Private Frank Pierson

Regiment: 15th Battalion, The Royal Welch Fusiliers.
Service No: 60130
Date & place of birth: 2nd qtr. 1880 in Steep, Hampshire
Date & place of death: 31 July 1917 (aged 37) at Pilckem Ridge, Belgium

Private Frank Pierson was born in Steep, Hampshire, the son of an agricultural labourer.

He enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was killed at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, near  Ypres (Ieper) in Belgium on 31 July 1917.

Family background

Frank Pierson was born at Steep, near Petersfield in the spring of 1880, the seventh of eleven children of Daniel Pierson (1845–1929) and his wife Annie née Carpenter (1849–1931). Daniel and Annie were married in early 1867 and over the next 25 years they had seven daughters and four sons. The family lived at Steep, to the north of Petersfield where Daniel was employed as an agricultural labourer.

By the time of the 1901 census, Frank had left home and was living with his older sister, Fanny, and her husband, Henry Jupp in a cottage near Park House in Bepton, where Frank was employed as a carter on a farm.

In 1903, Frank married Bertha Carpenter (1879–1962) from West Lavington. Bertha had briefly worked as an assistant teacher at West Lavington School, but was dismissed as “she has absolutely no control over the infants, but allows them to do exactly as they please, and teaches them nothing”.  After their marriage, the couple lived at Henchers Farm in Bepton. In the 1911 census, Frank was employed as a bricklayer; the couple had two children, William (born 1903) and Frank (born 1906).

Military service

Frank enlisted at Midhurst, joining the Royal Welch Fusiliers, 15th Battalion (1st London Welsh). After his basic training in North Wales, the battalion was shipped to northern France in December 1915, where it took part in the Battle of Albert in July 1916, during which the regiment suffered heavy casualties, requiring nearly a year to rebuild.

Death & commemoration

On 31 July 1917, the 15th Battalion (now part of the 128th Brigade, 43rd Division) took part in the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, in Belgium. This was the opening attack of the main part of the Third Battle of Ypres. The battalion’s target was to capture the village of Pilckem and the nearby hill and then move on to secure a crossing over the River Steenbek.

Frank Piersion grave at Dragoon Camp Cemetery
Frank Pierson’s  grave at Dragoon Camp Cemetery

The battalion largely achieved its objectives, but lost 27 men killed and several more missing. As well as Frank Pierson, among those who were killed was the Welsh poet Ellis Humphrey Evans, known by his Bardic name of Hedd Wyn.

Frank was buried alongside his colleagues in the small Dragoon Camp Cemetery just to the north of Ypres.

Subsequent family history and other family members

Bertha lived until 1962, when she died in Chichester. Both their sons lived until the 1960s, married and had children.

Frank’s younger brother Dan was killed when HMS Bulwark exploded in November 1914 and is also commemorated on the Bepton War Memorial.

Bertha’s mother was Alice Madgwick, whose nephew, Gilbert Madgwick, was also killed near Ieper, in November 1917 and is commemorated on the Cocking War Memorial.

Albert Carpenter, the grandson of Henry Carpenter (the brother of Annie) also died in the war on board HMS Russell, which was sunk off Malta after hitting a mine in April 1916. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial at Southsea and on the Cenotaph in Portsmouth Guildhall Square.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project