, along with three brothers, George, James and Harry Swindells. In 1911, he was employed as a Fustian Cutter. Pre-War he served in the Territorial Army with the 1/7th Battalion the Cheshire Regiment, enlisting in 1914. He only passed fit for home service, but he volunteered and was accepted for service abroad.

He went out to France being transferred to the 7th Battalion the King's Shropshire Light Infantry in 1916. The 7th Battalion, The Kings Shropshire Light Infantry had been moved into reserve, for a period of rest and to undertake training. Between the 4th and 12th of November, specific training was carried out for its part in the forthcoming Battle of the Ancre. The attack was planned for 05:45 hours on the morning of Monday the 13thof November. The artillery commenced a heavy bombardment, devoted to the destruction of the enemy wire and front line on the 11th and kept it up more or less continuously throughout Sunday the 12th. The 8th Brigade was charged with the capture of the stronghold of Serre, one of a number of heavily fortified villages, Gommecourt, Serre, Beaumont Hamel and Thiepval which had checked the advance on the 1st of July 1916.

The 2nd Battalion, the Royal Scots on the right and the 1st Battalion the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the left formed the assaulting line. The 8th Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment were in support of the Royal Scots and the 7th Battalion the Kings' Shropshire Light Infantry in support of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the left. Thick fog was spread on the ground and at (zero hour) 04:45 hours, the morning was as black as the darkest midnight. In the pitch darkness and through deep mud, it was difficult for the best trained soldiers to keep direction and all the troops along the 3rd Divisional front lost touch.                                                                                             

The heavy state of the ground on the 8th Brigade's front made it impossible for the tanks to operate and they were withdrawn from the attack. About 08:00 hours as it began to get light, a thick fog made conditions no better, and at 11:00 hours, when the fog began to clear, it was found that all units had lost direction and were hopelessly mixed. To the southward the 51st (Highland Territorial) Division and the Naval Division had met with better fortune. Further south still, on the extreme right of the attack, the 39th Division captured St Pierre Divion and advanced a mile beyond the village. Later in the day Beaucourt and Beaumont Hamel were taken and by the evening of the 14th were in position well down the eastward slopes of the Thiepval Ridge. The German counter attack of the 15th failed everywhere along the five-mile front of the battle and all new positions on the right were held. Although on the left of the line the attack of the 8th Brigade on Serre had failed, the enemy first line had everywhere been penetrated in the first assault, but only a small of the ground gained in the Serre sector could be held. The appalling conditions of the country in front of the 8th Brigade accounted for their failure. So deep was the mud in places that the ration parties took over four hours to cover 1,000 yards of the ground. The following casualties occurred during this action, 2 Officers killed and 9 wounded, Other Ranks 214 were reported killed, wounded or missing. Private Frank Swindells was one of the soldiers killed in the attack. His body was never recovered but he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

Extract from the Congleton Chronicle 1917.

Although Private Frank Swindells has been posted as missing for 6 months is fate is still shrouded in obscurity. His wife who resides in Albert Street, Congleton has made inquiries through every conceivable channel but has gleaned nothing that will throw any light on the mystery, although it now transpires that he was wounded in the head on the 13th of November 1916 and was seen taking shelter in a shell hole. This meagre information has been elicited through making inquiries of the Red Cross Society. It appears that the Society has been in touch with a man named Howarth, who was with Private Swindells on the day named, in the shell hole. Howarth who now lies in a hospital in Liverpool and belongs to the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry states that Private Swindells was badly wounded in the head and after being in a shell hole part of the day, it was found necessary to abandon it as evening approached. Howarth succeeded in doing so, but says he left Private Swindells and nothing has been heard of him since.


Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank John and Christopher Pullen for this information on Frank and Darren Swindells, Franks Great Great Grandson for the picture.