201732 (previously 9856) Corporal Harry Thornton Fricker,
B Company, 1/5 Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry,
Killed in action, 13 July 1918, France
Buried at the La Targette Cemetery.
Harry Thornton Fricker was the second son of Alfred and Louisa Fricker, and the younger brother of William Fricker, who had been killed in July 1917, just slightly over a year before his younger brother’s death.
Harry’s family background is recounted in the post about his brother, William. The Fricker brothers are not recorded in the Admission Register for the Ham National School, and are likely therefore to have been pupils at the Russell British School, whose Admission Register may have been destroyed when the school was hit during an enemy bombing raid in 1943.
Prior to the war, Harry was a Journeyman employed by a local Malt Manufacturer and living in his mother’s household at Kibworth Cottage. By then he may well have met his future wife, Elizabeth Wiltshire, who was a housemaid, employed by Frances Hornby at Orford House—now known as St Michael’s Convent, but up for sale—on Ham Common. Harry and Elizabeth were married in the Whitchurch Registration District in the second quarter of 1912, probably in her natal parish of Overton, Hampshire, where their daughter, Lilian, was born on 31 March 1913.
Harry’s service record has not survived but we know that he received the two medals known familiarly as Mutt and Jeff, which suggests that he enlisted after 31 December 1915. His not receiving all three medals suggests that he would not have been at Gallipoli with his regiment.
Harry enlisted in London in the 5th (City of Glasgow) Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry, a Territorial battalion. In his last letter home, addressed to his sister, and dated 28 January 1917, the Frickers’ cousin, George Darnell, refers to Harry in these words: “I hear Thornton has joined up with the Canadian Infantry”. This remark refers, perhaps, to the Highland Light Infantry’s affiliation during the Great War, with the Highland Light Infantry of Canada. Like other ‘Scottish’ regiments, The Highland Light Infantry and its Canadian counterpart, included many men of English descent.
Harry was to meet his death at Vimy, a place of great significance to Canadians because of their heavy losses at Vimy Ridge in April 1917.
The War Diary of the 5th Battalion for the day on which Harry was killed records that his battalion was at Vimy, and involved in preparations ahead of the launching of a relatively new method of gas discharge, the “Gas Beam” attack. It is important to realise that chemical weapons were deployed by both sides during the Great War, despite its being a contravention of the 1899 Hague Declaration and the 1907 Hague Convention.
“A gas beam attack was delivered this morning at 0220, the Discharge Point being near our S.O.S. line at TOLEDO TRENCH, a similar attack was launched from the Discharge Point in the area of the 6th H.L.I. on our right. The gas cylinders 1050 in number were brought by an engine drawn train to a Railhead in front of the BLUE LINE, from there 10 parties of 20 each, provided by the Battalion in reserve, pushed them (5 trucks per party) to the Discharge Point. A Lewis gun was supplied by us to cover the noise of the discharge and of the trucks. The gas was discharged without incident. After the gas attack our guns shelled heavily, and the enemy retaliated on our line. Casualties: Killed 4, Wounded 1.
No 201732 Corp[oral] H. FRICKER and 9333 L[ance]/C[orporal] M. MACPHERSON both of B Co[mpan]y were killed in the BLUE LINE.”
The identification of where Thornton was killed, suggests it happened during the enemy’s “retaliation”. His grave is in the La Targette British Cemetery, at Neuville-St. Vaast, about four miles north of Arras.
Family Search, England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J3V9-87Q , Sarah Thornton, 28 June 1794; All Saints, Wakefield, York, England, FHL microfilm 98549, accessed 31/7/2015.
Public Profiler (GB Names), http://gbnames.publicprofiler.org/, accessed 1/8/2015.
The National Archives, WO 95/2898/2, War Diary of 5 Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, April 1918–May 1919. (This war diary has a map showing the positions of the various lines, including the Blue Line.)
Why was Harry’s middle name Thornton?
George Darnell referred to his cousin as Thornton so it would seem that this is what he was called, at least within his family. It seemed likely that Thornton was of some importance to the Darnell family.
Indeed it is very likely that Harry’s namesake is Henry Thornton, whom I believe to be his Yorkshire great grandfather, the father of the brothers’ grandmother, Sarah, who married James Chambers. Relatives of the Frickers and Darnells can follow the author’s line of research, and her thinking on this, on the blog Discover your Familyl History.
The recent release of the Register of Soldiers’ Effects added a further piece of information, when it emerged that Harry had left a widow, Elizabeth R O Fricker as well as a daughter, Lilian, born 30 March 1913. A search on Free BMD for the marriage between a Harry Fricker and an Elizabeth, generated no results. However, my next search, for a Henry Fricker marrying an Elizabeth did generate two results, one of which was for a Henry T Fricker in Whitchurch (Hampshire) in the second quarter of 1912. Viewing the page revealed that one of two brides on this page was Elizabeth R O Wiltshire.
The birth of their daughter, Lilian M H Fricker, was registered in the Whitchurch Registration District in the second quarter of 1913.
While Harry’s birth was registered as Harry Thornton Fricker, and his name appeared in this form in all the records previously viewed for him, this marriage registration provided slight reinforcement of the case for his being named after Henry Thornton.