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Frank Brace

Served with Colchester Borough Constabulary from Mar 20, 1914 and died on Mar 13, 1915.

Frank Brace was born at Croxton in Cambridgeshire in 1888 the son of Francis and Ethel Brace of Croxton Kennels. He enlisted with the army at St Neots joining the Bedfordshire Regiment. Following his discharge he joined Colchester Borough Police on March 20, 1914, and shortly after married Emily. He was just settling in to married life and his new career when he was recalled to the colours at the outbreak of war on August 4, 1914, and rejoined his regiment.

Frank served as Corporal 9001 with C Company of the 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment that had been stationed at Mullingar, County West Meath, Ireland. The battalion was mobilized on August 14 and embarked from Belfast on the SS Oronsa at 2pm that day arriving at Havre on the night of August 15. They then moved to Le Cateau and on August 18 were billeted in Pommereuil awaiting the remainder of their Division. They formed part of 15th Brigade of the 5th Division of the 2nd Army Corps.

On August 21 the Division started their advance towards Mons where, on 23rd they engaged the enemy, and following fierce fighting, retired, moving south-west towards Athis. Sixty-six men of the 1st Bn. Bedfordshire Regiment were killed, injured or found to be missing after this action. On August 26 they were engaged in the Battle of Le Cateau but once again were obliged to retire after covering the withdrawl of the guns. Over the next few days the division continued to retire under continuous German fire. The men were absolutely tired out and hungry. As they moved south bridges, over rivers and canals they had crossed, were blown up. On August 30 they reached Gagny and Villeneuve, north-east of Paris, where the German advance was stopped.

On September 8 the battalion were involved in the advance north on St. Cyr-Sur-Morin and St.Ouen-Sur-Morin as the German army was pushed back. Two hundred prisoners were taken as they crossed the Marne. The advance continued over the next few days and as the enemy were pursued it appeared that they were demoralised as they abandoned wagons, motors and stores - a number of prisoners were taken.

On September 13 after a hard five hour struggle using pontoons and rafts, pulled by ropes, the Aisne was crossed. The advance north continued into October towards Bethune and Givenchy where the Battalion lost 140 men during continuous action. They remained in the Givenchy and Festubert area till November 6 when they were driven, in buses, to Ypres.

On November 7 they went into the line in trenches near Hooge and managed to prevent a break-through by the Germans but at the cost of a further 140 men.

The 1st Bn. Bedfordshire Regiment remained in the front line, under heavy shelling, till December 5 when they retired to billets at Dranoutre.

On December 8 they relieved the 1st Bn. Norfolk Regiment at Wolverghem. Heavy frost had rendered the wet muddy trenches very unpleasant. They were engaged, during December, in attempting to improve their defences. In some places along their line they were only 30 yards from the German trenches but as will be seen later, from the extract of the battalion war diary, they did not partake in the pleasantries of the 1914 Christmas truce as experienced by soldiers further along the front line.

The battalion remained in the Ypres area in trenches near Dranoutre, Wolverghem and Lindenhoek for the next two months and had short periods of relief in billets that were close by.

Extracts from the War Diary of 1st Bn. Bedfordshire Regiment record:

25 12 1914. Christmas card from their Majesties The King and Queen distributed to all ranks of the Battalion. Also present from Her Royal Highness Princess Mary. Germans semaphored over that they were not going to fire.
26 12 1914. Wolverghem. Some Germans came forward unarmed, apparently with a view to friendly intercourse. A few shots fired in their direction as a hint to withdraw.
The diary for March, 1915 continues:

06 03 1915. Ouderdom, South East Ypres. Battalion took over sector in trenches east of canal, relieving 9th Brigade. Casualties in going up to the trenches 3 wounded.
07 03 1915. HQ shelled, 1 man killed, sniping very considerable. Total casualties 3 killed 1 wounded.
08 03 1915. A certain amount of shelling and sniping during the day. Battalion relieved by Dorset Regiment at night and retained to support. Casualties Captain Andrews wounded, 2 killed, 9 others wounded.
09 03 1915. Battalion in support.
10 03 1915. Battalion relieved Dorset Regiment in trenches at about 6.30pm.
11 03 1915. Situation in trench 32(a) unpleasant Germans hold one end of it, and also have trench parallel to it, about 40yds. away and partly enveloping it at the end they hold. Impossible to show a periscope for more than a few seconds without getting a bullet through it, and quite impossible to see where firing comes from as no heads (enemy) show above their parapets and no rifles can be seen at loopholes.
Captain Ogden wounded and five other ranks.
Enemy bombed 32(a) trench with heavy trench howitzer. 20 yards of parapet blown in killing or burying 16.
It is probably during this period, March 6 to 11, 1915, that Frank Brace was mortally wounded, given first aid, and then transported by train to Boulogne where he died in hospital on March 13 whilst awaiting his return to England.

He is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery in Grave 111. D. 5. This had been a large civilian cemetery that was made available for British burials in October 1914. By the end of the war 5,578 casualties, most of whom had been treated in the nearby Military Hospital, were buried in the cemetery. The cemetery is situated in an elevated position on the slopes leading to the Port of Boulogne, just outside the town. A long narrow plot extends alongside the communal cemetery and includes plots for Portuguese, Polish and French servicemen.

Many of the headstones lay flat because of the sandy soil.

He is also commemorated on the First World War Memorial located outside the village church in Croxton, Cambridgeshire.

The Colchester Borough Watch Committee minutes of the meeting held on March 17, 1915, records the following report of the Chief Constable -

'I regret to report that unofficial information has been received that PC Frank Brace died at Boulogne on March 13th of wounds received in action. He joined the force on 20th March 1914 and joined his old corps, the Bedfordshire Regiment shortly afterwards.'
I'm going home to Blighty - ain't I glad to 'ave the chance!
I'm loaded up wiv fightin', and I've had my fill o' France;
I'm feelin' so exited like, I want to sing and dance,
For I'm goin' 'ome to Blighty in the mawnin'.
Robert Service
(Canadian Army Medical Corps).

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