Frank came from an agricultural family which flourished in the West Kirby area during the pre-war years. His parents were William Buckley Booth (1844-1900), who originally came from Liverpool and was a farmer and cow dealer and Martha Jones (born 1844) from West Kirby. Frank was the eighth of nine children and the third of four sons. The family had lived in Caldy between about 1870 and 1880 and then in Greasby. Frank married Edith Emma Rugg on 12th August 1911 at Frankby Parish Church. The couple lived in Hill Bark Cottage in Frankby while Frank worked as a clerk at the London City and Midland Bank in New Brighton.
Frank’s military career began when he signed up “for the duration” on 30th March 1916 and expressed a desire to join the local Territorial Battalion – the 1st/4th Cheshires. He was recorded as being 5’ 6¾” tall and as having a 35½” chest with a 2½” expansion. He trained in the Oswestry area of Shropshire and left for France via Southampton on 7th September 1916. He arrived at Number 4 Infantry Base Depot in Rouen the next day and was posted to the 10th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment the next day. By that time, the 10th Cheshires were part of 7th Brigade, 25th Division, which helped to defend Vimy Ridge during May 1916 and then took part in the Battle of the Somme between July and October.
By February 1917, the 10th Cheshires were in the Ploegsteert (or “Plugstreet” as the Tommies called it) south of Ypres in Belgium. This was a reasonably quiet sector, but the British liked to carry out aggressive raids in order to capture prisoners and unsettle the enemy. Frank was to die as a result of participating in just such an attack, which became known as the Meeanee Day Raid of 1917. It was named after one of the Cheshire Regiment’s famous imperial victories which occurred under General Sir Charles Napier in Sindh (in modern day Pakistan) in 1843.
Crookenden quotes the diary of Colonel Johnson, the unit’s commanding officer: “15th Feb. Busy morning in the trenches, went back in the afternoon and saw my raiders practising. They are a splendid lot of men, and it is a real treat to see how keen they are. It is particularly refreshing when one remembers that these men, are no enthusiastic novices who don’t know what they are going in to but are all old soldiers, who have been wounded, and they all know well the inferno that they are entering. Yet they are all in tremendous fettle and are just itching to go over. The officers are the same and one feels proud to be commanding such men. I wanted about ten more men, and called for volunteers this morning from these three companies, and could have got 50 if I had wanted.”
It is worth meditating on the above words and remembering that the 10th Cheshires were citizen soldiers like Frank. There is nothing we know of in Frank’s early life in a quiet unremarkable backwater of old rural Wirral that would have prepared him for becoming a ruthless killer, but this, if Johnson’s description applied equally to him as they did to the unit as a whole, is what he had become and this after only some eleven months of military service.
The raid made a promising start, but got into difficulties due to wet ground, barbed wire and enemy machinegun fire, which had not been suppressed by the British artillery. The Cheshires lost 40 men killed and 60 wounded. They killed 100 Germans. Crookenden described it as a failure, even though the Cheshire soldiers were praised by the higher command. One cannot help feeling sorry that such excellent soldiers had apparently been wasted in this action and, of course, that a hundred or more families were to receive the appalling news of the losses of their loved ones.
Frank must have been wounded and taken prisoner. He died on 31st March. His family did not receive confirmation of his death until late December 1917. At that time, his mother was living at Mill Croft in Frankby. His possessions were posted home on 22nd April 1918 and commemorative plaque on 18th February 1920.
Birth: December 1881 in Greasby
Death: 31st March 1917, died in a prisoner of war camp, aged 36
Addresses: The Thorns, Greasby (11); Hill Bark Lodge, Frankby (16-17)
Occupation: Bank Clerk
Unit: 10th Bn. Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 49446, Private
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: F. Belgium: Ploegsteert Memorial Panel 4 and 5
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, SR, Crookenden, BN, DA, Census: 91, 11