It tells of a man who fought for his country in the First World War and won the Military Cross. He was 25 when on October 31, 1918, he was serving in the South Staffordshire Regiment in Belgium and leading a platoon advance. He was shot in the head by enemy machine gun fire.Tragically, Francis was due to take leave and come home immediately after the battle but he never made it.
He died before he found out that he had won the Military Cross for his actions at Zillebeke Lake days earlier, between September 28 and October 2. He led his men during an attack even though he had just been gassed.
Lt Col Blake successfully completed the mission and then rushed forward to an enemy trench where he took a machine gun and captured an enemy sergeant major and 40 soldiers. A letter home to his father, after his death, was sent from his commanding officer. It said: “He was one of the most splendid men I had in the company and his men simply adored him.”
Francis’s story has never been told until now and that’s largely down to Anne’s painstaking research. As a member of the Jarrow and Hebburn Local History Society,” she said, “I was writing and researching articles about the First World War for our annual exhibition, which was extra special in 2018 as it was 100 year commemoration of the end of the war, and in particular I was researching my maternal great uncles who didn’t survive the war.” Anne’s studies showed that the very house Francis lived in was the one she lives in now.
To this day, it ‘brings a lump to my throat’ said Anne who added: “I am absolutely astounded that he lived here. In history, we know lots of people died in the First World War including two from this street, but Francis won the Military Cross. Before the war he was a baker, typist and shorthand writer then he went to war and never came back.
Anne said: “I approached the Society, put things to the vote and it was unanimously voted that the Jarrow and Hebburn History Society would fund the plaque.
"We as a society were very proud to commission the plaque and myself and my husband Jim are proud to display this on our home.”
She thanked the history society, Colin Lucas for his help in erecting the plaque and The Central Jarrow detached youth project which helped to restore the family grave at Jarrow cemetery. ‘Although Francis isn’t buried there, he is mentioned on the gravestone’, said Anne.