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  • Claire Jordan

"All the Trumpets Sounded"

This is someone you need to meet today: here is Frank Guy Shackle.

His Dad was a stockbroker, so Frank went to Haileybury School, where he ended up captaining everything: the School itself, his House and even the Haileybury Rugby XV.

This photo was taken while he was still at school.

Frank was then sent to Sandhurst to train as an Army Officer but when his family moved to Canada for a new life, he decided Army life wasn’t really for him, and instead went to Calgary, married an English girl called Georgina Florence Dark, and bought a ranch.

When War came, a year into his marriage, even though he had been working incredibly hard to establish his new life and make his ranch work, he brought his young wife a new baby son back to England, finished his training at Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Middlesex Regiment in 1915.

I really think it must have taken a good deal of courage and a clear sense of himself to leave Sandhurst halfway through for a completely different life across the ocean, to stand up at the prestigious military academy and basically say: I’m awfully sorry, but I don’t think this is for me.

It must have taken even more strength of character to then set aside all his own hopes and wishes to return to England, to Sandhurst, because his country needed him.

On the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), things were going very badly for Captain Shackle and his 2nd Middlesex.

Frank was in charge of a section tasked with taking a vital transport of ammunition to where it was needed but the enemy were shelling their pathway forward so heavily that the horses, bless them, could not be induced to proceed.

Frank’s horse was shot out from under him.

So he organised his men into teams and he and they dragged the waggons themselves through the hail of shells, through the churning impossible mud and crater holes, to where they were supposed to be.

Frank was wounded three times, but still standing, still in the fight.

His Military Cross for this action was gazetted in September; his heavily pregnant wife, back home in England, must have read the news with tremendous pride.

But Frank would not meet his new baby son.

On 21st November 1917, Frank was killed in action when his Battalion’s position in the line north-east of the Ypres Salient was heavily shelled.

Georgina (known as Florence) named his baby boy Frank Mark Shackle when he arrived, and he too would join the Army when his country needed him.

On 22nd January 1943, the second Captain Frank Shackle (now 25) was part of a training exercise at Coanwood in Northumberland when a grenade accidentally exploded.

One Officers, four NCOs and one Other Rank were killed, eighteen other men were injured.

Captain Frank Mark Shackle, son of Captain Frank Guy Shackle MC, was fatally wounded in the accident that night and died in Hexham hospital the following day.

The first Captain Shackle’s wife, Florence, was 34 when her husband was killed in action in 1917 and she was 59 when their son, the second Captain Shackle was accidentally killed in 1943.

She lived on in the peace of rural Sussex to the age of 88.

“So He Passed Over” runs the inscription she chose for her husband’s headstone in Flanders, “And All The Trumpets Sounded For Him on the Other Side.”

I bet he was there with the trumpets when his son got there too.

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