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Finding Private Appleby

I first spotted my ‘namesake’ Private Frank Appleby – many of you will already know my nickname from schooldays is Frank – on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing during the All Quiet on the Western Front tour in October 2008.

Even though Pte Appleby’s name appeared on the Yorkshire Regiment panel on the memorial, I wasn’t aware of any ancestor of mine having served in the Battle of the Somme, so paid my respects and didn’t really think much more about it…

Until last year, that is, when I was out cycling – and to my great surprise - I noticed Pte Appleby also appears on the Roll of Honour of the WW1 memorial in Nafferton, East Yorkshire – a village just a few miles from my current home in Driffield, where my parents grew up, and where my grandparents and many close relatives have lived for generations.

So… could Pte Frank be related to me at all? A bit of digging by Society historian Mike Abbott brought up a few intriguing details about his life.

Frank was one of seven children born to miller James and housekeeper aka ‘domestic’ Carrie Annie Appleby (nee Binnington!) of Patrington, East Yorkshire, and worked as a farm labourer until he enlisted.

He joined up at the Central Recruiting Office, Hull, on 20 November, 1915, aged 29, and became Private No. 21925.

Pte Appleby became one small cog in the 7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own) Regiment, which was originally formed in Beverley, East Yorkshire, on 16 September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Second New Army, and came under orders of 50th Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division.

The 7th Battalion was mobilised for war on 14 July 1915, landing at Boulogne, France and was engaged in various actions on the Western Front in 1916 in what is now known as the Battle of the Somme, including The Battle of Albert and The Battle of Delville Wood.

Frank was reported as ‘Missing in Action’ on 5 November 1916 - Age 30. The Battalion's War Diary shows that his unit was in the front line in the Lesboeufs sector, which is about 8 km south of the infamous village of Bapaume - one of the original objectives on the first day of the Somme - July 1, 1916.

For his sacrifice to the cause, Pte Appleby was awarded the Victory and British War medals.

And that, as they say, is that. The only other details we currently know of Pte Appleby come from the sparse 'Service Details' found online:

  • Height 5ft 6 ½ inches. Weight 152 lbs.

  • Chest when fully expanded: 36 inches. Range of expansion: 2 inches.

  • Slight defects – flat feet.

He sounds a bit like me (ok, maybe a bit slimmer, no doubt a lot fitter).

Despite extensive online searches, I’ve still to find a photograph of my long-gone namesake, or any further details of his life before and during the war.

The one thing that continues to intrigue me though – if he came from Patrington, why is he remembered on the Nafferton memorial? I know there are probably links between the areas due to agricultural workers moving around to work on different harvests etc… but did he have more concrete links to the village home of many of my family? Could he be related to me in any way at all?

I’d love to know.

And related or not, I’ll definitely be back one day to visit Frank on The Somme.

We Will Remember Them.

*Big thanks to Mick for putting in the hours on the research and finding out a bit more about Frank for me, much appreciated as always.

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