One hundred years ago, a Hartlepool man was thrust into the frontline of the bloodiest battle of the First World War.
Francis Bertram Thompson, or Frank to his friends, was a baker’s errand boy from Lynn Street Westy when he was called to the Front.
Like hundreds of thousands of others, he saw the horrors of conflict. Yet unlike many others, he lived to tell the tale.
His story, and many more pieces of memorabilia, are part of an exhibition at the Central Library in hartlepool.
Chris Cordner reports.
Francis Bertram Thompson was born in 1896 to Francis and Emily Thompson.
You performed your duties with great courage being always ready to volunteer for the most dangerous workMajor General of the Commanding 41st Division
Dad was a grocer, shop keeper and manager. Emily was a mother of four.
Within years, Emily was left to bring up four children on her own when Francis died in his mid-30s.
Yet by July 1915, his mother had one less mouth to feed. Frank went to war. He joined the 20th (Wearside Battalion) of the DLI in Sunderland.
Within weeks, he was training at Wensleydale Camp and by May 5, 1916, he was on his way to Le Havre to join the fighting on The Somme by that September. He was playing his part in the British war effort and by the next year, Frank was on the move again, this time to Italy to bolster the defences there.
By March 1918, he was back in France to help with the counter moves against a German offensive called the Michael Offensive.
Yet Frank’s greatest triumph in the war was still to come. The Bolshevik Revolution meant the Russians withdrew from the war and that meant the Germans could transfer more than a million men to the Western Front in an attempt to deal a knockout blow to the Allies.
Frank became a battalion runner. His job was to race over open ground, delivering messages between the different sections while under constant threat of enemy machine gun and sniper fire.
His gallantry was recognised when he was awarded the Military Medal. After the war in 1919, he took part in the occupation of the Rhineland.
His story, and that of other soldiers, is told in an exhibition which is now on show in the Central Library in Hartlepool.
Other displays include Army helmets, railway tickets authorising leave, a regimental pass which was issued to Private Thompson, his Christmas postcards which he sent home, and the newspaper notice of the commendation awarded to him. It also includes his citation from his Major General.
The exhibition runs until November 12 and to find out more about events at the library, contact (01429) 272905.