Frank Brame


The Brames seem to have led a fairly a fairly peripatetic life following work and opportunities. The 1881 census records that Frank's parents, Edward and Annie, were living in Lady Lane, Hadleigh with five children, the eldest being born in Haughley, the next two in Stowupland and the youngest two in Hadleigh. By 1891 the family had moved to Main Road in Stowupland, Edward's birthplace, with the census recording three further additions to the family. Two further children, Frank and Tom, were born whilst the family lived in Stowupland. The 1901 census has the family living at Town Farm, Wortham with a yet another addition to family, Ernest. Finally the family arrive in Hoxne, the 1911 census recording the Brame family living at South Green Hoxne with Edward's occupation noted as a horseman and Frank, now aged seventeen, a farm labourer.

How long Frank remained in Hoxne is not known but by the end of 1914 he had both married an Ipswich girl, Minnie Horlock, and enlisted into the 8th Battalion Suffolk regiment. Although formed at Bury St Edmunds in September 1914 as part of the New Army, the 8th (Service) Battalion formed an element of the 53rd Brigade (18th Eastern Division) and was concentrated around Colchester for initial training and then in May 1915 was moved to Codford, Salisbury Plain before being deployed to France. Before Frank left for France he and Minnie became parents, Frank S. K. Brame being born in the second quarter of 1915. It is quite likely that Frank saw his son before the Regiment was sent to France. When serving with the Regiment Frank would hear of his son's death in March 1916, we do not know if he would have received compassionate leave to return home.

On the 23rd July 1915 an advance party of some 113 officers and men left Wylye (the rail link serving Codford Camp) and sailed from Southampton to Le Havre, arriving there on the 25th. On the 26th they were taken by train to La Motte and then marched to their billets at Pierregot some ten miles from Amiens. The bulk of the Battalion, including Frank, sailed from Folkestone on the RMS Victoria disembarking at Boulogne on the 25th July. By the 27th the Battalion had been reunited and moved to new billets at Millencourt.

A significant part of August was taken over by trench warfare instruction and on August 23rd, the Battalion took over positions near Bronfay Farm close to the village of Bray-sur-Somme. The next few days saw eleven casualties due to shelling, the War Diary noting that they were only slightly wounded. The first fatality occurred on the 31st August 1915, the soldiers name and number being noted in the Diary (unfortunately not clearly) which is a rare occurrence.

From this point on Frank and his comrades would have to negotiate the world of trench warfare on the Western Front. At some point Frank was appointed a Lance-Sergeant, in reality a corporal but with the authority to take on a sergeants role should the need arise. Throughout 1916 the Battalion was heavily engaged in various actions taking part in the Battles of Bazentin Ridge, Deville Wood, Thiepval Ridge, Ancre Heights and finally between the 13th and 19th November the Battle of Ancre.

January 1917 saw the Battalion undergoing training at Neuilly L'Hopital followed by a period of providing working parties. On the 27th January the Battalion was back in the trenches and had a eventful few days during which the Germans attempted two trench raids, presumably to capture prisoners or gather intelligence, but both were failures in which a number of Germans were captured. On the 3rd February they were moved into Brigade support at billets called "Warwick Huts" and then on the 10th were marched to new billets at Varennes where, on the afternoon of the 14th, they undertook practise attacks on ground prepared to replicate the German lines.

On the morning of the 15th the Battalion marched back to Thiepval and later that evening had been crammed into their jumping off trenches. To add to their discomfort there was a slight thaw and more rain which made the ground treacherous. Presumably, the activity in the British line alerted the Germans to a potential attack, so their artillery spent most of the day bombarding the assembly area. Despite the conditions parties were sent out into nomans land to lay tape lines to aid the attack.

The objective of the attack was to seize the German's trenches known as Grandcourt, Boom Ravine and Coffee Trench, all four companies from the Battalion being committed. Frank served in "B" Company and, as with the other companies, the attack would be carried out in four waves. The British bombardment opened at 5.45 am and the attack commenced with the troops following the creeping barrage. The part of Grancourt Trench allocated to the Suffolks was quickly taken, it had been badly damaged and the Germans had withdrawn to their next line. The tape lines, so carefully laid, had not survived the artillery fire playing over the ground so "B" company's attack started to loose direction and, as the War Diary records, "casualties among the men was becoming serious". Despite the conditions and casualties the company managed to reach the wire defending Coffee Trench, unfortunately the barrage had not destroyed it and the Trench was heavily defended by machine guns and riflemen. The German defenders of Boom Ravine were also causing serious casualties amongst the Battalion assault lines with the result that the survivors coalesced into a single wave and started to move away from Boom Ravine. Thanks to the efforts of the surviving officers the drift that occurred was corrected and the attack realigned onto their original objective and the company continued to push forward supported by well sited Lewis machine guns.

The attack seems to have unsettled the German's many of whom were seen retiring from Boom Ravine and were shot down as they fled. The remnants of "B" company entered Boom Ravine and by 7.45 am had secured their portion of the trench. Consolidation of the trench continued over night and the company were eventually relieved by the East Surrey's the next morning. The survivors were withdrawn to billets at "Wellington Barracks". Frank was not one of them.

Frank is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial commemorating the lives of men who have no known grave, he is also commemorated on the Hoxne War Memorial and Ipswich War Memorial. Frank left £11.7s.0d to his widow Minnie and in November 1919 Minnie received a War Gratuity of £12.0s.0d. In the Spring of 1919 Minnie married Percy Elmer, an Ipswich man and Suffolk Regiment veteran and the 1939 census records them as living in Northwich, Cheshire.

Frank's younger brother, Tom, remained in Hoxne as did his parents, Edward and Annie.