Francis William (Frank) SLAPE

SLAPE, Francis William

Service Number: 3479
Enlisted: 27 July 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 50th Infantry Battalion
Born: Burnside, South Australia, June 1898
Home Town: Mount Gambier, Mount Gambier, South Australia
Schooling: Burnside and Rose Park Public Schools, South Australia
Occupation: Surveyor's assistant
Died: BW to right thigh, 20th Casualty Clearing Station, Vignacourt France, 23 May 1918
Cemetery: Vignacourt British Cemetery
Plot 2, Row C, Grave 8, Vignacourt British Cemetery, Vignacourt, Picardie, France
Memorials: Burnside District Fallen Soldiers' Memorial - Rose Park, Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Burnside & District - Fallen Soldiers Memorial Trees - Rose Park, Burnside Primary School Memorial Gates, Burnside Public School Roll of Honour, Hazelwood Park (Knightsbridge) War Memorial, Tusmore Burnside District Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

27 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 3479, Keswick, South Australia
27 Oct 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3479, 10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
27 Oct 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 3479, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Benalla, Adelaide
26 Feb 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 50th Infantry Battalion
14 Aug 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 50th Infantry Battalion
26 Sep 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Corporal, 3479, 50th Infantry Battalion, Polygon Wood, Shell wound (elbow)
22 May 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Corporal, 3479, 50th Infantry Battalion, Merris (France), 2nd occasion - bomb wound (right thigh and leg)
23 May 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, 3479, 50th Infantry Battalion

Help us honour Francis William Slape's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Ian Ross

Died from air attack, receiving bullet wounds to the right thigh and leg on the day before he died.

Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Cpl 3479 Francis William (Frank) Slape
50th Australian Infantry Battalion, 13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division
Under the sun of the Somme, stand in silence, through the poppies, the white graves of young men, of a whole generation of men who, young and brave, for their country and for France, in the trenches and battlefields, did their duty with honor and coolness and side by side, in the mateship which always unites them, fought and gave their lives on the soils of a country which will be forever grateful to them and which will never forget the courage and the sacrifices they paid so that we may live in peace and freedom in which we honor their memory.Forever young, they rest in peace in silence and in our hearts, in our thoughts and the stones of their graves, eternal, will live forever.

Today, it is with respect and the greatest gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who did his duty and gave his today, his life,his everything for us,for our tomorrow.I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Corporal number 3479 Francis William (Frank) Slape who fought in the 50th Australian Infantry Battalion, 13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 103 years ago, on May 23, 1918 at the age of 29 on the Somme front.

Francis William (Frank) Slape was born in June 1898 in Burnside, South Australia, and was the son of Thomas and Alice Slape, of Burnside Road, Burnside, South Australia. Francis was educated at Burnside and Rose Park Public School and after his studies, lived in Wehl Street, Mount Gambier, South Australia, and worked as a labourer and then as a surveyor's assistant.

Francis enlisted on July 27, 1915 at Keswick, South Australia, in the 10th Australian Infantry Battalion, 11th reinforcement and embarked with his unit from Adelaide, South Australia, on board HMAT A24 Benalla on October 27, 1915 and sailed for Zeitoun, Egypt, where he was disembarked on February 29, 1916 then transferred and taken on strength in the 50th Australian Infantry Battalion at Tel-El-Kebir the same day then after a period of training, embarked four months later with his battalion from Alexandria, Egypt, on board Arcadian on June 5, 1916 and proceeded overseas for France and was disembarked in Marseilles on June 12, 1916.

After arriving in France on June 12, 1916,Francis and the 50th Australian Infantry Battalion was part of the concentration of the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions in the Somme sector and shortly thereafter, the Divisions were committed in succession to the attacks around the village of Pozieres.The 4th Division was assigned the capture of the ground around the Windmill Feature north east of the village of Pozieres on the 4th August.The 13th Brigade was in Reserve for this part of the operation.

The 50th Australian Infantry Battalion was therefore not committed to its first major battle, at Mouquet Farm, until the second phase of the fighting between 13 and 15 August.Like all of the troops engaged, the 50th Battalion suffered heavy casualties.

Following the capture of Pozières and the German lines at The Windmill east of the village in late July and early August 1916, the three Australian divisions of the 1st Anzac Corps attacked northwards along the Pozières Heights towards the site known as Mouquet Farm.

Between August 8 and September 3, 1916, the Australians launched nine separate attacks to capture the heavily defended German position which lay half way between Pozières and Thiepval, with the aim of driving a wedge behind the salient held by the Germans.

Although the Australians managed to occupy the farm several times, they were forced back each time due to fierce German counterattacks. The site was still in enemy hands by the time the 1st Anzac Corps was withdrawn from the Somme on September 5.
The 1st, 2nd, and 4th Australian Divisions suffered around 11,000 casualties in the fighting. After moving past the stronghold in a broader offensive, the British and the Canadians managed to capture the now isolated outpost three weeks later.
For his courage in Pozieres and Mouquet Farm, Francis was promoted to the rank of Temporary Corporal on August 14, 1916 then to the rank of Corporal on October 14.

Seven months later, in March 1917, Francis and the 50th Australian were sent to Buire (Hauts-De-France) for a period of rest and physical training then on March 20, returned to the Somme sector, more precisely in Mametz for a new period of physical training which prepared them for the attack on Noreuil on April 2, 1917 but on March 22, 1917, Francis fell ill and was sent to Rouen to be evacuated to England on board Abordonian on April 16 and admitted at Hurdcott Hospital on April 19 suffering from trench fever.
After recovering, Francis joined the 50th Australian Infantry Battalion near Ypres and fought bravely in the Third Battle of Ypres at Ploegsteert Wood and then at Kemmel and a month later, on September 26, 1917, was wounded in the elbow by a shell at Westhoek Ridge and was evacuated to the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance the next day,on September 27th and then to the 3rd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station.

From Belgium, Francis was evacuated to Boulogne on October 10, 1917 then transferred to the Base Depot in Ecault (Pas-De-Calais) on October 15 and on November 26, he joined the 50th Australian Infantry Battalion in the Somme at Meneslies to follow a new period of physical training then in December, marched through Peronne, Etricourt, Templeux-La-Fosse and fought in Moislains, Dernancourt, Corbie then supported the Australian offensive of Villers-Bretonneux of April 25, 1918 under very difficult conditions.

Unfortunately, it was a month later, on May 23, 1918, that Francis met his fate. On May 22, 1918, while he was near Querrieu, Somme, an air raid took place and several German planes dropped bombs and fired on the troops on the ground, Francis was one of the men who was hit and was seriously wounded in the right leg and thigh and was evacuated to the 5th Australian Field Ambulance then to the 20th Casualty Clearing Station at Vignacourt, Somme,suffering from a fracture of the femur in addition to his injuries but despite the greatest care, he died the next day, on May 23, 1918, he was 29 years old.

Today, Corporal Francis William Slape rests in peace with his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Vignacourt British Cemetery, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription "In loving memory of Frank the dearly loved and only son of Mr. and Mrs. Slape ".

Francis, you who, here in the Somme fought alongside your comrades with bravery, determination and loyalty and who, in the fields of poppies fell paying the greatest of sacrifices and gave your life for peace and freedom in which we live today thanks to you, I would like with all my heart and with gratitude, the gratitude of my country, say thank you for all you did and gave for us over a hundred years ago, on the battlefields on which poppies grow.Young and determined to do what was right, under the sword of democracy they gathered and answered the call of duty under the banner of humanity to fight in the name of peace and justice, all made a united step forward to proudly wear the uniform and leave their homes, their loved ones to put an end to all the wars and do their part for their country alongside their friends and comrades who embarked on the boats that bring them for France.Confident and full of will they were disembarked and walked singing on the paths and fields of northern France crossing fields and hills and were welcomed into the villages of France by the children, women and men who after so much suffering and sorrow saw on the faces and the smiles of these young men a new hope, a new reason to hold their heads high.animated by the greatest convictions and by their valiant hearts, they headed for the battlefields of the Somme where they would soon experience their baptism of fire, alongside their brothers, their fathers, under the weight of their bags and their rifles, they marched towards the trenches with pride and enthusiasm but were quickly greeted by machine gun fire and shells that fell on them with a crash in a smell of gunpowder.First moments of a war that would last four years, they lost their innocence and saw the first dead, the first of their comrades who fell before their helpless eyes under the violence of assaults as courageous as they were murderous and which ended in baths of blood under the relentless fire of the machine guns which mowed down a whole generation of men who fell in the mud, in the barbed wire and the shell holes.They fought on soils devastated by fire and the bites of millions of shells that turned peaceful and silent soils into muddy swamps, fields of death into which men and animals fell and drowned. These young men endured for hours, days, artillery bombardments under which everything was destroyed and surviving it was a matter of luck but in the Somme as on the Belgian battlefields, not a single meter of land escaped these shells which poured down the death and destruction, a death that was everywhere, falling from the sky in rains of shrapnel and air attacks, crawling across the floors in slicks of deadly gas that burned the lungs of the men who were to come out of the trenches and were killed by the machine the savagery of the war these young men had to face increasingly lethal weapons like flamethrowers and soon the first tanks arrived, heavy and slow, they crushed the trenches and the men under the caterpillars.The war was for these heroes a cauldron of hell in which they lost their youth but also their friends, their brothers in arms but they never lost their courage, their determination was never broken and their conviction was never shaken by what they went through in this war which tried to rob them of their humanity but in the trenches they gathered together, united in the most beautiful of comradeship which gave them the strength to fight and shared the joys and sorrows, they were there for each other to stay strong, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder and it was together, in a tight line, united and fraternal that they came out of the trenches and went over the top to charge with bravery under the hail of bullets watching over each other and in a last act of faith and courage, on the poppy fields,they gave their lives and found in France, their last home and rest in peace under the rows of their white tombs on which I would always watch so that they are never forgotten.I would keep their memory and their history alive with love and the greatest care so that they will live forever, to bring them back to life, so that they will be remembered for who they were, soldiers of course, heroes,but above all men who will be forever in my heart, my boys of the Somme.Thank you so much Francis,for everything.At the going down of the sun and in the morning,we will remember him,we will remember them.