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Private Francis J WILLIAMS 3605 (1891 – 1916)
Ancestry.com – originally shared by smegg64

Francis James WILLIAMS

Regimental Number
3605
Rank
Private
Known As
Frank
War Service
Egypt and Western Front
Prior Military Service
Nil
Enlistment
04 Aug 1915 at Lithgow, NSW
Embarkation
13 Oct 1915 from Sydney, NSW, on the HMAT A17 Port Lincoln
Next of Kin
Father – Mr G. H. C. Williams, Windeyer, New South Wales
Date & Place of Birth
08 Dec 1891, Long Creek, Meroo, near Windeyer, NSW
Parents
Fanny (nee JOHNSON) and George WILLIAMS
Marital Status
Single
Siblings
Eight - 4 brothers, 4 sisters
Occupation
Miner
Physical Description
5 feet 7 1/4 inches, 146 pounds (170.8cm, 66.2kg)
Eyes hazel, Hair dark brown, Complexion medium
Religion
Church of England
Fate
Killed in Action, 19 Jul 1916, Fromelles, France. On German Death List - aged 24
Place of Burial
No known grave
Commemorated
V.C. Corner, (Panel 9), Australian Cemetery Memorial, Fromelles, France
Positively Identified
No

From gold mining stock - a true digger.

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Mining in Windeyer, above and below ground. At left is the largest mine (Eaglehawk) at that time in Windeyer. At right, miners are working about 100 meters underground.
source Photos courtesy of Greig Williams
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The man at the back swinging the hammer is Thomas Yavion (1875-1931) who married Frank’s sister, Clara Grace Williams (1887-1969). Miners in that era generally either worked in the large mines or worked the alluvial gold in the creeks.
source Photos courtesy of Greig Williams

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.

Death of a Pioneer (1928, June 28). Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 - 1954), p. 23. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article156059047

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).”

Greig Williams
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The Windeyer school
source Courtesy of Greig Williams, source unknown

Signing up

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Pte F. J. Williams [1891-1916]
(cropped)
source Ancestry.com – originally shared by smegg64

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.

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Postcard sent by Frank to his mother while on board the troopship HMAT A17 Port Lincoln with the 4th Battalion heading for Egypt.
source Photos: Greig Williams
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Postcard sent by Frank to his mother while on board the troopship HMAT A17 Port Lincoln with the 4th Battalion heading for Egypt.
source Photos: Greig Williams

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.

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Two of the cards from German records about Frank’s death. The first provides details of date, name, rank and battalion
source NAA: B2455, WILLIAMS, Francis James – First AIF Personnel Dossiers 1914-1920, pages 16 and 17
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The second provides details of the identity disk and its handover to the Central Office for Deceased Estates on 2 October 1916.
source NAA: B2455, WILLIAMS, Francis James – First AIF Personnel Dossiers 1914-1920, pages 16 and 17

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

SoldierFrancis James Williams 1891-1916
ParentsGeorge Henry Chick Williams 1849-1934 Maitland New South Wales
and Fanny nee Johnson 1849-1932 Guilsborough England
Grandparents
PaternalJohn Frederick Williams 1810-1892 London and Emma Esther Chick
MaternalEliza Matthews 1820-1891 and Jacob Johnson 1819-1897, both from Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, England

The Fromelles Association would love to hear from you

Fromelles Association of Australia

Contacts

The Fromelles Association welcomes all contact regarding this soldier.
(Contact: royce@fromelles.info or geoffrey@fromelles.info).
We also urge any family members to contact and register with the Australian Army
(Contact: army.uwc@defence.gov.au or phone 1800 019 090).

Donations

The Fromelles Association maintains this web site, purely by donations received.
If you are able, please contribute to the upkeep of this resource.
(Contact: bill@fromelles.info ).