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Frank was the son of William Thomas Pickbourne and Kate Pickbourne nee Bradley. His father was a Methodist lay preacher. William Thomas (b. Kirkby in Ashfield) and Kate were married on 30 November 1887 (marriage registered O/N/D Basford). He and Kate had five sons: Sidney Bradley (birth registered 1889 J/F/M) and Wilfred Maurice (b. 1890) who were both born in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, and William Stewart, known as Stewart (birth registered J/F/M), Frank Edward (b. 1894) and Arthur Leslie (b. 6 August 1897) who were all born in Northampton. In 1891 William (30), a commercial traveller, and Kate (30) were living at 13 Agnes Road, Northampton with their 6 month old son, Wilfred Maurice. Also in the household was thirteen year-old Beatrice Renshaw, a general domestic servant. At the time of the census their eldest son, Sydney Bradley, was at his maternal grandmother's home at Ash Farm, Sutton Road, Kirkby-in-Ashfield. The widowed Mary Bradley (63) was described as a farmer. By 1901 the family was living at 2 Stanley Terrace, Northampton. William Thomas was now a colliery agent. He and Kate had five sons; Sydney (12), Wilfred (10), Stewart (8), Frank (6) and Arthur (3). They were still in Northampton in 1911 but were now living at 22 Giltbrook House, Hester Street. Apart from Arthur (13) who was still at school all the boys were at work; Sidney (22) was described as his father's assistant - William Thomas was still working as a colliery agent, Wilfred (20) was a salesman for a builder's merchant, William (18) was a clerk for a shoe machinery company and Frank (16) was an apprentice to a printer. William Thomas and Kate later returned to Nottingham, and in March 1918 moved into Lebanon House, 5 Wildman Street, Nottingham, although by 1920 when their second son Wilfred was discharged from the army, they were living at 3 Chaworth Road, West Bridgford. Sidney and Wilfred continued to live in the family home until their own deaths in 1964 and 1954 respectively. Frank's older brother Wilfred served at home in the Army Pay Corps from 12 March 1915 until his deferred discharge on 27 April 1920. Stewart, who served with the 1/4th Bn Northamptonshire Regiment (Lance Corporal), was killed on (or about) 19 April 1917 aged 25; his death was not confirmed until July 1918 (Jerusalem Memorial). The youngest boy, Arthur, was the last to enlist and served in France with the Machine Gun Corps (58340 Private). He was badly wounded by shrapnel during the battle of Messines in June 1917, just a month after his parents had received news that his brother Stewart was missing, and was evacuated to England, returning to France on his recovery. It is believed that the eldest boy, Sidney, was physically unfit for military service. Their mother, Kate, died in 1924 aged 64 and their father, William Thomas, died on 3 July 1932; his sons Wilfred, a colliery clerk, and Arthur, a removal and ticket clerk, were his executors. Wilfred died on 11 February 1954; his two surviving brothers, Sidney, 'of no occupation' and Arthur, post office official, were his executors. Although Wilfred never married his father recorded in his diary on 22 September 1917 that Wilfred 'is now happily engaged to a Miss Elsie Smith of Bristol, a niece of the Mr Smith with whom he has lodged so long at Salisbury [while serving with the Army Pay Corps].’ Sidney died on 22 September 1964. Arthur Leslie was the only one of the brothers to marry, marrying Lily Cockerill in 1923 (marriage registered A/M/J Northampton); Lily was mentioned in an entry in his father's diary in June 1918. Arthur and Lily had two daughters, Pamela (b. 1926) and Shirley (b. 1929). Arthur became a postman in Bournemouth and Poole in 1948 and was still living in the area when he died in 1970 at the age of 72. His widow Lily (b. 4 August 1896) died the following year.
In 1911 he was a printer's apprentice.
17 Oct 1918
476952 - CWGC Website
Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry)
The Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry. Base Depot (E.E.F.) Formerly Northamptonshire Yeomanry (910). Frank joined the Northamptonshire Yeomanry in 1913 and was called up in August 1914. After a short time billeted in a school in Northampton the detachment of the Yeomanry moved to a camp on Derby racecourse then on 17 August transferred to Houghton Regis near Dunstable and in October to Towcester, Northamptonshire. While in Towcester Frank was made orderly to Major Andrews. It seems that Frank remained in England until 1917 - an entry in his father’s diary in September 1917 refers to Frank being in Canterbury – but his parents received a letter from him on 16 December the same year saying he was shortly to sail for Egypt via Marseilles. By April 1918 he was in Egypt. He died of pneumonia at Alexandria on 17 October 1918, three days before his 25th birthday, and is buried in Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery (grave ref. A. 201).
Several of Frank's letters are signed 'Francis' although the register of births and other official documents give his name as 'Frank' Registers of Soldiers' Effects: his father was his legatee. Nottinghamshire Archives has a collection of family papers including diaries kept by William Thomas Pickbourne between 1878-1930, and letters from Frank and his brothers. The following extracts are from this deposit; both the diaries and letters mention the number of letters written to and from Frank when he was serving overseas which were either delayed or lost in transit. Nottinghamshire Archives, ref DD2560/3/6/27-3/6/35. Letters from Frank Pickbourne to his parents. Letter dated 28 January 1918, France, (annotated in a different hand, ‘Duke of Lancasters Own, Indian Remount Depot near Marseilles). Frank says he is at the Indian remount depot, and 'it is most amusing to watch these fellows at work, but they are good hearted fellows, some of them can speak English very well indeed. I was in conversation with one of them the other day and he told me that he had been to Cambridge for his education. The fellows who have had their education are in the Orderly room and have a very good time of it.’ He also says earlier that he ‘cannot say how long we shall be here, I am sure, I do not mind if we stay here for the duration of the war, it will suit one down to the ground.’ Letter dated Saturday 1 June 1918 to his mother. Now in Egypt, Frank writes about the shortage of water, ‘Many a time I have had to wash myself in water that at least a Coy. Have washed out of, so I can tell you I do not wash more than what is necessary. There is one thing, I go bathing as often as possible and in fact I am getting quite a swimmer. I believe I have told you before that we are quite near to the Suez Canal which I must say is a splendid piece of construction. I never dreamt I should ever see this Canal ... I am so sorry to hear that the news of poor Stewart is not known yet. I really begin to give up hope of him, and I am afraid the next time we see him will be on that other shore where there is no parting. Poor Stewart! To think that he lies somewhere on this vast desert of sand. I am often wondering to myself if I shall share the same fate or if it is God’s will for me to come back to you once more. We must leave it in His hands, have faith and have all.' Letter dated Monday 8 July 1918: Frank says he writes to his parents once a week and sometimes once a fortnight. He gives them an address to write to: 145219 FE Pickbourne, DoL’s Own, attached to MGC, Base Depot, EEF, Egypt. ‘The worst worry out here are the flies, they will not give you a minute’s peace from the first thing in the morning to the last thing at night they are buzzing around you … if you are eating anything they will settle on it just as you are putting it in your mouth. I have had a washing day today and am getting quite an expert at it; I shall be able to do all of it for you when I come home again. I suppose I shall come back someday, say in five year’s time.’ He adds, ‘When did you say Wilfred’s marriage was coming off? Just fancy he will beat me after all, ah well, good luck to him.' Letter dated Monday 19 August 1918 to his mother. Frank thanks his mother for the testament which he had asked her to send him and writes about his transfer to the MGC, ‘I have now passed through my course and am expecting to go up at any time now. Of course I will let you have the address as soon as I know it’ … ‘Yes, I knew that quite a lot of Nptons were home on leave, if only Stewart had been with them as well how nice it would have been for you and Dad. Any news from the War Office about him yet? [His parents had received confirmation of Stewart’s death by 21 July 1918] … ‘Last week a party of about seventy of us went to see the Citadel at Cairo, no doubt you have heard of it. It is a most magnificent building, the best I have ever seen in my life, made up of a stone something like marble. Inside it is very spacious fitted with about 2,000 electric lights which are only lighted twice a year when certain functions are held. There is also inside a place called a ‘wish well’ and of course I had a wish. I (-) you can guess what my wish was. Inside are only two round pillars the rest being square, this is to enable the blind people who worship there to find the altar. You see by feeling round the side when they enter and coming to these round pillars they know that they have come to the right altar to pray. After coming out of the Citadel (oh by the way we had to put some cloth shoes over our boots before we entered to prevent us from damaging the stones) we went to see ‘Joseph’s well’ which is three hundred feet deep before you get to the bottom and when you get to the bottom the water is another three hundred feet down which used to be drawn up with a water wheel. Of course I went to the bottom of the well, as far as I could get and in going down in certain places you had to mind that you did not knock your head on the top, it smelt very earthy. When you started from the top you had to go down spiral fashion and I can tell you by the time we reached the top again we felt a bit weak about the knees. It was a most enjoyable day out.’ He added a postscript, ‘Send my love to Vena and Daisy and tell Wilfred I should like a line or two from him please. The man who built the Citadel after he had finished it they burnt his eyes out so that he could not build another one like it.’ Frank wrote a brief letter to his mother on 26 August giving his new address in the 18th Squadron MGC. Nottinghamshire Archives ref. DD2560/1/6 – extracts from WT Pickbourne diary April 1916-1920 22 December 1917: ‘During this week have heard from Wilfred, Frank & Arthur – Wilfred unfortunately cannot get home this time … Frank writes from somewhere in France on his way to Egypt says he crossed the Channel without being bad & tho the weather is cold there, as it is here, is feeling pretty comfortable.' Diary entry 17 April 1918: ‘We heard from Frank last Saturday after a silence of some 6 or 7 weeks – he is in Egypt, where of course we do not know. He is now brigaded with the Duke of Lancasters Own Yeomanry & it is quite possible being in Egypt they will be sent on to Palestine to help in our successful campaign there against the Turks.' Diary entry 27 April 1918: ‘We have had a letter from Frank this week, one he wrote before the one we got last week. They come rather irregularly nowadays, and some letters also do not come at all as the ships which carry them across the Mediterranean get torpedoed & sunk.’ Diary entry 21 July 1918 annotated in the margin ‘Letter re Stewart’s death from War Office’: ‘Just had a letter from Frank! We have been a bit anxious for about a week, expecting one from him & at last it has come. He is well thank God & has received both his mother’s letter & parcel sent him so long ago. Also, one or two of my letters & says he has written one but I have not had the letter yet. The heat there on the borders of the Suez Canal is very great, 120 deg [F] in the shade but he appears to be bearing it well … We have news from the War Office that now at last poor Stewart must be presumed dead.’ (See record for William Stewart Pickbourne) Diary entry 6 August 1918: ‘Today is my boy Arthur’s 21st birthday, oh how the years roll on!’ He recalls the anniversary of the outbreak of war, ‘Headlines of the news shout ‘England Declares War on Germany’, Oh what a time it was then followed Frank’s mobilization, poor Stewart’s enlistment .. then Wilfred’s enlistment, then Arthur. Now Stewart is dead. Frank is in Egypt, Arthur has been wounded & Wilfred is in the APC at Salisbury & we here!’ Diary entry 26 August 1918: ‘We had letters this morning from Arthur & Frank, the latter sent his photo.’ Diary entry 24 October 1918, margin of diary annotated ‘Frank died Oct 17th at Alexandria’. ‘Very very sad news to chronicle this time. The saddest thing any father has to write about. Another death in our family. This time is my boy Frank! On Tuesday night about 7.45 a telegram was handed in at the door. Wilfred [who had been at home since 14 October] & Ma had just got back from Sawley where they had been to see Auntie Pollie Coates – I had just gone down to (?). It was a wire from the War Office London & was couched in the following fateful words, ‘Deeply regret to inform you that your son 169435 Pte F E Pickbourne Machine Gun Corps died of pneumonia 17th Oct at Alexandria in Egypt. Oh what a blow, so sudden, so utterly unexpected. The last letter he sent us was written in July [the letter dated 19 August presumably arrived after Frank’s death] was such a nice cheery letter in which he stated he was feeling quite fit & well tho previously he had had a cold. And now! Alas my son, my dear Frank has gone, cut off in his prime, only 3 days wanting to complete his 24th birthday! Oh this cruel war, what sorrow, what agony & heartbreak it is answerable for. Lord help us to bear this additional burden!’ Diary entry 28 October 1918: ‘We have had a wonderful number of letters of sympathy from Npton friends, sympathising with us in our sorrow. From quite unexpected people letters of genuine kindly feelings have come to us like healing balm. This human love & sympathy is very sweet but it is sweeter still to feel He knows & to be able to lay our burdens down at Jesus’ feet.’ Diary entry 2 November 1918: ‘By nearly every Post every day this week letters have come from all over the land, one yesterday from Sunderland, 1 the day before from Buckingham, 1 today from Lincoln etc etc all breathing words of comfort & sympathy. It really is most affecting & most uplifting to thins that we live in the hearts & prayers of so many of Gods’ people. It would be a gross sin to act as if we were shorn of hope & comfort & as if all were lost. It is a terrible blow I know, but others are infinitely worse off than we. We have 3 boys left us. Loving, helpful good boys , all serving God & all bravely trying to help us! I have been reading in the British Weekly today of the case of Dr Brown , ex Moderator of the Church of Scotland, who has lost all his 4 sons, all killed in battles and there are other equally sad cases … Besides, I feel it as a matter for proud thankfulness that both these boys, in fact all 4, who are in the Army, all went of their own free will, each heard the call of duty, the call of Country & as I believe the call of God & went forth, not counting their lives dear to them. And they died nobly.’ Diary entry 7 January 1919: ‘Have just had a letter from the Baptist Chaplain who attended poor Frank in his last illness. He tells us that he died trusting in Christ & seemed to give him (the Chaplain) the impression that he knew the truth! Of course he did, he had been the child of thousands of prayers, he was given to God at birth, all through his short life he always loved the things that were holy & pure & true. He was a very regular attender at God’s House on the Sunday & his class on Wednesday when at home & though in temperament & disposition he was totally different from any of his brothers yet I had never any doubt that he really loved the Lord & tried to live a good life. He is buried in Hadra cemetery Alexandria, a little cross with his name & no. at his head & there he sleeps till the resurrection morn when I trust that he & Stewart & all of us will meet to part no more.’
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