Name: Frank West
1882 - 17th March 1916
Place of Birth: Arlesey
Occupation: Farm Labourer
Division: 3rd Battalion
Regiment: Bedfordshire Regiment
Buried: South side of new part, Arlesey (St. Peter) Churchyard, Arlesey, England
Person(s) placing the cross on behalf of the Arlesey Remembers You Project: Rebecca Cakebread
Frank was born in Arlesey in 1882, the son of George and Martha West. The family ran a straw business and lived in Hitchin Road, Arlesey. Frank was the youngest of 6 children: Henry (born 1865), John (born 1868), Sarah (Born 1873), Emma (born 1876) and William (born 1879).
On the 1st July 1899, at the age of 18 years and 8 months, Frank joined the army and became part of the 3rd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment (service number 6561). He was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 125lb. He was described as having a sallow complexion, with brown hair and eyes. His service records tell us that he served at home from 1st July 1899 to 10th June 1900, in South Africa from 11th June 1900 to 22nd January 1903, and at home from 28th Jan 1903 to 24th February 1903.
Frank appears to have become ill while serving in South Africa. A medical report from December 1902 tells us Frank was suffering from Bilharzia haematobia and was in pain. This condition is caused by infection with a blood fluke and results in urine infections and, in chronic cases, the formation of stones in the bladder, and sometimes the development of bladder cancer. He was recommended for a transfer home on 16th Dec 1902. Frank left Cape Town on 6th January 1903 on board the HMS Orcana. He was recommended for discharge on 28th January 1903, on the grounds he was medically unfit to continue his service.
On 10th June 1905 Frank married Eliza Jordan at Henlow Parish Church. In the 1911 census they were living in Church End, Arlesey with their sons, Frank (born 24th March 1906) and Arthur (born 16th June 1908). Frank was working as a farm labourer.
At the outbreak of war in August 1914 Frank re-enlisted with the 3rd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment – he was 33 years old. He was with the 3rd Battalion from 26th August 1914 to 7th November 1914 before joining the 2nd Battalion on November 8th, and served abroad with the BEF until 8th January 1915. Frank received a gunshot wound to the chest on 2nd January 1915 whilst in action in Ypres. It seems the two bullets entered through his chest and exited on his spine, one narrowly missing his heart, and left Frank paralysed from the waist down, with no control over his bladder or bowels. He was medically discharged from the army on 23rd September 1915. Six days after he was wounded Frank was taken to the Royal Free Hospital in London before being moved to King George’s Hospital in September 1915. He was finally transferred to Bedford Hospital on 9th March 1916 where he died on 17th March, aged 37 years.
Frank was laid to rest at St Peter’s churchyard with full military honours. A report from the Biggleswade Chronicleon 24th March 1916 tells us “The Bedfordshire Brass band was in attendance. A large number of people assembled near Frank’s home where his body had been taken prior to the funeral. The Band played Regrets March and Chopin’s Funeral march as the coffin was taken to the churchyard. The coffin was draped with the Union Jack, and the bearers were 6 members of the Bedfordshire Regiment. The Rev A. D. Atkinson, who officiated, met the cortege at the gates. At the conclusion of the service at the graveside, the soldiers, under the direction of Sgt. Ford, fired three volleys each over the grave and the bugler played “The Last Post”. The floral tributes were beautiful and included one “with deepest sympathy from the Officers of the Depot of the Bedfordshire Regiment”.
In August 1919, a cross was erected over Frank’s grave by the military authorities. It was composed of stained oak in the shape of an ornamental carved cross, with the inscription “For King and country. RIP Pte. Frank West, 3rd Bedfordshire Regt., died of wounds in Bedford Hospital, 17th March, 1916.”