Francis James WILLIAMS
Eyes hazel, Hair dark brown, Complexion medium
From gold mining stock - a true digger.
Frank Williams gave his occupation as miner when he enlisted in August 1915. In fact, he was a third-generation miner as the extended Williams family were gold prospectors from the diggings outside Mudgee, Long Creek, Meroo, Windeyer and Clarkes Creek - not that far from where the first gold rush occurred in 1851. These places are now ghost towns but were bustling centres back in the mid-1800s.
Frank’s grandmother, Emma, successfully raised a family of twelve at these diggings. When she died in 1928, she had 239 descendants and her passing was reported in local papers:
Death of a Pioneer
NONAGENARIAN PASSES. MRS E. (“GRANNY”) WILLIAMS
Mrs. Emma ("Granny") Williams, of Clarke's Creek, died at her home on Wednesday at the great age of 93 years. Deceased, who was one of the oldest residents of the Mudgee district possessed many lovable qualities and was held in the greatest respect by all who had the pleasure of her acquaintance. Her husband predeceased her by many years. She reared a large family of sons and daughters to whom the deepest sympathy will be extended. The sons are Messrs. George, John, Alfred, Arthur, Ernest (Long Creek), Frank (Sydney), and the daughters, Mesdames G. Reeves (Grattai), Croan, Goodver, and Cassidy (Sydney), Hextell (Bathurst), and Martin (Victoria).
The funeral took place to the Church of England portion of the Windeyer cemetery today (Thursday), Mr. J. C. Swords being in charge of the arrangements.
One of Emma’s 62 grandchildren, Francis (Frank) James Williams was born at the Long Creek Meroo Diggings, youngest of nine. He was born on 8 December 1891 to Fanny Johnson and Emma’s oldest son George Henry Chick Williams. The family home was in a small gold mining village approximately 40 kilometers from Mudgee. Greig Williams, a great grandson of Frank’s brother, commented on the area where Frank grew up:
“The house is long gone as they were nearly all wattle and daub or mudbrick with an iron roof and nearly all the old river rock chimneys that were standing throughout Windeyer when I was a child have fallen down. There’s no town as such at Windeyer now and what buildings are still there are really spread out. About all thats left is the school built in 1857 - which Frank probably attended - the cemetery where many of the Williams family are buried, the church, the old police station and just the one pub (not built until 1911).”
The majority of Windeyer recruits signed up in Bathurst but twenty-three-year-old Frank travelled to Lithgow instead when he enlisted in August 1915. Family researchers have assumed that he caught the train from Mudgee to Lithgow to visit his older brother George – seventeen years his senior – and signed up while there. Frank was unmarried but it is believed that he left a girlfriend behind, Marjorie McInnes.
In postcards and letters to family while training and on board the troopship heading for Egypt, Frank observed that the recruits’ mood seemed more like they were off on a picnic or other bit of adventure. His correspondence became more spasmodic and more censored once they arrived.
Little is known of Frank’s time at war beyond the broad brushstrokes of his battalions’ movements. He would have arrived in Egypt with the 4th Battalion before joining the newly formed 53rd Battalion in February 1916, a melding of Gallipoli veterans and fresh recruits like Frank. In June, the battalion left for France and on 19 July they were a part of the initial assault suffering grievous casualties - including Private Frank Williams, aged 24 years and 7 months.
Frank was listed as missing but when his name appeared on a German death list in September 1916 he was officially listed as killed in action. His identity disc was returned by the Germans. Generally, authorities returned the disc to next of kin (his father, George, in Frank’s case) but there is no notation on file whether this occurred with Frank’s disk. Details about how and where Frank died were never known.
The family at home
After his death, Frank’s mother received a letter from the mother of another soldier who had been wounded at Fromelles. His mother reported that he and Frank had gone over the parapet together but that that was the last time he saw him.
The family and his girlfriend, Marjorie, were left to grieve his loss and to live with the uncertainty of not knowing. Family members say that his parents would always set an extra place at the Sunday dinner table just in case Frank would turn up. His sister, Clara Yavion (nee Williams), kept up that tradition for many years after her parents had passed away as the family always held out hope that, since no body was ever found, that he might alive be out there somewhere.
Now – seeking DNA identification
Greig Williams, one of many family members seeking to assist in identifying Frank said:
“As a direct male descendant of Frank’s father, I was happy to be able to provide the Australian Army with a sample of my DNA. I am hopeful that one day Frank’s remains will be identified. I go out to Windeyer often and, each time, I visit the War Memorial in Mudgee where Frank’s name is listed.”
DNA has been received for family connections to
|Soldier||Francis James Williams 1891-1916|
|Parents||George Henry Chick Williams 1849-1934 Maitland New South Wales|
|and Fanny nee Johnson 1849-1932 Guilsborough England|
|Paternal||John Frederick Williams 1810-1892 London and Emma Esther Chick|
|Maternal||Eliza Matthews 1820-1891 and Jacob Johnson 1819-1897, both from Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, England|
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