CWG: Serjeant Frank Ely

Serjeant Frank Ely

Frank Harold Ely was born in November 1889, and was the oldest of four children. His parents were coal porter Frank Ely and his wife, Florence. They were both born in Kent, and raised their family in their home town of Faversham.

When Frank Jr left school, he found work as a bottler, but he had his eyes set on bigger adventures. In January 1908, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. His service records show that he was 5ft 5.5ins (1.66m) tall and weighed 109lbs (49.5kg). Rifleman Ely had brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion. He was also noted as having a scat on his right knee.

Rifleman Ely’s early service was wholly territorial, but not without incident: in 1909 he was treated for tonsillitis, two years later, he received treatment for syphilis.

He was also not one to toe the line. In August 1911, he was reprimanded for not appearing at the 6:30am parade. On 9th March 1912, he was severely reprimanded for ‘improper conduct in town, at about 11:35pm’. On 25th September 1913, he was reprimanded once again, this time for irregular conduct – using the officers’ latrines.

When war came to Europe, the Rifle Brigade were soon in the thick of it. On 26th August 1914, Frank was wounded in the hand during fighting at Ligny, France, and was then captured and held as a prisoner of war in Hamelin until the spring of 1918.

Moved to the Netherlands, Rifleman Ely was finally released after the Armistice was signed, and returned to England on 19th November 1918. He was demobbed the following March, but re-enlisted within weeks, was given the rank of Serjeant and was due to be shipped to India to continue his service.

However, while at an army camp in Aldershot, Frank contracted pneumonia. The struggles the previous few years had had on his health proved too much for him, and, on 26th August 1919 – five years to the day that he had been shot and captured – Serjeant Ely passed away. He was 40 years of age.

Frank Harold Ely was brought back to his home town for burial. He was laid to rest in Faversham Borough Cemetery.


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