Frank Miles Wilmshurst
Died : 24th September 1917
Ringmer Post Office Stores was run by William John and Amy Jane Wilmshurst from the late 1890s until the Second World War. Their only child was a son, Frank Miles who was born on 26th March 1897 and baptised in Ringmer Church on 30th May the same year. He went to the village school for just twelve months from 17th March 1902 and then left for a private school. His secondary education was at Lewes [Old] Grammar School and he progressed to become a keen athlete and footballer. At 6’3” he was a prominent member of Ringmer Cricket Club and is so honoured on their Memorials in the Church and in the cricket pavilion.
Frank worked for his father as a letter carrier and a roundsman in the grocery business. It was because of this employment, which William Wilmshurst considered so vital, that an appeal for exemption from military service was lodged. The appeal failed and Frank, who was already attested and on the reserve, was to join the Royal Sussex Regiment at the end of March 1916. After a mere eight weeks training he was sent to France to join the 1/5th (Cinque Ports) Territorial Battalion. He served in the Machine Gun Section.
Ever since 20th August 1915 the 1/5th had been a pioneer battalion with the 48th Division. That is not to say they had a ‘cushy job’ to use the parlance of the day. The Battalion had been decimated in the vicious fighting at Aubers Ridge and on other occasions earlier that year. Their job often took them to the front line and casualties continued to mount up. On 10th August 1917 Frank was reported to be in hospital in France, together with two other Ringmer lads, suffering from the effects of gas poisoning. He soon recovered and was discharged from hospital to resume his former duties. By early September the Battalion was engaged on road making and helping to construct light railways.
It seems Private Wilmshurst was in either ‘C’ or ‘D’ Company. They were both assigned the task of making additional accommodation to the camp some 500 yards north-west of the Belgian village of Vlamertinghe. On 22nd September 1917 that site was subjected to continual aerial bombing and a number of casualties were incurred. Among these was Frank Wilmshurst who suffered very serious abdominal wounds. He was taken by ambulance to No.4 Casualty Clearing Station (C.C.S.) at Westvleteren, some five miles distant by road. Speciality abdominal units were being set up in C.C.S. where sufferers were congregated to be made as comfortable as possible. This arrangement also kept them out of sight of those with less serious wounds. They were rarely sent back to the large base hospitals at the coast because not many were expected to live. Whereas x-rays were by now in use to detect shrapnel and bullets in the body, there was little that could be done where massive injury had been sustained by the internal organs. The technique of blood transfusion was in its infancy and antibiotics were yet to be discovered. Strong as he was, Frank had no real chance and he slowly succumbed to his wounds, dying at 4.40pm on 24th September 1917 at the age of twenty.
He was buried in the adjacent Dozinghem Military Cemetery together with over 3,000 others. The majority of them also died of their wounds in the nearby Casualty Clearing Stations. Frank Miles Wilmshurst was entitled to the British War & Victory Medals and I am sure they were treasured by his grieving parents. The stone tablet in the Church that marks the patriotism of the members of the Cricket Club and especially those three who fell was given by his father. It is also believed that the Oak Memorial in the Church which lists the casualties from the Great War was donated by the Wilmshurst family. This was originally mounted in the South Chapel.
Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993