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2nd Lieutenant Frank Henry Bethell

Menin Gate Memorial Panel 42

3rd Battalion Connaught Rangers attached 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, 7th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Division

Age 19

KIA 25.9.15

Eldest son of Sir John Bethell, 1st Baron Bethell, and Lady Florence Bethell, Bushy House, Bushey, Hertfordshire. He was Liberal MP for Romford, Essex from 1906 to 1918 and then East Ham North from 1918 to 1922. He was made Lord Bethell in 1922. His work as an MP saw the construction of council houses in his constituency. He was also responsible for securing employment for returning ex-service men. He was Honorary Colonel of the Motor Transport Corps.


Early Life

Frank was born on 18 May 1896 and was educated at Harrow School entering the school in 1910. He was Captain of the Small Houses football team. He then entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1913 He enlisted in the Connaught Rangers on 20 September 1914 and joined the 1st Battalion in early 1915 in France. He was admitted to Wimereux Base Hospital in May 1915 diagnosed with influenza and German measles and was transferred to a hospital in England. Recovering from this illness and subsequent dentistry work he was posted to the reserve battalion. On 23 September he returned to France and was attached to the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.


His Death

On the 23 September, the War Diary of the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles records Frank joining the Battalion along with another officer Captain Perry-Ayscough.

War Diary entry recording Frank joining the Battalion

The Battalion was in bivouacs at Kruisstraat. On 24 September orders were issued for an attack by the Battalion at Bellewaarde Ridge with the objective of taking the German trenches at Bellewaarde Lake on 25 September. The Battalion moved up to the line and were in place by 11.30pm on the evening of 24 September. The attack was to take place on 25 September. The signal for the assault was the explosion of four mines at 4.19am with the infantry attacking at 4.20am, the German front and support lines having been subjected to an artillery barrage from 3.50am.

Linesman Map showing the trench positions at Bellewaarde Ridge

‘B’ Company was to attack on the left with ‘D’ Company on the right. ‘B’ Company took the German first and second lines with little opposition however, no bombers reached the objective to support and a German bomb attack then forced the British from this position back into the German first line with an officer and a dozen men holding on. ‘D’ Company had been held up by enemy wire and machine gun fire and the attacking troops took cover in shell holes close to the German front line. ‘C’ Company was sent up to reinforce ‘B’ Company however, they were held up by heavy German rifle and machine gun fire and failed to reach to survivors of ‘B’ Company. ‘A’ Company then moved up and occupied the Battalions front line. At 6am the men in the German front line trench could still be seen fighting however, after that time nothing else was seen of them despite parties volunteering to go forward to find out what had happened to them. None of the signallers who had in with the attack had succeeded in getting messages back to HQ. By dark, those men who had survived the attack came back to the British front line. Battalion casualties were 15 Officers and 350 Other Ranks. Frank was listed as wounded and missing along with Captain Perry-Ayscough.

War Diary recording Frank as wounded and missing

The Lieutenant-Colonel G. A Weir, commanding the Royal Irish Rifles wrote to Frank’s father that due to an oversight the trench attacked by Frank’s Company had not been shelled and the men led by him had been annihilated. Somewhat at odds with the fact that Frank had been with the party that had penetrated to the German second line and been forced back. He was last seen fighting in the German first line. In a statement from CSM Field, Royal Irish Rifles, he stated that neither officer were badly wounded and that they must have been taken prisoner. Based on this, Frank’s parents clung to the hope that he had been taken prisoner of war. In a later statement by Frank’s orderly, who was with him in the trench fight and had himself been taken prisoner, stated that Frank had been killed by a grenade. Initially, his father refused to accept this however, he came to accept that Frank was dead.

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