Serjeant T/1450, 2/4th Battalion,
The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment),
previously Private T/206311, 2/5th Battalion
SON of Charles and Rose Woodman, nee Gibbs, of
Bailey Road, Westcott, Surrey
BROTHER of Edith Lydia, Norah Evelyn, Clemence
Nellie and Kenneth Charles Woodman
HUSBAND of Jessie Woodman of Newmarket,
Killed in action 29th July 1918 aged 24
Buried Oulchy-Le-Chateau Churchyard Extension,
Also remembered on War Memorials in St Barnabas Church Ranmore Common, Holy Trinity Church
Westcott and Dorking High School (now
The Ashcombe School)
Frank was born in Marylebone on 29th August 1893 and baptised at St Mark’s, Marylebone Road. He was the son of Rose Gibbs and Charles Woodman. Frank went to Westcott village school and in 1906 won a scholarship to Dorking High School on whose War Memorial, sadly, his name later appears. According to his brother Kenneth, their mother was “most proud in particular because [Frank] obtained the highest marks in the county for religious knowledge.”
Frank was very interested in gardening. Kenneth later presented to the Westcott Local History Group the school notebook on plant pests and diseases that the young Frank had written and illustrated. Later, following his own interests and his father’s occupation, Frank became a gardener. “On leaving school, he entered the service of the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey [The Hon. Henry Cubitt] at Denbies“, wrote his brother Kenneth. In 1911 Frank was living in the Denbies gardeners’ bothy with three other unmarried gardeners. He was a bellringer at St Barnabas. In the 1915 Electoral Roll he is registered to “Denbies Gardens”, though this is out of date since from the outbreak of war he was with his regiment.
Probably Frank enlisted with the Territorials in the last week of January 1912, initially for four years. Kenneth said, “I believe in those days it was a condition of service that they [Denbies employees] had to join the Territorial Army.” When World War 1 broke out on 4th August 1914, Frank was a private in The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), the 5th Battalion: this would have been the 2/5th Battalion just formed at Guildford.
On 5th September 1914 in Dorking Register Office, Frank Woodman married Jessie Egan from Newmarket. Jessie may have been in service in the Dorking area, possibly in the laundry at Denbies. Frank’s parents Charles and Rose witnessed the marriage, and Jessie gave their address (Victoria Road, Westcott). Frank did not go abroad immediately since he was stationed at Windsor when he registered the birth of his and Jessie’s daughter in 1915.
Frank was later transferred to the 2/4th Battalion of The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) and at some stage he was promoted to Serjeant. According to Kenneth, he saw service in Egypt and was due for leave in June 1918 when his battalion was diverted to France to reinforce the troops on the French sector of the front on the River Marne. The Queen’s were engaged from 23rd July to 2nd August in the Battle of Soissonais-Ourcq when they mounted lengthy bombardments against the enemy lines. “Soissonais-Ourcq” was one of the battle honours awarded to the regiment after the war.
It was during one of these fierce onslaughts, on 31st July 1918, that Serjeant Frank killed. He is buried in the Oulchy-le-Chateau Churchyard Extension which holds the graves of 91 British soldiers.
The touching inscription on his gravestone reads:
IN LOVING MEMORY
OF MY DEAR HUSBAND.
IF LOVE COULD SAVE, THOU HADST NOT DIED.
Posthumously, Frank was awarded the Victory and British War medals. As well as on the Ranmore and Westcott War Memorials, he is commemorated on the War Memorial in Dorking High School (now The Ashcombe School): the tablet was carved by the woodwork master, Mr Ashby.
Embroidery of The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) badge, among Frank Woodman’s effects, possibly sent home by him from the Middle East (shown here by kind permission of his grandchildren)
Many of the sources mentioned are available online via Ancestry, Find My Past and Free BMD.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)
Soldiers Died in the Great War (SDGW)
Birth, marriage and death registers and certificates, General Register Office (GRO)
Baptism and marriage registers, St Mark’s Marylebone Road, London, London Metropolitan Archives (LMA); Holy Trinity Westcott, Surrey History Centre (SHC)
Recollections of the late Kenneth Woodman (Frank’s brother)
Westcott Parish Magazine, especially Terry Wooden
Westcott Local History Group, especially Peter Bennett
Censuses 1841-1911, The National Archives (TNA).
The Regimental Diary of the 2nd/4th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Association and SHC
UK, Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929, National Army Museum (NAM)
British Army WW1 Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920 and Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 (TNA)