1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade, 22nd January 1915
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
Frank Coram Spain was born circa 1891 at St. Pancras, London to George John and Rosina Mary Spain. His father had been a Brewers Clerk and on leaving school Frank was also to become a Clerk.
When 17 years and 9 months of age on 28 September 1908, Frank joined the recently formed army reserve at Woolwich, Kent as a Special Reservist as army number 9477, into the 5th Battalion Rifle Brigade. At that time he was described as:-
- Height: 5’5″
- Weight: 122lbs
- Chest: 35″ with a 2″ expansion
- Eyes: Blue
- Hair: Light Brown
- Religion: Church of England
- Marital Status – Single
On the 19 February 1909, having served all his time on Home Service, in particular at Winchester, he was released from the Special Reserve and joined the Regular Army, into the 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade and given the service number of 3410.
On the 5 March 1910, Frank Spain was known to be stationed in Dublin as his conduct sheet states he was punished with 3 days confined to barracks for an untidy billet. On 5 May 1910 he had a 6 day stay in hospital in Dublin with Pharyngitis, an inflammation of the throat. He was still in Dublin on the 25 September 1910 as he had a lower right tooth extracted. On 20 October 1910, he received 2 extra guard duties for Neglect of Duty while on Sentry Duty also while in Dublin.
On 23 September 1912, he had moved to Colchester as his Conduct Sheet states, he was punished with 5 days confined to barracks for not complying with orders in relation to his kit.
On 15 September 1914, Frank was moved to France / Flanders along with his unit as part of the British Expeditionary Force. He was promoted to Acting Corporal on the 5 November 1914.
On 16 January 1915 he is awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal as per The London Gazette, the citation for to which reads “For gallant conduct at Le Toquet in remaining standing in a very exposed position under heavy fire watching and reporting the enemy’s movements, which could not otherwise be ascertained.”
On 22 January 1915, Frank was killed in action, the cause of which is unknown although his unit diary shows the sector at that time as being fairly quiet other than for sniper fire. He was buried in the Rifle Brigade Cemetery, Ploegsteert Wood, officially now called Rifle House Cemetery, Hainaut, Belgium.
Following his death his personal belongings which consisted of a pipe, rubber bag, tobacco box, wrist watch, box of cigarettes, diary, pouch, scissors, pocket book, letters, playing cards, photographs, birth certificate and Distinguished Conduct Medal were returned to his father on the 26 May 1915.
His mother is shown as the recipient on his Pension Ledgers.
His brothers, George, Edward and Harry were all in the military serving with the British Expeditionary Force, Harry was killed on 30 September 1918 while serving with the 4th Shropshire Light Infantry and is remembered on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.
Diary for the 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade
4th to 28th January 1915
Extract from the above War Diary :-
Things remained fairly quiet but began to slowly increase in activity as regards sniping. Shelling by the enemy is rare, work was continued nightly on the new breastworks which are now practically finished, in so far that they are tenable, and are now considered our real first line of defence.
Frank Coram Spain was born circa 1891 at St Pancras, London.
His family is shown as follows :-
- Father: George John Spain, born c.1862 at Dover, Kent. (Brewers Clerk)(d:1933)
- Mother: Rosina Mary Goldfinch or Spain, born c.1864 at Dover, Kent.(d:1940)
- Brother: Cecil E., born c.1888 at St Pancras, London.
- Sister: Ethel May, born c.1889 at St Pancras, London.
- Sister: Rosina May, born c.1892 at St Pancras, London.
- Brother: George Harold, born c.1893 at St Pancras, London.(d:1973)
- Brother: Edward Walker, born c.1895 at St Pancras, London.(d:1928)
- Brother: Harry, born c.1899 at Hornsey, London.(d.30.9.1918)
In several documents, George Harold Spain appears as Harold G. (e.g. the Census), it is likely that he was known by his middle name which was not uncommon at the time.
There are several entries in various documents given different places of birth of Frank, namely, Kentish Town, Camden Town and St Pancras, the latter which I believe to be the correct location.
From information found in the 1891 and 1901 Census, Pension card and Service Record, the following addresses have been ascertained for Frank Spain.
- 1891: Residing at the family home at Stratford Place, St. Pancras, London.
- 1901: Residing at the family home at 70 Warham Road, Hornsey, Harrningay, London.
- 1909: Residing at the family home at 21 Fairfax Road, Harringay, London.
- 1919: 8 Belmont Street, West Green, London N15.
There is no trace of Frank Coram Spain being remembered on any particular memorial.
Links to Additional Information
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Frank Coram Spain
- Lives of the First World War – Frank Coram Spain
- A Street Near You website – Frank Coram Spain
- Find a Grave – Frank Coram Spain – Rifle House Cemetery
- WW1 Lives – Harry Spain
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
- Medal Index Card.
- Medal Roll – 1st Rifle Brigade – Victory and British War Medal.
- Medal Roll – 1st Rifle Brigade – 1914 Star.
- Soldiers Died in the Great War.
- The National Archive – 1st Rile Brigade War Diary.
- Register of Soldiers Effects x 2.
- Pension Card.
- 1891 Census.
- 1901 Census.
- The Birmingham Daily Post dated 18 January 1915.
- The Edinburgh Gazette dated 19 January 1915, issue 12763 page 128.
- Vincent Stuart