Company Sergeant Major, L/5733, 'B' Company,
2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Died of Wounds at Loos, France, 25 September 1915, aged about 35
Commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Panel 69-73

Frederick Samuel Fry
(Click to enlarge)

Frederick Samuel Fry was born in 1880 in Hartfield, the son of Harriet Annie (née Grove) and Albert Edward Fry. Although his father appeared on the 1881 census as a farm labourer, the family was living at Brooks Hill or Brocks Hill Farm, and his older brother Arthur, also part of the household, was listed as a farmer of 117 acres employing three men. Presumably the younger brother was one of the employees while the elder ran the farm. Frederick's grandfather was also a farmer.

Only Frederick and his older sister had been born by the time of the census, but over the next nine years, five further children were born in Hartfield. Unfortunately, the father died in 1890, and the 1891 census shows Frederick living with his mother's uncle and aunt in Croydon, while she remained in Hartfield with the rest of the children, farming at Chartnels or Chartners Farm. By 1893, though, she too was dead, and it may have been this fractured childhood which led Frederick to join the army.

According to Soldiers Died in the Great War, Frederick enlisted at Chichester, but no date was given. Maybe this was a re-enlistment at the outbreak of war, as the Hartfield History Group gives his enlistment date as 13 September 1898 at Tunbridge Wells, in the 3rd Royal Sussex Regiment, and suggests that before this he was a labourer: no source is given. In 1901 he was living at Villa Bradford, Kingston by Sea, Sussex, with his second cousin, Herbert Summarsell, a market gardener. He gave his occupation as 'Soldier, 1st Royal Sussex Regt.'

Frederick married Alice Maud Witkowski, who had been born in either Rangoon or West Bengal, though she was living in Ireland by 1901. Their marriage took place in Belfast in 1908, with a first child born in Antrim in 1909 and two subsequent children at Curragh in 1911 - suggesting that Frederick was stationed there. This is borne out by the 1911 census which places the family at Curragh Military Camp. Frederick signed the census form as head of household, listing himself as Colour Sergeant, 2 Royal Sussex Regt. The following year he was witness at the wedding of his brother Albert Edward Fry at Reading. By the time of the birth of his fourth child in 1913, he was at Farnham.

The Royal Sussex Regiment formed part of the British Expeditionary Force which landed in France in August 1914, and fought in the First Battle of Ypres, where, apparently, German prisoners captured during the action gave the Second Battalion the title The Iron Regiment. Other battles Frederick may have participated in were at Mons, the Marne, the Aisne and Aubers Ridge; his last was the Battle of Loos on 25 September.

As Frederick died of wounds, it is not possible to be certain when he received his injuries. However, the regimental diary for the first part of September records no action. The men were on the move or in billets until 23 September, then in bivouacs on 'a very wet night' and finally in trenches at Vermelles to prepare for 'the coming assault'. So it seems likely that he died of wounds received on the first day of the Battle of Loos. The diary shows the battalion to have been near Hulluch where it took up position in the support line at 1.50 a.m. At 6.30 a.m. they moved into a front line trench. The British had used gas, but a change in wind direction blew some of it back into their own trenches. The advance which followed enabled many men to reach the German wire, but as it had not been cut they were either wounded or killed. Nevertheless, a second wave was able to reach Lone Tree and eventually take a section of German trench. The battalion was relieved the following day, but by then Frederick was dead. On the same day, a fellow sergeant, Harry Wells, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his part in the attack near Lone Tree.

Frederick Samuel Fry's inscription on the Loos Memorial

As well as being commemorated at Loos and Hartfield, Frederick is remembered on the headstone of his son John at Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital, Millbank. The National Probate Calendar records that Frederick Samuel Fry of 20, Mountcollyer Avenue, Belfast died while on active service with the British Expeditionary Force. Administration was granted to his widow in Belfast although his effects, valued at £326, were recorded as in England.

Thanks are due to Frederick's great-grand-daughter Debbie for both information and permission to reproduce Frederick's photograph.

Pam Griffiths