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Francis E Stacey

1892 – 1918

Francis Ebb Stacey was born in Pamber on 11th October 1892, the third child of Ebenezer and Mary Ann (nee Ward), after Sarah Lily and William James. By 1901 the family lived in a cottage in Brook Lane (now Byes Lane), Silchester, from where Ebenezer worked as a farm labourer. Francis was followed by another brother (Edward George) and three more sisters (Emily Mary, Florence May and Edith Frances), the last being born in July 1902. However, within months, their mother, Mary, contracted tubercular peritonitis and died on 2nd February 1903, leaving Ebenezer with seven children under the age of 14 to care for.

The 1911 census shows three of the children living with Ebenezer on Little London Road and two with Mary’s parents (James and Sarah Ward) near what is now McCartneys, at the end of Kings Road. Francis, however, was living at Shacklands, Shoreham, Kent, where he was working as a game keeper, whilst Lily (Sarah) was living and working as a housemaid in Henley.

In March 1913 Francis emigrated to Canada, sailing to St Johns, New Brunswick, where he became a farm hand in Mulvihill, Manitoba. However, after signing up to join the Royal Canadian Dragoons (the cavalry) in July 1915, he returned to Europe as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, to join the Allies. His service record shows he had German measles in 1916, as well as suffering very badly from varicose veins, judged to mean he could not march more than 2 miles. In 1917 he spent a month in hospital in Etaples, in France, having been shot in the knee at Masinieres, near Cambrai, returning to active service on 23rd December.

By the middle of March 1918, Francis and comrades were near Ennemain, to the west of Amiens, on the Sommes. On 21st, the Germans launched a major offensive – what became known as the Battle of St Quentin. The Dragoons were a key part of the response to that attack, plugging parts of the defensive line as it crumbled, acting as infantry and machine gunners, or through cavalry charges on the enemy. Over a few days, they lost well in excess of 300 men. On the 23rd March, Francis was reported Missing in Action, but had in fact been taken Prisoner of War. In May, he was in military hospital in Hautmont, possibly with gunshot wounds, and he is recorded as dying of heart failure there on 1st June 1918. He is buried in Hautmont Cemetery in northern France, along with 245 other Commonwealth soldiers.

 

In line with his wishes, his outstanding pay and decorations are recorded as having been sent to his youngest sister, Frances (Edith), aged just 16, back in Silchester.