Frankish, John Arthur Gordon

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Private John Arthur Gordon Frankish – 117250 — ACTIVE SERVICE (World War I)

On January 5, 1915 John Arthur Gordon Frankish completed the Attestation Paper for the Canadian Army, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He was 29 years and 4 months old when, as a single man, he enlisted for the duration of the War. John Arthur indicated that he was born in Lakefield, Ontario and gave his birth-date as May 4, 1886. He indicated that he did not presently belong to a Militia Force nor had any previous Military experience. There is nothing on his File to indicate where he was educated or to what level. As far as his Trade or Calling is concerned, he lists Surveyor. John Arthur was 5′ 7” tall, with a 37 ½” chest (expanded). There was no indication of his weigh on enlistment. He had a dark complexion with blue eyes and dark hair. His Medical Examination was completed January 5, 1915 in Calgary, Alberta. John Arthur had no medical issues or physical limitations and as such he was deemed fit for Overseas duty with the CEF. His next-of-kin was listed as his sister; Miss Nellie Frankish of Lakefield, Ontario (His parents were deceased). John Arthur signed the Oath and Certificate of Attestation on January 5, 1915 in Calgary, Alberta. He was taken-on-strength with the 12th Canadian Mounted Rifles Regiment (12th CMR Regt) as a Private (Pte) and was assigned Service Number 117250.

The 12th CMR Regt was authorized to mobilize December 1, 1914 at Calgary and to recruit in that city, Red Deer and District. By the end of January 1915 the Regiment had recruited 337 men and it continued to recruit almost until it sailed for England.

There is nothing in Pte Frankish’s Military File or on the Internet to indicate where he and the 12th CMR Regt trained, but further research indicates there is a possibility they trained at Camp Sarcee which was located south west of Calgary.

Camp Sarcee was a Canadian Military Training Camp established in April 1915, on land leased from the Sarcee Indian Reservation located south west of Calgary, during the summer of 1914. The Camp officially opened in late May 1915. Recruits from 30 Canadian Overseas Units received their training at Camp Sarcee before going Overseas. There are indications that several Battalions from Alberta, raised in and around Calgary in 1914, received their training at Camp Sarcee. There is a record that the 13th Canadian Mounted Rifles Regiment was authorized and raised in Alberta at the same time as the 12th CMR Regt received their training at Camp Sarcee.

Pte Frankish was granted a Harvest Furlough from August 18 to September 18, 1915. On September 1, 1915 while he was on Furlough, Pte Frankish was appointed Lance Corporal (L/Cpl). L/Cpl Frankish and the 12th CMR Regt embarked for England aboard the SS Missanabie from Montréal on October 9, 1915. When it sailed for England the 12th CMR Regt was comprised of 27 Officers and 527 other ranks.

L/Cpl Frankish and the 12th CMR Regt arrived in England on October 18th, 1915 at the Port of Devonport, Plymouth, England. There are no entries in his File from this date until December 20, 1915. L/Cpl Frankish was in Barnwell Military Hospital at Cambridge from December 20, 1915 to January 27, 1916 for an unspecified reason. On the 26th of January 1916 L/Cpl Frankish made out his Last Will and Testament. On January 28th 1916 L/Cpl Frankish was struck-off-strength from the 12th CMR Regt at Bramshott, England upon transfer Overseas. L/Cpl Frankish landed at France and was taken-on-strength with the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion (2nd CMR Bn) at the Canadian Base Deport (CBD) Le Havre, January 29, 1916.

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It was common practice, when an individual was transferred from a feeder Unit such as the 12th CMR Regt to a Field Unit such as the 2nd CMR Bn, for the person to be reverted in rank. Although the File does not indicate this was the case with L/Cpl Frankish, when he was reported killed-in-action his rank is shown as a Private.

In France, the 2nd CMR Bn fought dismounted as a regular Infantry Battalion attached to the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade – 3rd Canadian Division.

The CBD at Le Havre was a clearing station of Canadian Reinforcements arriving from England. They would be held here until called up by their Unit in the Field. On February 7, 1916 Pte Frankish left the CBD for his Unit, the 2nd CMR Bn. On February 10, 1916. Pte Frankish joined his Unit in the Field.

According to the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion War Diary, when Pte Frankish joined the 2nd CMR Bn they were on the Front-Line. The days were reported as situation normal and very quiet. Night Patrols were being sent out, but returned having not encountered any enemy. On February 13th the 2nd CMR Bn was relieved and marched to Kortepyp Camp. From the 14th to 17th the men spent their time drying their clothes, on a pay parade, medical inspections, rifle inspections, bath parades and short route marches. The Unit also received more reinforcements from the 12th CMR Regt. On the 18th preparations were underway to take up positions in Support of the Front-Line. On the 19th the Battalion was under orders to proceed to Red Lodge to relieve the 1st CMR Bn. They moved off at 2:00 PM and took up positions by 4:45 PM. The situation from the 20th to 22nd was reported as quiet. The Battalion sent out Patrols in the early evening, but came back with nothing to report. The Bn Snipers were quite active during the day. On the 23rd the 2nd CMR Bn was relieved by the 15th Canadian Infantry Battalion (CI Bn). The 2nd CMR Bn marched to the billets previously occupied by the 15th CI Bn. Reports of Zeppelins overhead. The 2nd CMR Bn spent the 24th to 28th in the usual regimen of Squad and Platoon drills, bayonet and machine gun practice, as well as Battalion Inspections.

March 1916 the Battalion spent the 1st to 18th in the usual manner of drills and training. A route march was thrown in for good measure. According to the War Diary it snowed most of the time, but not to any great amount. Reinforcements from England were arriving almost every day. On March 19th the Bn moved to Camp E. On the 20th it moved off from Camp E to Reserve positions: ”A” Company at Belgian Chateau, ”B” Company at Overflow Camp and ”C” and “D” Companies at Zillebeke Huts. The 21st and 22nd were spent in work parties. On the 23rd ”A” and “B” Companies moved up to Reserve at Halfway House with ”C” and “D” Companies to the Front-Line. On the 24th there was a heavy snowfall. The 25th ”A” and “B” Companies were sent to the Front-Line, and ”C” and “D” Companies moved back to a Support position. On the 26th the enemy shelled the 2nd CMR Front-Line position. On the 27th the Bn was relieved with ”A” and “B” Companies at Belgian Chateau and ”C” and “D” Companies at Zillebeke Huts. From the 23rd to the 26th while the Bn was on the Front-Line the Companies incurred casualties on a daily basis. The 28th and 29th the men were employed in work parties. On the 30th all work parties were cancelled on receiving a general ”stand to” order. ”A” Company moved forward to Zillebeke Reserve position for the night. On the 31st Orders were received for the Bn to move. ”A” Company moved from Zillebeke Reserve to Halfway House, ”B” Company to Zillebeke Huts and ”C” and “D” Companies to the Front-Line to relieve the 1st CMR Bn.

April 1916 opened with the 2nd CMR Bn consolidated at Halfway House. The situation was reported as normal. On the 2nd the Bn moved to the Front with ”A” and “B” Companies to the Front-Line, and ”C” and “D” Companies in Support position. It was reported there was a lot of enemy aeroplane activity over the area. On the 4th the 2nd CMR Bn was relieved by the 49th CI Bn, which was completed without casualties, by 2:00 AM on the 5th. Upon relief the 2nd CMR Bn marched to a crossing near Ypres where it entrained to Vlamerthinghe. It arrived and detrained at 5:00 AM and marched to Camp D. the situation on the 6th was reported as normal. On the 7th there was a heavy enemy bombardment in the area of St. Eloi. The 8th to the 12th was spent in work parties. On the 13th the Bn moved to Camp F. The 14th to 20th, other than the weather being wet, cold and windy, the situation was reported as normal with the men out in work parties digging a communication trench near Ypres and burying cable at Zillebeke Bund. It was reported during this period that enemy aeroplanes were very active over the Lines. On the 21st the Bn marched to Sanctuary Wood and relieved the 1st CMR Bn. ”A” and “B” Companies were held in Support, while ”C” and “D” Companies went to the Front-Line. The situation was reported normal on the 22nd. The 23rd enemy areoplanes were once again very active. On the 24th ”A” Company relieved ”C” Company and ”B” Company relieved ”D” Company. ”C” and “D” Companies, upon relief, moved back to a Support position. On the 25th the Front-Line was heavily shelled by the enemy. There were few casualties. But the trenches were badly damaged. The situation on the 27th and 28th was reported as normal. On the 29th the 2nd CMR Bn was relieved by the 49th CI Bn and marched to Camp D. The situation on the 30th was reported normal for the 2nd CMR Bn, but that the enemy laid on a heavy bombardment of the area around St. Eloi. A gas alarm was raised for the area. Throughout the month there were a few casualties incurred every day.

May 1916 opened with the men engaged in work parties at Ypres and Zillebecke. Once again, on the 3rd, there was a heavy enemy bombardment of the area around St. Eloi. The Battalion was inspected by the Commanding General of the 8th Brigade on the 4th. The 5th and 6th were back to work parties. On the 7th orders were received to move ”A” and “B” Companies to Belgian Chateau and ”C” and “D” Companies to Zillebeke Bund. From the 8th to 13th it was back to work parties. On the 14th the Battalion moved up and relieved the 1st CMR Bn; ”A” and “B” Companies to Support and ”C” and “D” Companies to the Front-Line. The enemy heavily bombarded the Line to the left of the 2nd CMR Bn. The 16th was relatively quiet. The 17th enemy areoplanes were very active, enemy observations balloons overhead, enemy snipers active and a gas alert was issued for the area. On the 18th ”A” and “B” Companies relieved ”C” and “D” Companies in the Front-Line. Enemy snipers still quite active on the 19th. The situation on the 20th and 21st was reported as normal. At 8:00 PM the Battalion was relieved by the 43rd CI Bn. Following relief the 2nd CMR Bn marched to Camp D. The remainder of the month from the 24th to 31st was spent in work parties. Through the month of May a number of reinforcements arrived from England and were distributed between the four Companies.
On June 9, 1916 Pte Frankish was reported killed-in-action between June 2nd and 5th 1916. This was followed up with entries on June 12th and June 14th stating: killed-in-action between June 2 & 5th, 16. The Records of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion indicates June 2nd 1916 was the date Pte Frankish was killed.

What follows are the 2nd CMR Bn War Diary entries for June 1st to June 5th, 1916.

June 1st weather, fine and warm; Battalion in Reserve. At 2 PM, Battalion received orders to ”stand to”. At 3 PM orders received to proceed to Belgian Chateau to replace “D” Company, who being at Chateau in Reserve had received orders to proceed to trenches on account of a German attack in the neighbourhood of Sanctuary Wood Maple Copse. On reaching Belgian Chateau at 4:30 PM orders received to proceed to Zillebeke Huts. ”A”, “B” and “C” Companies arrive at Zillebeke Huts about 7 pm. The enemy were placing a curtain of fire in the area between Belgian Chateau and Zillebeke Huts. ”D” Company had reached Zillebeke Huts at 1:15 PM and had proceeded to Zillebeke Switch, south of Dormy House Lane, with orders to garrison and hold same at all costs. Arrived at Switch, ”D” Company found some forty men of various Units on duty there. The Officer Commanding this Company having reconnoitered personally his right, right front found parties of 47th CI Bn with whom he later got in touch with on receiving two Platoons of the 5th CMR Bn as reinforcements. At 7 PM ”B” Company received orders to attack Rudkin House (captured by enemy during the day) with ”A” Company in support. An exceptionally heavy bombardment was taking place as these two Companies proceeded from Zillelbeke Huts to Culvert in the Dormy House Lane Communication Trench. At the Culvert ”A” and ”B” Companies moved into the open ground to right of Maple Copse. An attempt was made to ”dig in” in this ground. The area was under exceptionally heavy shelling, machine gun and concentrated rifle fire. Very heavy losses occurred during this period of the action and the Companies were forced to return to the newly built Support Trench in front (south) of Maple Copse. This Trench they held throughout the day (June 3) and until relieved at about 2 AM on the morning of June 4th. The enemy’s artillery was exceptionally active throughout period that the Battalion was in the trenches, causing the heavy losses reported. But special mention should be made of the bombardment about 8 PM – 10 PM on night of June 2 and from 8 PM to 11 PM June 3rd. The Battalion was relieved at 2 AM June 4th, arrived at Zillebeke Huts and received orders to proceed to A Camp which was reached at 7 AM. June 4th weather, bright and warm. At 12 noon a Muster Parade of the Battalion was called and casualties numbering 276 reported to Headquarters. 11 Officers were either wounded, killed, or suffering from shock. Of the other ranks; 40 were killed or died of wounds, 180 wounded or slightly wounded but still on duty, and 23 missing, most of the latter were probably killed. Pte Frankish would have been one of the 23 missing. At 6 PM the work of reorganization was started. A detailed casualty list was forwarded to Brigade. Received orders from Brigade to be ready to move morning of 5th. June 5th weather was bright and clear. Battalion moved out of Camp at 9 AM to the road where omnibuses were to be met.

Omnibuses were double-decker buses used to carry weary soldiers from the Front-Line to the Rear. These buses were modified to carry 24 fully equipped Infantrymen with their kit. The 2nd CMR Bn travelled by motor omnibuses to billets in the Divisional Rest area near the Village of Godewaersvelde. Billets were reached at noon and were allotted by Company.

Private John Arthur Gordon Frankish is memorialized on a Plaque on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium.

An entry in the Military File indicates that Pte Frankish was not eligible for the 1914 – 15 Star, but that he was eligible for the Victory Medal and British War Medal. He also qualified for War Service Badge CEF Class “A”. His Medals and Decorations were sent to his sister Elizabeth L. Frankish of Lakefield, and the Memorial Plaque and Memorial Scroll were sent to his brother William F. Frankish also of Lakefield on July 14, 1924. As far as the Memorial Cross is concerned there is a reference in the File indicating Nil since his mother and father were deceased by March 13, 1914.
Based on his Military File, Private John Arthur Gordon Frankish served a total of 1 year, 4 months, and 7 days with the Canadian Expeditionary Force: 8 months and 13 days in Canada, 3 months and 20 days in England, and 4 months and 3 days in France.

An excerpt from an article in Maclean’s Magazine by Barbara Ameil, September 1996:

”The Military is the single calling in the world with job specifications that include a commitment to die for your country. What could be more honourable”?


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John Arthur Gordon Frankish was born in Lakefield on May 4, 1886, the youngest child of Francis Franklin Frankish and Jemima Chamberlain; he went by the name “Arthur”. Arthur was a surveyor by trade and like many young men Arthur went west and was in Calgary, Alberta when he enlisted to serve overseas on January 5, 1915.

Arthur was killed in France on June 2, 1916 and is remembered with honour in the Menin Gate “Ypres” Memorial Cemetery in Belgium.


John Arthur Gordon’s maternal grandparents are Eleanor “Ellen” Ingram and William Drewitt Chamberlain who lived in Otonabee Township and raised a family of ten children. His paternal grandparents are Francis Frankish and Jane Bielby and had a family of nine children.

John Arthur Gordon’s father, Francis Franklin Frankish was born on in Yorkshire, England on August 10, 1833, one of nine children born to Francis Frankish and Jane Bielby, he went by the name “Francis”. His siblings included Abraham, Thomas, William, Sarah, Elizabeth, John, Charles and Maximillian Frankish. Francis was married and had two children, a boy Harry and a little girl who died in infancy and his first wife also died in England. Francis Frankish and his son, Harry, came to Canada to live.

John Arthur Gordon’s parents, Francis Franklin Frankish married Jemima Chamberlain on June 11, 1867 in Peterborough, Ontario. Jemima Chamberlain was born on July 31, 1843 in Otonabee Township. She was the daughter of Eleanor Ingram and William Drewitt Chamberlain. She was the second oldest daughter of the ten children in the Chamberlain family, who lived in Peterborough when there were only four or five log homes.

Francis and Jemima farmed in the Warsaw area; they had a family of nine children – Sarah Jane married Andrew Young, William Francis married Annie Tedford, Elizabeth Lillian never married, Edmund Chamberlain died age 17 years, Margaret “Maggie” Eleanor married Jacob Payne, Charles Evans married Mary Gertrude Rose, Frances Mabel died in infancy, Thomas “Albert” and John “Arthur” Gordon Frankish.

Francis died on May 23, 1904 and Jemima and her daughter moved into the village of Lakefield living on the east side of Queen Street. Jemima passed away on March 13, 1914; both are buried in Little Lake Cemetery, Peterborough, Ontario.