Monday, March 25, 2019

MILITARY MONDAY ~ FRANK GILLESPIE–Killed in action in France during World War I–age 22

Memorial at Grangetown Baptist Church with Frank Gillespie listed among those from the congregation who died during World War I

Today I’m honoring my 2nd cousin twice removed, Private Frank Gillespie.  He is a member of my Gillespie family from England and Wales.  Frank & I share common ancestors, Thomas Gillespie & Susannah Barrowcliff of Tiverton, Devon, England, who are my 3rd great grandparents.

Frank Gillespie was the oldest of 9 children born to Robert Gillespie and Ellen Eliza Potter.  He was born in the 1st quarter (Jan-Mar) of 1894 in Canton, Glamorgan, Wales, United Kingdom.1 
I first find him living with his parents & 4 younger siblings in the 1901 census.2  His father works in a shipyard.  In the 1911 census he is living with his parents & 8 younger siblings.3  Frank is 17 and single, working as an “ordinary seaman.”  It seems he followed his father’s lead and went to work in and around ships.

I have not located any record that tells me when young Frank decided to join the service to fight in World War I.  I do have his enlistment place as Penarth.

I do know that during the 1st quarter (Jan-Mar) 1916 he married Agnes O’Callahan in Cardiff, Glamorgan, Wales, United Kingdom.  A daughter, Ellen was born 19 Mar 1916.

England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005
Name:    Frank Gillespie
Registration Date:    Jan-Feb-Mar 1916
Registration district:    Cardiff
Inferred County:    Glamorganshire
Spouse:    Agnes O'Callaghan
Volume Number:    11a
Page Number:    599

Here’s where the story takes a sad turn.  On 1 Jul 1916, Private Frank Gillespie, married father of a 3 month old daughter, was killed in a battle in France.  He was only 22 years old.  This must have been devastating news to his young wife and his parents and siblings.

I’ve located several records of Frank’s death, evidence that his wife’s name was Agnes and memorials to his sacrifice.

The Battle of Somme began on July 1, 1916 and ran until November 18, 1916.  It has been called the bloodiest battle of World War I.  It seems our Frank, was killed on the very first day.

Is this what it was like for Frank & his fellow soldiers?
This is a video filmed during the battle.

Here is a website honoring those who died at the Roll of Honor - Battle of Somme

(Please click on any image to enlarge it)

Private Gillespie died in the capture of Mametz and a part of the Danzig Alley and is memorialized on this website 1st Battalion Staffordshire Regiment Roll of Honor

Frank is memorialized at the Thiepval Memorial in Somme, France.

After his death, Frank’s information was entered is this registry showing any money owed to him and to whom his personal effects should go.  This record indicates that Widow Agnes is the recipient of Frank’s effects.  This record, along with the record of the birth of their daughter Ellen, and the marriage record, give me 3 pieces of evidence that Frank and Agnes were, indeed a couple.

Close up from the above page

Frank Gillespie died fighting in what was then called “The Great War.”  I believe his daughter grew to adulthood and married a man named Albert E. Smith in 1937 in Cardiff, Glamorgan, Wales.  I have located a record of her death in 2003 at the age of 87.  

England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007
Name:    Ellen Smith
Death Age:    87
Birth Date:    19 Mar 1916
Registration Date:    Mar 2003
Registration district:    Cardiff
Inferred County:    Glamorgan, Monmouthshire
Register Number:    D38B
District and Subdistrict:    890/1D

Records from 1937 forward are not easy to locate in the U.K.  I am very interested to know if Ellen had children.  It would be nice to know that Frank’s lineage was carried forward. 

I also wish I had a photograph of Frank.  Maybe one day I will connect with a descendant who has one.

R.I.P Private Gillespie - you were gone too soon.

Sources: 1England & Wales Birth Index; 21901 Wales Census Class: RG13; Piece: 4988; Folio: 146; Page: 39; 31911 Wales Census Class: RG14; Piece: 32162; Schedule Number: 301

If you are connected to this Gillespie family in any way, I’d love to hear from you.  Let’s exchange information.

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2019   Diane Gould Hall



  1. Great story Diane! You made the story so much more memorable with the video and the other documents and memorials.

    1. Thanks Debby. I hope that by writing about him, he is remembered for his bravery and sacrifice.

  2. On thursday 11th november 2021 I will be laying a cross in memory of Frank my great uncle at Grange Gardens war memorial

    1. Thank you for letting me know. That’s a perfect day to commemorate his sacrifice. Please tell him he is remembered by his cousins.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.