b. 18/02/1896 Liverpool. d. 12/10/1918 Neuvilly, France.
Frank Lester (1896-1918) was born on 18th February 1896 in Huyton, Liverpool to John and Ellen Lester. He spent his early childhood in Hoylake where he attended Hoylake National School. Frank was a keen member of Hoylake Boys Brigade and also played the organ for the local congregation at the Methodist 'Tin Chapel'.
On completing his education, Frank trained initially as a joiner until his family moved to Millers Hay in Irby. Here he worked alongside his father in their family run market garden business.
On 30th March 1916, Frank chose to enlist with the 10th South Lancashire Regiment. Initially, he worked as a training instructor at Prees Hill in Shropshire and Kimmel Park in North Wales. He was promoted to Sergeant Instuctor before being transferred to the Lancashire Fusiliers at his own request. In early 1918, he was posted to France, which meant that he was obliged to revert to the rank of Private. After a huge German offensive, he was reportedly one of only 30 men from a force of 1000 to answer a roll-call, all of the others having been killed or wounded. In March, he himself was wounded and sent home. After recuperating, he resumed training and was promoted to Corporal. In September, he returned to France to re-join his unit.
During the clearing of the village of Neuvilly, on 12th October, 1918, when, with a party of about seven men under an officer, he was the first to enter a house from the back door, and shot 2 Germans as they attempted to get out by the front door. A minute later a fall of masonry blocked the door by which the party had entered. The only exit into the street was under fire at point-blank range. The street was also swept by fire of machine guns at close range. Observing that an enemy sniper was causing heavy casualties to a party in a house across the street, Pte. Lester exclaimed, " I'll settle him," and, dashing out into the street, shot the sniper at close quarters, falling mortally wounded at the same instant. This gallant man well knew it was certain death to go into the street, and the party opposite was faced with the alternative of crossing the fire-swept street or staying where it was and being shot one by one. To save their lives he sacrificed his own.
Frank was buried in Neuvilly Communal Cemetery and Extension, Nord, France. His medal group comprising of VC, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 were sold at auction at Morton & Eden in 2002, and were purchased by Michael Ashcroft, and are now part of the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London. The hammer price was £78,000.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM
BURIAL PLACE: NEUVILLY COMMUNAL CEMETERY, NEUVILLY, FRANCE.
Frank Lester's medals including VC on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
ROW B, GRAVE 15.
Thurstaston War Memorial, Cheshire
Holy Cross Church, Woodchurch
Family grave at Hoylake Cemetery (Derek Brown)