Frank Whiting 1879-1955

Parents: Henry Whiting and Eliza Iron (1)
Born: 8th April 1879 in Great Wilsey, Little Wratting. (1,2)
Baptised: 10th August 1879 at St Mary's Church, Little Wratting.(1)
Married (1): Florence Lewsey, 20, spinster, servant, of the Rose and Crown, Haverhill, daughter of James Lewsey, labourer on 8th October 1898 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill. Witnessed by Arthur Whiting and Emily Rowlingson (3,4)
Children: Bertie Whiting b.1899, Albert Edward Whiting b.1901, Harry James Whiting b.1905 and Cecil Jack Whiting b.1914
Married (2): Ellen Smith in Newmarket District, 1st Quarter 1946(14)
Died: 20th September 1955 at 3 Maypole Terrace, Haverhill. Buried at Haverhill Cemetery on 22nd September 1955.(11,12)

Bio: Frank was born in Great Wilsey, a manor in Little Wratting, in 1879 and baptised at Little Wratting Church. On the 1881 census he is living with his parents in Great Wilsea, but by the 1891 census they have moved to 10 Chauntry Row, Haverhill. Frank has two younger siblings Celia and Stanley.

Frank married Florence Lewsey in 1898. Her birth name was actually Laura Lewsey(15), and she had been born in 1877 in Steeple Bumpstead the daughter of James Lewsey of Birdbrook and Susannah Chapman of Wickhambrook. The 1881 census shows how her name evolved - we see her here as 'Flora'.

Florence was working and living at the Rose and Crown in Haverhill at the time of her marriage to Frank.

The 1901 census sees them living at 31 Mill Road, Haverhill. Frank is working as a brush weaver, and they have two sons, Bertie and Albert Edward.

On the 1911 census Frank and Florence and their three sons Bertie, Albert and Harry are living at the house that had belonged to Frank's father Henry, 10 Chauntry Row. Interestingly, Henry and Eliza are living in Mill Road at this time - maybe there had been a bit of house swapping going on.

Frank is still working as a Brush hair weaver from home, and Florence is a charwoman.

When war broke out in 1914, Frank would have been too old to be part of the first rush of men keen to join up and 'do their bit' for King and Country. Also, he had a new-born son Cecil Jack to provide for. However as we've seen with other Whitings Lewis Albert and John, age was not necessarily a barrier to participation at the front and a Military Service Bill was introduced in January 1916 which provided for the conscription of men aged 18-41. This was extended to married men in May.(6)

In 1916 Frank was conscripted for service at the age of 37 years and 3 months. His service records from the First World War survived destruction during the Blitz unlike a lot of other ones, and so we are provided with a snapshot of his military career in National Archives series WO363.(5)

Frank was accepted for enrolment on 6th July 1916 at Bury St Edmunds. He gave his occupation at the time as night-watchman, his regiment of choice as the Suffolk Regiment and he was still living at 10 Chauntry Croft at the time.

He had been passed fit for service in class 'A', and we get his vital-statistics from his medical report. He was a sturdy chap - 5ft 5 ¼ inches, with a chest measurement of 40 inches.

It seems he got his wish and started out as Private No.34799 in the 3rd Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment. He was posted to the 15th Infantry Base Depot on 25th October 1916. IBD's were holding camps where men were received on arrival from England and where training could take place before they were sent to the front.(7)

From his service record it looks like he was transferred to 'B' Company, 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment pretty much as soon as he got to France, and given the number 41278.

It is pretty clear from the war diaries of the Essex Regiment that Frank would have been in the thick of the fighting in France and Belgium around this time.

He was on furlough from 13th January to 22nd january 1917, and then on return to action he suffered a 'G.S.W (R) Loin' (Gun Shot Wound to the right loin) or 'G.S.W Back Severe' as it's described elsewhere on his service records.

This occurred on 9th October 1917.

Below is a transcription of the War Diaries of the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment(10) which paints a vivid picture of the actual fighting that Frank was taking part in with 'B' Company on the very day he was wounded.

Front Line, Oct 9th

"The Battle of Flanders". The Battalion had during the night formed up in their battle positions , 'A' and 'B' Coys in front line on right and left respectively. 'C' Coy in support about Ferdan House and 'D' Coy in reserve behind 'C' Coy.

B H.Q moved from Louis Farm to Ferdan at Zero -2 hours. 2/Lieut C.H. Stanley wounded during this move.

Zero Hour 5.20 a.m

Rather dark, our guns put down very heavy stationary barrage for 4 minutes and then started to creep at the rate of 100 yards in ten minutes.

Men went over but encountered severe snipers and M.G. fire near railway, but objective captured. Battalion on left held up, and gap of 200 yards on our right between ourselves and Poel Cappelle, heavy M.G. fire from concrete block houses. An advance of a few hundred yards was made and battalion organizes for counter attack. Heavy snipers fire, Adjutant and Colonel hit soon after attack started, also 'A' and 'C' Company commanders.

Enemy barrage late in coming down - 5 minutes - most casualties from rifle and M.G. fire.

Re-organisation took place at night and touch maintained with Division on right. No counter attack against our captured positions, although a great deal of enemy movement was visible by Requete Farm.

The diary goes on to list the casualties in the period of fighting that started on this day.

Total casualties of O.R's (other ranks) for the period 9th to 14th October:

37 OR. killed, 5 OR. dies of wounds, 144 OR. wounded, 25 OR. missing, 4 OR. gassed, 3 OR. wounded and remaining at duty. 56 OR. to F.A (field ambulance)

Frank was amongst those wounded in battle. He'd 'copped a Blighty one' and on returning home was admitted to Wharncliffe Military Hospital, Sheffield. He was granted furlough from there from 15th to 24th January 1918.

Frank never returned to France. He ended up doing a stint in the Somerset Light Infantry as No.53911, where he was an acting Lance Corporal for a while.

He was transferred again on 26th June 1918 as private no.366605 to the Royal Engineers and went on to join up with the Tyne Electrical Engineers at Gosport, a unit which pioneered the use of electrical searchlight batteries for use in the defence of seaports(8) - something that was becoming an issue later on in the war with the advent of German bombing raids. The war was soon to be over, however.

Frank was eventually discharged and awarded his Army Pension on 13th March 1919. He received the Victory Medal and the War Medal for his service.

His grandsons can remember visiting Frank in his later years when he worked as a gate keeper at Gurteen's factory, in the gate office that is now a flower shop.

Florence died before Frank on 14th April 1945 at Walnuttree hospital, Sudbury,(13) she is referred to by her birth name 'Laura' on the Cemetery and Probate records. Next year Frank married again, this time to Ellen Smith.(14)

Frank died on 20th September 1955 at 3 Maypole Terrace, Haverhill(13) and was buried with his first wife Florence (Laura) at Haverhill Cemetery on 22nd September.(12)

Probate records show he left effects of £1546 4s 7d to his widow, Ellen.(13) It appears she survived him by several years, dying in 1973.(16) It seems she may well be the Ellen Whiting who was buried separately from Frank at Haverhill Cemetery on 30th January 1973 at the age of 82.(17)

Thanks to Matt Whiting, direct descendant of Frank, for permission to use the picture of Frank in his army uniform with Florence and their children taken from his site


(1) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1813-1900
(2) Birth Register, 2nd Quarter 1879, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 512
(3) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p28 of 37
(4) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1898, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 1435
(5) National Archives: WO 363 First World War Service Records.
British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920
(9) The Great War Forum,
(10) National Archives, War Diaries of the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment, WO95/1505
(11) Death Register. 3rd Quarter, Newmarket District, Volume 4b Page 734
(12) Haverhill Cemetery, Compartment U, Plot Number 105, Ref: 7577
(13) National Probate Calendar, 1858-1966,
(14) Marriage Register. 1st Quarter 1946, Newmarket District, Volume 4a Page 2231
(15) Birth Register, 2nd Quarter 1877, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 473
(16) Death Register. 1st Quarter 1973, Sudbury District, Volume 4b Page 213
(17) Haverhill Cemetery, Compartment MG, Plot Number 694, Ref: 8631