RFA West Lancs Bdes
680034 Sgt Frank Bramley MM, R.F.A.
Frank Bramley was born in the third quarter of 1890 in Doncaster, West Yorkshire. His father was Alfred Bramley (b. 1872 in Doncaster), a coach body maker. His mother was Margaret Lyons (b. 1871 in Doncaster). Alfred and Margaret were married in 1890 and they had 11 children, of whom 8 survived. Frank was the eldest, his siblings were: John (b. 1892), Helen (b. 1894), Ethel (b. 1895), Harry (b. 1897), Ralph (b. 1899), Gertrude (b. 1903) and Margaret (b. 1907). The Bramleys moved from Doncaster to Manchester in about 1895 and on to Preston in 1900. In 1911, the family was living at 193 De Lacy Street, Ashton, Preston. Frank and Harry were both apprentice coach body makers and Harry was an apprentice farrier, while Ralph was still at school. All four boys would serve in the Army during the War and two would be killed. Also living in the same house in 1911 was Mary Kay (b. 1887 in Preston), and Frank and Mary married later that year and the following year they had a son whom they named Alfred. When they married they moved round the corner to Inkerman Street.
Frank had served in the Territorials before the War and most of the men who enlisted at the same time as Frank joined “A” Battery of 276 Brigade and landed in France in September 1915. However, Frank did not land at that time and given his previous experience in the Territorials he may have remained in England in a training capacity as he was promoted to Sergeant. In 1917, he was assigned service number 680034. He may have landed in France with 286 Bde in February 1917 but at some point he was attached to “A” Battery of 70th Brigade. 70Bde formed part of the divisional artillery of 15th (Scottish) Division. Both 15th Division and 57th Division (home of A/286Bde) were engaged in the final advance in Artois in 1918 and it’s likely that Frank was awarded his medal for bravery during this advance.
After the War, Frank returned to Preston and in 1923, he and Mary had a daughter whom they named Mary. I haven’t been able to trace any further records for Frank and Mary Bramley.
Frank’s 3 brothers – John, Harry and Ralph – all served in the Army. John and Ralph both lost their lives.
John was born in 1892. He joined the Artillery at the outbreak of War in 1914 and was assigned service number 72684 and posted to 71st Battery of 36th Brigade. 36Bde came under orders of 2nd Division and John landed in France with the Division on 16 August 1914. John fought with 2nd Division throughout the War. In early 1917, he was able to obtain leave to come home where he married Harriett Eastham (b. 1891 in Preston). He returned to join his Division and was engaged in the German Spring Offensive then in the early days of the final 100 Days’ Offensive. He was killed on 29 August 1918, during fighting to capture the town of Bapaume. He was 26 years old and had served four full years in the Army in France. He is buried at Railway Cutting Cemetery near the village of Courcelles-Le-Comte.
Harry Bramley was born on 14 August 1896 in Newton Heath and baptised at Newton Heath All Saints on 13 September that year. He enlisted in 1915 and was later assigned service number 680263. The Preston men who enlisted at the same time as Harry were posted to “A” Battery of 276 Brigade and went to France in September 1915 but, possibly because of his age (he was only just 19), Harry was kept at home (like older brother Frank) and later joined 286 Brigade. On 27 December 1915, Harry married Annie Daniel (b. 1894 in Preston) and in May the following year they had a son, Harry.
Harry was a Wheeler/Driver in the Artillery and he served with 286 Brigade in France and Flanders from 1917 to the end of the War. He came back to Preston where he returned to work as a vehicle body maker. He and Annie had 3 more children. Harry died in Cockermouth in 1963.
Ralph Bramley was born in the first quarter of 1899 in Moston, Manchester, just before the family moved to Preston. He turned 18 at the beginning of 1917 and when he joined up he was posted to 2/5th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment and assigned service number 242206. Men who volunteered early in the War were allowed to choose which regiment they would serve in, but later draftees were allocated where the need arose. Ralph may have been sent to the East Lancs Reg because he was born in Manchester. 2/5Bn came under orders of 198th Brigade in 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division. They landed in France on 2 March 1917. By the end of that month they were in the trenches at Givenchy-Lès-La-Bassée, and they remained here, in and out of the trenches and suffering light casualties, until the end of June, when they moved to the Belgian coast to take part in Operation Hush, the defence of the coastal area in advance of the planned push around Ypres later in the year. They spent the summer in and out of trenches and in training, until early October when they were sent to the front east of Ypres. On 9/10 October, they saw their heaviest fighting so far, and suffered their heaviest casualties, as they fought at Passchendaele to consolidate the gains made by other formations. On those two days, the battalion had 60 men killed and 300 wounded. In November, once the battalion had been brought back up to strength, they were sent back to the trenches near Broodseinde, where they suffered heavy shelling and gas attacks. Ralph was killed on 27 November 1917; he was still only 18 years old. That day, 10 men from 2/4 and 2/5 Battalions were killed but only two bodies were recovered for burial. Ralph, along with 8 of his mates, has no grave and they are remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial.