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Saturday 13th April 2024  

Quorn WW1 Roll of Honour - Joseph Frank Brookes Birkin

Died 25th September 1915, aged 22
Ypres, Belgium

Life before the war

Frank (as he was known), was the eldest son of Joseph and Sarah Birkin. The family originally came from Loughborough, but moved to 12 Freehold Street in Quorn, in 1900 or 1901 when Frank was 7 years old.

When he left school he went to work for Hinds Electrical Engineers in Loughborough, working a shaping machine, and he also used to help out in the family shop and off licence on Freehold Street.

Joining up
In March 1911, well before the war started, Frank, who had been one of the first to join the Church Lads Brigade, decided to join the Army, and went off to Mountsorrel where they were recruiting. He enlisted with the Territorials (5th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment, which was the Loughborough Battalion). He did well in the Army and was promoted to the rank of Corporal in June 1914 and Sergeant in June 1915.

Killed in action
Frank lost his life on the outskirts of Sanctuary Wood in Belgium, very early in the morning on 25th September 1915. There had been a bombardment, and he was killed after he saw a man he knew had fallen, and he went back for him. The two were not seen alive again.

Frank’s ‘Princess’, his twelve year old sister, Gladys, heard of his death in the most awful of circumstances. It has been passed down the family that she was in the fish and chip shop in Quorn, when she overheard the newsagent from Mountsorrel saying that her brother had been killed.

After Frank died, his effects were passed over to his father, as his next of kin. This was a procedure carried out every time a soldier died, but it is still hard to read about these remains of a life. Frank’s possessions consisted of a notebook, eraser, pipe, disc, belt, postcards, photographs, letters and a lucky horseshoe charm. His father acknowledged receipt as was expected of him.

Frank's name was recorded on the Menin Gate in Ypres, as he had no identified grave. This seems a little strange as his possessions were returned, but the chaos of war led to much confusion. In 2019 Frank's body was identified by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in a grave in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, under a stone previously marked as a soldier 'Known unto God'. A rededication of a named gravestone was planned for 2020, but delayed due to the Covid pandemic. This later took place on 22nd March 2022.

See also Artefact 2387

1) Frank Birkin
2) This card was issued by the ‘Workers Union’ in memory of Frank.
3) 12 Freehold Street (with the ‘For Sale’ sign), where the Birkin family lived. This photograph was taken in the 1990s, just before it was converted from a shop into a house.

 Submitted on: 2020-01-13
 Submitted by: Sue Templeman with thanks to Peter Clarke, Jennifer Warren, Mike Speight and Rosemary Lissaman
 Artefact ID: 2335
 Artefact URL: www.quornmuseum.com/display.php?id=2335

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