Sgt. Frank Jarrett

Frank's story has to be the one that means the most to me. The day started as a grim, dark, damp morning on a Canadian World War One training camp. I started by digging where dog-tags had been found previously by others, in the hope of finding one for myself. Of course it's pure luck, just digging without knowing what lays buried in front of you. I dug and dug, pottery and broken glass galore, yet no metal items whatsoever. After an hour or so I had to submit and relocate, as I had reached an area that was undiggable. I moved to a large bank of earth which was clearly not a natural feature of the landscape. I started digging into it and soon got a few buttons, both General Service and Canadian Army; a positive sign. In my spoil, one of the other diggers noticed I had thrown out a dog-tag! A quick wipe revealed it to be in remarkable condition and straight away we could make out '2 P B CEF'. This stands for the 2nd Pioneer Battalion (2 P B) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).

After a long days digging and a few other tatty, almost illegible dog-tags found (and other items) we returned home where the research began. I photographed the dog-tag and it was sent to Jay, one of the other diggers, and we both started researching Frank right away. Instantly his records on the Canadian website sprang up in front of our eyes.

Unbelievably, this shows Frank Jarrett as coming from a small village located a few miles from where I lived. As he was a Canadian, we expected him to be from Canada, certainly not a tiny village in England. His next of kin is listed as being in Toronto, Canada, so it was evident he moved from Deddington to Canada once he was married. His wife was listed as his next of kin. He had a bit of previous military experience, he spent 3 months in the 7th Canadian Mounted Rifles as a Corporal in a machine gun section. After that he transferred 24th Canadian Regiment and served as a Sergeant for a year. He signed his attestation papers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force on the 28th September 1915. Shortly after this he would have been given his medical examinations, kitted out, and shipped to England.

On the reverse of the form it gives a detailed description of Frank. Typically as a Sergeant he wasn't one of the young boys, but was now almost 31. He had a dark complexion with blue eyes and dark brown hair. On his left arm he bares the tattoo of an Indian girl. However detailed this form is, nothing can quite compare to a photograph. Would I be able to put a face to the name?

            Interestingly his profession is stated as butcher. Today, anyone can go and train in just about any profession. However going back 100 years, things were a little different. Being a butcher was usually something you were born into or trained from a young age. So my next line of research would be into where was he a butcher. A few quick Google searches reveals that he indeed was a butcher in Deddington. Additionally I found him mentioned on one of the Canadian ancestry websites.

It showed a photo of Frank standing in his butchers attire, complete with knife sharpener, taken in a studio in Swindon. It seems odd that he would have gone so far just for a studio photograph. Sadly the photograph is undated. He may have moved from Deddington to Swindon, or thereabouts, before moving to Canada. He may just have been visiting someone and that would explain why he was in Swindon. He may have somehow known the photographer. Who knows; there are so many possibilities that this is currently still a mystery.


            With some pre-war history obtained and a little wartime knowledge gained, the next questions to be answered were... What happened to Frank? Did he survive the war? Was he killed in action, or did he live to a ripe old age? Did he ever return to Deddington?


            So returned to Google with a different type of search. It's morbid, but it's far easier to find people who were killed, than survived. So the search begins with Frank's name and KIA, Missing, etc. He soon shows up as buried in Cowley SS Mary and John Churchyard in Oxford. At this point my jaw dropped! I lived about 20 houses up, on the same road for about 8 years of my life! I had no idea that there were even commonwealth war graves there. It was always a very unkempt cemetery; trees and shrubs grew wild, rubbish was strewn and many unsavoury characters would loiter.

            Upon visiting recently to see Frank's grave and pay some respect to this man to whom I feel some sort of weird attachment, I discovered the churchyard is now being maintained and cleaned. However I fear damage had already been done. It looks very beaten, many old stones stick out at obscure angles and it has a very harsh appearance. Frank's grave was easy enough to find and to my delight many squirrels keep him company. His grave is a fairly clean one. We have seen some in the past that are filthy. As much as the WGC try and keep all the graves clean, some seem to get overlooked, including some important Victoria Cross winners that myself and friends have gone and cleaned carefully ourselves. Hot water, a soft brush, some time and care can work wonders on the gravestone of someone who served for King and country and died going above and beyond. We checked the door to the church hoping that there maybe a plaque, or memorial or something inside that bore Frank's name also. Sadly the door was locked. I will return soon enough and pay my respect to Frank and hopefully the door will be open.

            There is another aspect to Frank's story that has taken on a life of its own. In November 2015 I contacted a local historian, Rob Forsyth, who studies and writes his own website based on Deddington. I asked him about Frank, and if he knew anything about him being the local butcher.

Rob replied and was very interested. A few emails were exchanged and now regular contact is made between us. Lots of history about Frank has come to light because of Rob's help. He has sent me a copy of Frank's family tree and copies of a census confirming Frank's profession as a butcher. Rob is in the process of writing a report, if that's the correct term, on Frank Jarrett; his history in WW1 and his time spent in Deddington. More importantly he is missing from the Deddington war memorial, so we are currently trying to get his name added to the war memorial. He came from Deddington and we feel that he has been overlooked and should be included.        I have no idea how this will play out, I really hope he can be added, but I think this is dependent on funding and the usual red tape that events like this can throw up.


            I then discovered that the 2nd Canadian Pioneers war diaries are online. In the hope that he may have been mentioned I read the entire thing. Sadly he doesn't even get a vague comment like one man dying, or the loss of one soldier. Nothing... he got missed out again! I began to wonder how unlucky he is.


            A broad overview can be seen from all the historical information that Rob has gathered which I have added to with new information relevant from my perspective.

* 1885 21st January - Frank was born, the youngest of 4 children. His mother and father were William and Sophie (nee Hirons) Jarrett and they were Presbyterian so Frank was not Christened. Rob checked and there is no record of him ever having been Christened.

 * 1891 Census - The family is listed as living on Philcock Street, Deddington with relatives living on Grove Lane. At this time Frank was only 6, Arthur his brother is 10, Alice and Clara  his sisters are 14 and 15. Clara is listed as being an apprentice to a dressmaker.

 * 1901 Census - He is listed as being a boarder aged 17 living with a family called 'Neighbour' on Cowley Road! His profession is listed as butcher and his name is misspelt as 'Jarratt'.

 * 1909 last quarter - Married to Ada Florence Irons at Headington, Oxford.

 * 1913 May 3rd -  Emigrated to Canada, left on the SS Arabic, sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

* Joined the militia, first serving with the 7th Canadian Mounted rifles for three months, in which time he was promoted to Corporal. He was serving in a machine gun section.

 * Transferred to the 24th Canadian Regiment and served for a year, during which he made Sergeant.

 * 1915 September 28th - He the joined the CEF and was assigned to the 2nd Canadian Pioneers.

 * Trained in Quebec Canada.

 * The 2nd Canadian Pioneers left Canada for England.

 * 1915 November 17th 11:00am - Stopping in Ottawa to be inspected by HRH Duke of Connaught.

 * 1915 December 11th - Arrived in England and settled into Hazelly Down Camp.

 * Here it seems a monotonous training regime takes place. The daily activities mirror the weeks before.

 * 1916 March 5th - Frank dies of pneumonia in a hospital in Oxfordshire aged 31. He is buried at SS Mary and John, Cowley. I have two documents relating to the number of war graves in this churchyard. One lists seven graves and the other 10. Frank is listed on both.

 * 1922 June 5th - Ada applied for a marriage licence in Canada to a George Richard Greenham, so it's possible that she remarried.

  * 2014 - Frank's War medal and death penny are sold at auction.

* 2015 Spring - I Started researching Frank. Having discovered that his medal and death plaque were sold at auction, I contacted the auctioneers and asked them if they could contact the buyer. They said if I wrote a letter that they would forward it on to the buyer, which I did, but sadly have had no reply.

 * 2015 November - I contacted Rob Forsyth after learning he complies a website all about Deddington. I asked for any information he may have about Frank. From that email most of this information has come to light, almost all researched by Rob. I can't think him enough! However, I feel that Frank's story is not completed until we get his name added to the war memorial in Deddington.


* 2015 December - I met Rob Forsyth for the first time. We spoke about lots of different aspects of Frank's story and what the outstanding questions are what we need to address. There is room on the war memorial plaque in Deddington Church for Frank to be added. Rob told me of someone who is able to engrave the name on, but this won't happen until late 2016. We are hoping to include him in the Remembrance Day reading, which I will certainly be attending.

* 2016 January - Frank's story gets some press attention and features in the Banbury Gazette.

* 2016 February - Oxford TV hear about the story and were keen to me us. Rob and I gave an interview that was filmed at Deddington Church. However, I never actually got to see this.

* 2016 September - A mistake was discovered on the current war memorial by a Boer war researcher in South Africa. He managed to track down Rob and highlighted this error. As Frank was missing and this other name being wrong, it was decided that a completely new war memorial should be commissioned. As such, this means that Frank will now be in alphabetical order and not look like a post script. We also had further confirmation that a member of his family will be present for the unveiling and his name will be read aloud as part of the service.