Wilfred Harry Francis was born in October 1890 in Castle Cary. He was the oldest of eight children to Edward and Rosina Francis, both of whom had also been born in the Somerset Town. Edward was a baker in his younger days, but, by the 1911 census he was employed as a builder’s labourer. Wilfred was recorded in the same document as a tailor.
War was coming to Europe, and Wilfred enlisted. He has been a volunteer in the Somerset Light Infantry, but on 6th April 1915, he made this a formal role. His service records show that he stood 5ft 6ins (1.68m) tall had light blue eyes and light brown hair.
Private Francis was assigned to the 6th Battalion and sent to France in the summer of 1915. His battalion was immediately thrown into the thick of the the fighting at Ypres. The intensity of the battles of Hooge and Bellewaarde seemed to impact Wilfred as, on 7th October, he was admitted to the 4th London General Hospital, suffering from shell shock.
Wilfred was discharged after two weeks, and signed off as fit for light duties. It seems that he didn’t return to the Western Front, but instead was transferred to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the regiment, based in Devonport.
The memories still seemed to haunt Private Francis, however. He was admitted to hospital again – this time the County of Middlesex Hospital in Napsbury, near St Albans – with mania. This time his ‘mental deficiency’ proved to much for the army, and he was discharged from military service on 18th July 1916. His discharge papers show gave the hospital as his address and recommended that he be admitted to a civil asylum.
Wilfred’s trail goes cold for the next few years. He seems to have been brought back to Somerset for ongoing treatment, but passed away in Wells on 27th March 1919; the cause of his passing is not known. He was 28 years of age.
Wilfred Harry Francis was laid to rest in the Castle Cary Cemetery, hopefully finding peace at last.