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  • Claire Jordan

Frank Jelly

Meet Frank Jelly.

Like his Dad John, he was worked as a bicycle repairer before the War and was his parents eldest child, born in the summer of 1890 in Salford.

In 1911, he married Ellen Noon and they had a little girl called Edith the following summer, but she didn’t quite make her first birthday before they lost her.

They had no other surviving children but concentrated on each other in their grief and tried to make the best of things.

Which must have made it that much worse for Ellen to watch Frank put on a uniform and march off to War and for Frank to have to leave Ellen behind.

By 1916, Frank was serving with the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers and his Battalion had the most dreadful time on the Somme.

On 1st July, they’d been among the second wave of the monumental attack, climbing up out of their positions north of Mailly-Maillet about 8am and clambering over the bodies of the dead and dying who’d risen and fallen the previous hour.

They kept going and some of them made it across the German line south of the Quadrilateral. But the enemy quickly counter-attacked and a withdrawal was ordered that night.

Casualties: 368.

They spent the rest of July holding the line at other hellish points in the vicinity, and were rested up at Poperinghe near Ypres for some weeks before returning once again to the crucible of horror that was the Somme valley, as the Battle ground on into the autumn.

They were ordered to Trones Wood on 9th October, and from there to trenches between Gueudecourt and Lesboeufs for an unsuccessful attack towards Le Transloy on 12th.

Casualties: 345.

Frank Jelly had come through all of this.

But ten days later, they were sent once again into an attack, this time on Dewdrop Trench, near Lesboeufs (the village captured with the most extraordinary heroism by the Guards Division a month earlier).

Yet again, Frank and his mates advanced when the whistles blew at 2.30pm but the Battalion sustained heavy losses within the first few yards.

What remained of the attacking force – two Officers and 65 men – dug in, in front of Rainy Trench and held on until relief arrived the following day.

Casualties: 208.

And this time, on 23rd October 1916, gentle Frank Jelly was one of them. All his luck, all his courage, all the love surrounding him from home, from wife Ellen and Mum Esther and the rest of his family could not save him this time.

His body was never found and he is remembered now on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

Do think of Frank when you pin your poppy to your coat this November.

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