Francis William (Frank) Sykes

lincolnshire regimental badgePrivate, 21418, 1st Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, killed in action, 25th September 1916, aged 24

Born at Eastoft in May 1892, Frank was the eldest son and one of the four children of Robert and Hannah Sykes (nee Till). Both of his parents were also born Eastoft and the family lived in the High Street where his father was a carpenter and wheelwright.

Frank was working for his father in 1911 but had given this up to be a farm labourer when he attested for the army in December 1915.

Frank attested for the Lincolnshire Regiment at Goole on 9th December 1915. He was mobilised on 18th February 1916 and would have reported for training at Lincoln with 3rd (Reserve) Battalion.

Completing his training Frank was posted out to France on 28th June 1916. He spent several more days at a central base on arrival, most likely Etaples, before joining the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment on 10th July 1916. At the time they were near Fricourt where they had seen service, and suffered casualties (including Walter Cash), in the first week of the Battle of the Somme.

On the 24th July Frank reported to the 63rd Field Ambulance with ICT of his right hand (Inflammation of Connective Tissue, a swollen hand) which necessitated a short stay in No 6 Stationary Hospital in Le Havre, rejoining 1st Lincoln’s on 4th August. The day they transferred from the Somme to Arras.

The 1st Lincoln’s returned to the Somme on 16th September when they were sent to Flers. On 25th September, attacked to 64th Brigade for the purpose, they took part in the Battle of Guedecourt, where their objective was a track running south east of the village.

The attack encountered problems from the outset. The two forward companies had only gone about fifty yards when they were hit by both artillery and machine-gun fire, suffering heavy casualties. The following two companies did not even get that far before they were equally hard hit. The Official History records them continuing to advance ‘as if on parade’ oblivious to the carnage around them:

Although all round them shells were bursting and tearing gaps in their line. These two companies advanced for a distance of about one thousand five hundred yards. “Officers and men falling every minute. The barrage advanced with the line and the further the line advanced the more intense became the barrage.”

Altogether in the attack the 1st Lincoln’s lost 24 men killed, 135 wounded and 16 missing. Among those to loose their lives was Frank Sykes.

Frank’s service record notes that he was injured and died of wounds the same day. It is likely then that he was buried at the time in a battlefield grave, the site of which is now lost. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.