Francis Browning, maternal relative: The Battle of Pozieres, July 1916

Francis (Frank) Browning was born on 15 March 1879 at Oakhunger, Hamfallow near Berkley, Gloucestershire, England and died on 30 July 1916 during the Battle of the Somne in France.

Francis was related to me via the Priday side of my family. The actual lineage is as follows:

  • Francis (Frank) Browning (1879 - 1916) - brother-in-law of 2nd cousin 3x removed
  • John Browning (1847 - 1917) - father of Francis (Frank) Browning
  • Minnie Esther Browning (1889 - 1914) - daughter of John Browning
  • William Albert Priday (1880 - 1926) - husband of Minnie Esther Browning
  • Albert Joseph Priday (1853 - 1943) - father of William Albert Priday
  • Thomas Priday (1799 - 1883) - father of Albert Joseph Priday
  • John Priday (1750 - 1815) - father of Thomas Priday
  • Nathaniel Priday (1794 - 1870) - son of John Priday
  • Nathaniel Priday(1830 - 1900) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1853 - 1933) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1888 - 1954) - son of Joseph Priday
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Joseph Priday
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

Francis Browning's father, John Browning was born during 1847 in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England & died during March 1917 in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England. John Browning was a Farm labourer all his life.

John married Sarah Ann Hale on 18 December 1867 at Berkeley, Gloucestershire. Sarah Ann was born on 11 December 1844 in Berkeley, Gloucestershire & died on  27 January 1905 in Berkeley, Gloucestershire.

sharpnessdocksJohn & Sarah Ann set up home at Oakhunger, Hamfallow near Berkley, Gloucestershire and it was there that Francis Browning was born. John & Sarah had a family of 10 children:

Editha Browning (1868 – 1952)
Lucy Browning (1870 – 1942)
James Browning (1874 – )
John Browning (1875 – )
Charles Browning (1878 – 1899)
Francis (Frank) Browning (1879 – 1916)
Eliza Browning (1882 – )
Arthur John Browning (1884 – )
Mabel Emily Browning (1888 – )
Minnie Esther Browning (1889 – 1914)

Francis/Frank  lived at home with his parents right up till he joined the Army in 1914 at the age 35. In 1911 his occupation was recorded as being Dock labourer, probably at Sharpness Port on the Severn Estuary.

His Regiment

Francis (Frank) Browning enlisted, as a Private, in the 8th Battalion the Gloucester Regiment during 1914, was allocated Regimental Number 16420.

8th (Service) Battalion was formed at Bristol in September 1914 and came under command of 57th Brigade in 19th (Western) Division. The 8th moved to Perham Down (in Wiltshire on the edge of Salisbury Plain) and again in March 1915 to Tidworth in south-east Wiltshire. The Battalion landed in France 18 July 1915.

The 19th (Western) Division

This Division was established by the Western Command in September 1914, as part of the Army Orders authorising Kitchener's Second New Army, K2. Early days were somewhat chaotic, the new volunteers having very few trained officers and NCOs to command them, no organised billets or equipment. The units of the Division initially concentrated in the Bulford area with the infantry being at Tidworth, Ludgershall and Grately. The battalions moved into billets for the winter, in Andover, Whitchurch, Basingstoke and Weston-super-Mare. In March 1915 all units concentrated near Tidworth.

The Division was inspected by King George V on 23 June 1915. Advanced parties left for France on 11 July and the main body crossed the English Channel 16-21 July. Units initially moved to the point of assembly near St Omer.

The Division served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, taking part in many of the significant actions:

The Action of Pietre, a supporting/diversionary action during the Battle of Loos

The Battle of Albert* in which the Division captured La Boisselle
The attacks on High Wood*
The Battle of Pozieres Ridge*
The Battle of the Ancre Heights*
The Battle of the Ancre*
The battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

The Battle of Messines
The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge*
The Battle of Polygon Wood*
The Battle of Broodseinde*
The Battle of Poelcapelle*
First Battle of Passchendaele*
The Second Battle of Passchendaele*
The battles marked * are phases of the Third Battles of Ypres

The Battle of St Quentin*
The Battle of Bapaume*
The battles marked * are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918

The Battle of Messines**
The Battle of Bailleul**
The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge**
The battles marked ** are phases of the Battles of the Lys 1918

The Battle of the Aisne
The Battle of the Selle***
The Battle of the Sambre*** and the passage of the Grand Honelle
The battles marked *** are phases of the Final Advance in Picardy

The Division advanced across Marlborough's old battlefield at Malplaquet on 8 November, after which it was withdrawn into XVII Corps Reserve. When the Armistice came into effect at 11am on 11 November 1918 the units of the Division were in billets near Bavay. By 26 November they had moved west to Naours. Demobilisation began in December 1918 and by 18/19 March 1919 the Division ceased to exist. Final cadres returned to England 21-27 June 1919.

In all the 19th (Western) Division had suffered the loss of 39381 killed, wounded and missing.

His Death

Francis (Frank) Browning was serving in the 8th Service Battalion. Gloucestershire Regiment, part of the 19th (Western) Division, one of the battle groups at The Battle of Pozieres, 23 July - 3 September 1916, which was part of the Battle of the Somne.

The Battle of Pozieres

Pozieres plateau 28 August 1916

View across the Pozières Plateau 28 August 1916

The Battle of Pozières was a two-week struggle for the French village of Pozières and the ridge on which it stands, during the middle stages of the 1916 Battle of the Somme. The fighting ended with the Allied forces in possession of the plateau north and east of the village, in a position to menace the German bastion of Thiepval from the rear.

The 19th (Western) Division were part of Rawlinson's Fourth Army for the attacks on Pozieres. Also taking part were three Australian divisions of I Anzac Corps recently returned from Galipoli.

At 12.30am on 23 July infantry of the 1st Australian Division dashed towards the village, screened by an intense hurricane bombardment. Assisted by British 1st Division on the right and the 48th Division on the left, the Australians quickly secured their first objectives. Subsequent consolidation of the village encountered violent German counter-attacks and continuous enemy shellfire. The 1st Division held on amidst intense fighting until relieved by the 2nd Australian Division on 27 July. Repeated efforts were then made to move up the ridge beyond the village towards the 'windmill' and the German second line positions on the crest, which, after a series of costly local assaults, was in Australian hands by 5 August.

Possession of the crest enabled the Allies to direct a series of bitterly contested attacks - often hastily improvised - in the direction of Mouquet Farm. These were countered by bombardments and violent German counter-attacks, resulting in brutal close fighting with bomb and bayonet. Mouquet Farm was occupied several times but not retained. Following the final Australian attacks on 4 September Canadian units replaced the Australian forces. Mouquet Farm did not fall until 26 September, following the seizure of Thiepval by the 18th Division.

Francis (Frank) Browning was Killed in action on 30 July 1916.

francis-frank-brownig-Thiepval MemorialHis Burial

Francis (Frank) Browning is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somne, France. There are references to him & his regiment on Pier and Face 5 A and 5 B.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.

The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932 (originally scheduled for 16 May but due to the death of French President Doumer the ceremony was postponed until August).