Monday, 27 April 2015

Mark Strelley Fryar 1/5/1892-20/6/1931 and Caroline Isabella (Molly ) Fryar 9/1/1896-9/1/1985 Prisoner of War and VAD Nurse




For each story in this WWI series I have tried to have a different focus or story type. This is of a  sister Caroline Isabella Fryar who was a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment and her brother  Mark Strelley Fryar who became a WW1 prisoner of war in Germany.

Mark Strelley Fryar had trained in OTC at Malvern College. In May 1911 he joined the 1/5th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiments).  This territorial regiment was mobilised for war service on 5/8/14 when Mark was 23. The Division concentrated in the Luton area, with the 5th Sherwoods at Harpenden. By mid August after preparing for overseas service in Braintree they proceeded to France. They landed at Boulogne on 25th February and joined the British Expeditionary Force at Ypres. On the 12th of May the Division was retitled 46th (North Midland) Division. 

Mark Strelley Fryar
Less than 4 months after landing at Ypres he was wounded at Dickebuse.



In early August his parents, Mark and Louise, received a telegram to say that he was in a POW camp in Gutersloh, Germany. At first he had been reported missing on 1st July in the Newspaper  and then as a prisoner. Major Checkland when writing to his parents re the event stated "He went forward with the Lewis guns and was seen near a German parapet giving instructions to his men. It is believed at this time he was wounded".

Mark's story is recorded in "A Lack of Offensive Spirit? The 46th (North Midland) Division" by Alan MacDonald p392-4

Owing to smoke he and his Captain were separated from the rest of the Battalion. Captain Lewes was hit three times and while Fryar and his men took other action to secure their safety they needed to lay low until cover of darkness or reinforcements appeared. The Germans kept bombing them until 11am and sent an English speaking soldier to say he would take them prisoners. They were out of ammunition and by 12.30 they were being shelled by their own forces. He talked with the injured Lewes and they decided to give in asking the Germans to help them with their wounded. They would not and just looked on. They carried the semi- conscious Captain out but he died the next morning. Mark gave his account in an interview after his return from POW camp on 10th December 1918.



 " It is believed at this time he was wounded"
After attempting to escape in May he was recaptured and received 30 days solitary confinement for his efforts. From there he was sent to Fort Zorndorf in Austria for 7 months.

He was promoted to Captain on 17th June 1917.

On 19th March 1918 he escaped again while at the Schweidnitz Camp but was caught getting on a train. Eventually he was interned and repatriated through Holland in early October 1918 returning home to England on 2nd November 1918 and finally repatriated on 22th Nov1918. There is a comment in the footnotes of MacDonald's book that he was court-martialled for mutiny and for forging passports but I cannot find more at present on this. As his grave refers to him as the late Captain of the Sherwood Foresters possibly all was forgiven.


His sister Caroline Isabella Fryar (Molly) was with the Voluntary Aid Detachment. The role of the Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses and assistants were to provide nursing and medical assistance during a time of war.  VADs worked in a variety of roles which included nursing assistants, ambulance drivers, chefs, and administration .

Whilst most VADs worked within Britain, some were posted overseas such as those with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France during the Great War.  During wartime the VAD organisation was administered by the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John.  The numbers of women serving as VADs were around 70 -100,000.

While Molly’s wartime records are unavailable, her medal roll references her as a part of the Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS) in the 1(a) theatre of War . This is indicative of serving in the Western Front- France and Flanders.  

She was most likely a War nurse and a relative referred to her as driving ambulances during the war. So it could be assumed she was in France performing some sort of medical role. Her dates were recorded as serving from 20/7/1917 to 22/10/1919.


Caroline Isabella (Molly)  Fryar

Molly returned to England nearly one year after her brother.  Since I heard about Molly through family connections I thought she sounded like a “gutsy” sort. More recently I heard she was a spy in the Second World War. Apparently she was parachuted into France to spy behind enemy lines being  part of the Special Operations Executive which was based in secret headquarters at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. (Source Greg Strelley)

Now I’d like to hear more about that!! Please contact me if you know more - kanahookarob@yahoo.com.au

The Strelley and Fryar families would be proud of Mark and Molly. Neither married or had children so recording their stories feels right.  Mark was killed aged 40 in a cycle accident 20th June 1931. Molly lived to a ripe old age dying on her birthday in 1985 at age 89.

Whilst visiting Derby last year my husband and I visited Mark and Molly's graves which are situated amongst the family plots for the Fryars and the Strelleys.
Mark and Molly's Grave in Derby

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Richard Upton 11/9/1880-3/5/1915- First Class Flying Licence

Sergeant Richard Upton came from an Army background. He was the fourth son of Captain Richard Upton of the the 4th Batt Sherwood Foresters (Derbyshire Reg). His father had also been in the Political and Secret Department of HM India Office. He was also the grandson of Richard Clayton Strelley of Oakerthorpe fame.

After a good education he became a Master Mariner with the Straits SS Service L.F. after passing through his apprenticeship. He was the Commodore of a fleet of 17 boats.

He decided  to obtain his flying qualifications and after attending the Graham White School of Flying. on 26/8/1914 he was issued with a  First Class Flying Licence. At this time war had broken out.

On 26/8/1914 he was issued with a  First Class Flying Licence
His previous experience enabled him to  join the Legion of Frontiersmen a type of patriotic paramilitary group. Membership was limited to "men of good conduct who have Frontier, Military or Sea Training."
Recruitment poster for the Legion
He left for  France where he worked free lance with the Red Cross Society. When he joined the Royal Flying Corps Service number 2556, he was immediately made a Sergeant.

Unfortunately,his flying career was cut short as while he was on  active service he contracted pneumonia  and died in Tideworth Military Hospital, UK on 3/5/1915. He was unmarried.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Robert John "Bert" Wright 1899-1978

Robert John "Bert" Wright was only 15 when the war broke out in Europe. While he waited until he was "old enough" to enlist he worked as a sheet metal worker in Marrickville.  He turned 17 on 23 December 1916. A document dated 9 January just 17 days later bears his father's signature and permission to enlist.

The photo below shows Robert all of 5 feet 4 1/4 inches looking like he should grow into his hat and jacket. So his attestation papers show him as aged  18 1/2 years. It appears he snuck his way into the Army by doing three months service in the Militia. The family story goes that he would have joined under another name if his family didnt let him go.  After being pronounced "dentally fit" at 17 1/2 years  he embarked on the "Militades" on 9th July 1917 arriving in Glasgow on 2nd October.


Robert John Wright WWI

It doesn't appear that he was injured at all during his service with records of  only routine treatment of scabies and tonsillitis, diahorea and flu.

Bert's  service number was 3398. His records show his original Battalion was the 8th Reinforcement for the 36th Battalion which was sent to Rouelle, France. In 29/6/1918 he transferred to the 33rd Battalion and on 28/7/1918 he was again transferred to 34th Battalion. Obviously huge casualties caused amalgamation of troop battalions. All were fighting in France.

Probably as a result of  entering the war effort so late in the piece Bert was quite slow in returning to Australia.  The long wait for his demobilisation and return to Australia is shown in this letter in August 1919 where  his concerned mother had written to the Army. It was not until 5 January 1920 that he commenced his return to Australia on the"Cap Verde" which finally arrived on 29 February 1920.
A concerned mother writes to the Army about her boy

Upon his confirmation of discharge in March 1920 records note that he complained of some pain over the heart. This was put down to a curse of the war- excessive cigarette smoking. This  probably contributed to the heart condition he died of in 1978.

He met and married Maude Rose Gadsby at Marrickville in 1923.  They had a daughter - Betty Wright who will was born in 1925 and supplied the cherished photo of this brown haired, brown eyed boy above who was champing at the bit to join the war effort.

Bert enlisted again in World War II by which time he was 40 years old. Although his records are not yet available at the war memorial. We do know he was a transport driver in the Air Force.

Bert in WW2