Career of Sergeant Major Foreman of Works Frank Fry, Royal Engineers Served 1884-1914
My thanks to Fred Larimore & Ed de Santis for background material.
24th October 1865 – Frank Fry is born in Fareham, Hampshire.
April 1881 - the census taker finds the Fry family at home at Gosport Road, 8 Albert Terrace, Fareham..
Head M Male 41 Portsmouth, Hampshire, England Bricklayer
Wife M Female 37 Fareham, Hampshire, England
Son Male 16 Fareham, Hampshire, England
Son Male 15 Fareham, Hampshire, England
Daur Female 13 Fareham, Hampshire, England
Son Male 11 Fareham, Hampshire, England Scholar
Son Male 9 Fareham, Hampshire, England Scholar
Daur Female 7 Fareham, Hampshire, England Scholar
Daur Female 6 Fareham, Hampshire, England Scholar
Son Male 3 Fareham, Hampshire, England
Son Male 1 Fareham, Hampshire, England
Son Male 3 m Fareham, Hampshire, England
Dwelling Gosport Road 8 Albert Terrace
Census Place Fareham, Hampshire, England
Family History Library Film 1341286 Public Records Office Reference RG11
Piece / Folio 1167 / 106
Page Number 43
23th January 1884 –
Frank Fry joins the British Army at Portsmouth. His description is given as 18 years and 3 months old, a bricklayer born in
Fareham, Hampshire. He attests for the Royal Engineers and is given the rank of sapper and number 18574 of that corps. At his
medical examination he is stated to be 5ft 7 and ¾ inches tall, 126lbs in weight, 34 inch chest, fresh complexion, grey eyes, black
hair, Church of England by denomination with no scars or marks. He is found fit to serve by the surgeon.
His next of kin is stated as being his father, Daniel, at 8 Albert Terrace, Fareham, Hampshire.
25th January 1884 –
Fry’s attestation is approved by the Field Officer commanding the 37th Regimental District. He joins the 40th Field Company of
Royal Engineers at Chatham as a Sapper bricklayer.
ENGINEER RECRUIT TRAINING
“With the exception of drivers, every recruit enlisted for the “Royal Engineers” must know some trade. The drivers are trained at
the depot of the field-engineers at Aldershot, the sappers at the Chatham depot, where the latter are trained for a year in infantry
drill and pioneer duties. During the summer every depot company in turn goes into a tent-camp at Wouldham near Chatham,
where the recruits are taught camp duties, pontooning &c. The men, that are enlisted as telegraphists, photographers, printers,
lithographers, or chartographers, have to go through an abbreviated course of pioneering; those selected for companies of
submarine mining are transferred to the mining school after having passed through their courses of infantry drill. The engineer
recruits, are allowed 100 rounds of ammunition each for their course of target practice and fire practices 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14,
17, 19, 21, 23, and 26 of the infantry recruits’ course, the remainder of the ammunition being disposed of as may be found best
by the instructor.
When the course at the depot is finished, the sappers must pass an examination, and are then transferred to the different
engineer formations, where they receive higher pay, and may earn extra allowances by working at their special trades.
5th March 1884 –
Fry Qualifies for a third class certificate of education.
CERTIFICATES OF EDUCATION
In 1861 the Army devised an inducement towards learning that were known as Certificates of Education. These certificates were
linked to promotion in the ranks. The lowest level was the 4th Class Certificate that was so very basic in its requirements of simple
reading and basic sums that it was eventually done away with in 1888. The additional certificates were as follows :
“The third-class certificate specified the standard for promotion to the rank of corporal: the candidate was to read aloud and to
write from dictation passages from an easy narrative, and to work examples in the four compound rules of arithmetic and the
reduction of money. A second-class certificate, necessary for promotion to sergeant, entailed writing and dictation from a more
difficult work, familiarity with all forms of regimental accounting, and facility with proportions and interest, fractions and averages.
First-class certificates were a great deal more difficult and were required for commissions from the ranks. Successful candidates
had to read and take dictation from any standard author; make a fair copy of a manuscript; demonstrate their familiarity with more
complicated mathematics, except cube and square root and stocks and discount; and as well prepare for examination in at least
one of a number of additional subjects. After 1887 candidates were examined in British history and geography in place of a special
subject. First-class certificates were awarded on the results of periodic examinations held by the Council (later Director-General) of
Military Education. Second and third-class certificates were presented on the recommendations of the Army schoolmaster.”
“The third-class certificate of education was considered to be too high given the level of literacy of many army recruits, and the
Commission urged the introduction of a fourth (minimum) standard.”
24th September 1884 –
Fry Qualifies for a third class certificate of education.
9th February 1885 –
Sapper Fry is transferred from the 40th Field Company to the 10th Railway Company of Royal Engineers at Chatham, the latter
being brought up to strength for deployment to Egypt.
6th April 1885 –
10th Railway Company RE disembark at Suakin.
Service of the 10th Railway Company,
Royal Engineers in the Sudan and Egypt 1885
At the beginning of 1885, momentous events were occurring in the Sudan. General Gordon was besieged at Khartoum and
ultimately slain by the forces of the Mahdi on the 26th of January 1885. On the receipt of intelligence of the fall of Khartoum to the
Dervish forces, the first impulse of the British government was to persevere in the war in the Sudan, to recapture Khartoum, and
to punish the Mahdi. With this in view, a railway was to be laid down from Suakin on the Red Sea to Berber, and Lieutenant General
Sir Gerald Graham was appointed to command the troops necessary to protect its construction .
There were four companies of the Royal Engineers selected to serve in the Sudan. These were the 10th Railway Company and the
17th, 24th and 26th Field Companies.
The 10th Railway Company, Royal Engineers was commanded by Major W.H. Rathbone, R.E. . Other officers in the company
included Captain H.G. Kunhardt, R.E. , Captain W.A.E. St. Clair, R.E. , Captain G.H. Sim, R.E. , Lieutenant F.A. Molony, R.E. , and
Lieutenant H. Bonham-Carter, R.E. . In addition to regular soldiers of the Royal Engineers, the 10th Railway Company listed 39
Volunteers on its rolls, 25 of them from the 1st Newcastle and Durham Engineers, 7 from the 1st Lancashire Engineers, and the
remaining 7 from various other corps, enlisted for the duration of the war. The normal peace time establishment for the Royal
Engineers railway companies was 2 officers, 6 staff sergeants and sergeants, 2 buglers, 14 corporals and second corporals and 43
sappers. This strength represented only the cadre for the company in wartime . In Egypt the company would also employ a civilian
work force to assist in its work.
The company sailed from England on the 14th of March 1885 to join the command of Lieutenant General Sir Gerald Graham and
landed at Suakin on the 6th of April. A party under Captains Kunhardt and St. Clair and Lieutenant Molony was detailed to survey
and stake out the proposed railway line, while the remainder of the company worked on the 18-inch gauge railway system around
the town. Sapper Fry and his company subsequently worked on extending the railway line from Quarantine Island in Suakin
harbour to Handub and Otao where it arrived on the 30th of April . During this time 16 miles of track were completed. Construction
on the railway ceased in early May of 1885 when hostilities ended in the area. For their service in the campaigns in the eastern
Sudan, they were awarded the Egypt Medal with clasp “SUAKIN 1885” as well as the Khedive’s Bronze Star.
Some of the men did not leave Egypt after hostilities ended in May of 1885. They were posted to Royal Engineer Companies that
remained in Egypt and the Sudan.
28th April 1885 –
Sapper Fry is admitted to hospital suffering from dysentery. He remains in hospital for 10 days and is then invalided back to
29th May 1885 –
Fry arrives at Netley Hospital suffering from General Debility as a result of dysentery. He remains in the hospital for 20 days and is
then sent back to his company as fit.
15th November 1885 –
Fry is appointed as a Paid Lance Corporal.
24th January 1886 –
Fry gains his first penny of Good Conduct pay after 2 years of service.
GOOD CONDUCT PAY
“For good conduct, which means, that the soldier has never been punished, he receives further extra pay (Good Conduct Pay).
The daily rate amounts to 1d. The recipient wears a badge in the shape of a ^, pointing upwards, on the lower sleeve of the left
arm. The first of these badges is awarded after 2, the second after 6, and the third up to the sixth respectively after 12, 18, 23,
and 28 years of service. Every badge brings an extra penny a day. In case of punishment the soldier forfeits this extra pay or a
part of it, but can recover it by good conduct. These extra payments and badges are only awarded to men from the corporal
1st June 1886 –
Fry is promoted to 2nd Corporal.
21st June 1887 –
Fry qualifies for an appointment as assistant to Garrison Instructor.
9th July 1887 –
Fry is transferred to “C” Company RE at Devonport.
16th July 1887 –
Fry is appointed as 2nd Corporal Asst. Garrison Instructor.
16th August 1887 –
Frank Fry marries Ann Wells at the Parish Church, St. Johns, Chatham, without leave
MARRIAGE OF SOLDIERS DURING THE VICTORIAN PERIOD
“Marriage is allowed to all the staff-sergeants, to 50% of the other sergeants, 4% of the corporals and privates in the cavalry,
artillery (Gunners and Drivers) and engineers, and 3% in the infantry. Corporals and men have this concession made them on
condition of their having served seven years, and that they have two good conduct badges, and prove that they have 5 Pounds in
the savings bank. Married soldiers may receive rations separately, and uncooked, and if the man is engaged on duty away from his
family, he is paid 4d a day for his wife and 1-1/2d a day for each child .”
The following information is quoted from Farwell .
“A man who married without permission had a hard time indeed, for his wife and children were denied quarters of any sort and
were given no extra rations; the wife had to work or starve.”
“Women on the strength had (to use the official language) ‘the privilege of washing for their respective companies.’ They might
thereby earn a halfpenny per day per customer. Some worked as cooks or did needlework; the more respectable were selected to
be maids or nursemaids in officers’ homes. Until the last half of the Victorian era, they usually lived in the barracks with the men,
their home a corner screened off with blankets or canvas sheets. It was a hard life, and many of the women were rough. Certainly
they needed to be tough.”
29th January 1889 –
A Board is assembled at Devonport ‘for the purpose of testing No.18574 2nd Corporal F. Fry as to his qualification for
advancement to a higher rate of Engineer pay viz 1st to B rate’. The Board members were Major C. Hoskyns and Lt. & QM T.C.
Symons, RE. The Board having assembled pursuant to order, proceeded to inspect the work executed by No.18574 2nd Corporal
F. Fry Royal Engineers in their presence consisting of the following viz:-
• Cutting and setting out a brick camber arch.
• Cutting and setting out a brick semi arch.
• Setting a range in the Station Hospital & setting a ventilating grate in the M..(rest of sentence missing).
The Board having inspected the work consider it of a superior nature and hereby recommend that No.18574 2nd Corporal F. Fry
Royal Engineers be issued to the B grade of Engineers Pay.
Signed and dated..
1st of February 1889 –
Board’s finings are approved by the Lt. Colonel, CRE Plymouth and confirmed a week later.
29th April 1890 –
Fry is promoted to Corporal with seniority from 1st October 1888.
23rd June 1890 –
Corporal Fry is transferred to 23rd Company RE at Chatham, his medical papers suggest he’d been at Chatham since the 2nd of
24th November 1890 –
Fry signs to extend his service with the colours to 12 years.
Qualified as a Military Foreman of Works.
21st August 1891 –
Fry is promoted to Company Sergeant Major, Foreman of Works and is transferred to Aldershot to join the Supr. List of the RE.
10th December 1891 –
Grace Elsie Fry, the first child of Ann and Frank, is born
19th March 1892-
Fry is admitted to the married establishment.
14th February 1894 –
Fry is examined for re-engagement at Aldershot and is found fit to be considered as such. His OC (Major J.C. Barker) states that
he has served 9 years and 21 days to this point.
30th March 1893 –
Fry is shown as being posted to Gibraltar at this date, he appears to have been transferred to ‘G’ Company. His medical papers
suggest he arrived on the Island on the 3rd of April 1893.
23rd March 1894 –
Frank Ernest Fry, the 2nd child, is born on Gibraltar.
21st May 1894 –
At only 2 months of age, Frank Ernest Fry dies at Gibraltar.
26th March 1895 –
Fry Qualifies for a first class certificate of education.
28th April 1897 –
CSM Fry is admitted to hospital at Gibraltar with multiple injuries for which he is treated for 14 days.
10th May 1897 –
A Court of Enquiry is held at the Station Hospital, Gibraltar by order of Colonel Self RE into the ‘circumstances under which No.
18574 CSM Fry received an injury’. The court takes evidence as follows:-
1st Witness – CSM F. Fry RE states : - On the 28th of April 1897 I was superintending the blasting at Europa for a drain; it was
surface blasting and we were using 2 or 3oz of P----(?) powder in 2ft holes. We were firing 3 at a time with mantlets over them.
The powder was put in loose with a tube as it was too large grained, & fired with Jangyes(?) fuze. I had lit 3 charges and retired
about 150 yds when I heard 3 distinct reports, & thinking all the charges had gone off, I walked down again and was standing on
one of the mantlets when I felt myself lifted into the air with stones flying around me. I remember nothing more.
2nd Witness – No.21444 2nd Cpl. Watkins RE states: - on the 28th of April I was assisting CSM Fry in the blasting at Europa, 3
fuzes were lit and he retired. 3 distinct reports were heard and we walked back and had already taken off 2 of the mantlets when
an explosion took place under the third, throwing CSM Fry into the air. The rock was full of fissures.
Surgeon Captain Saunders AMS states: - No.18574 CSM Fry RE was admitted to the Station Hospital on 28th April 1897 suffering
from an injury to left eye and sprain of right ankle. I am unable at present to state whether it will interfere with his efficiency as a
The board concludes that in its opinion he sustained the injury as stated, and that he was on duty at the time. He is recommended
to have all hospital stoppages reclaimed, however the President of the board states that this is impossible and that only half the
charges can be remitted.
23rd May 1897 –
Frank Cyril Fry is born on Gibraltar.
21st August 1897 –
CSM Fry is promoted to Quartermaster Sergeant (Foreman of Works).
26th March 1898 –
Fry is posted from the Staff at Gibraltar to Shorncliffe. He arrives at that station on the 5th of April.
12th November 1901 –
QMS Fry is promoted to Foreman of Works Sergeant Major.
16th May 1902 –
Fry is transferred from Shorncliffe to CRE Barbados. He arrives on the Island on the 15th of July 1902.
26th July 1902 –
Fry is posted from Barbados to Bermuda.
22nd July 1904 –
An order of this date permits Sgt. Major Fry to remain in service until 11th November 1906 to complete 5 years at Warrant Rank.
26th June 1905 –
Having been sent home, Fry arrives at Chatham.
29th August 1905 –
Fry is transferred to serve with the Division at Portsea.
21st December 1905 –
Fry is transferred to the Guernsey and Alderney Division.
12th September 1906 –
An order of this date permits Sgt. Major Fry to remain in service until 23rd January 1909 to complete 25 years service. He is
serving with the Guernsey & Alderney District at that time and continues to do so until discharge.
12th December 1908 –
An order of this date permits Sgt. Major Fry to remain in service for a further 5 years from 23rd January 1909.
24th January 1912 –
An order of this date permits Sgt. Major Fry to remain in service for a further two years.
1st November 1913 –
An order of this date permits Sgt. Major Fry to remain in service until he reaches the age of 50 years old.
7th March 1914 – On his discharge from the Army at Guernsey, after 30 years and 43 days service, Sgt. Major (Foreman of
Works) Fry signs a declaration at Guernsey that he does not wish to join the scheme as set out in the National Insurance Act of
1911. At the same date he has a sobriety certificate (Army Form D489) filled in on him, stating that he is thoroughly trustworthy
and to the best knowledge of the CO he has not been under the influence of liquor for the past three years.
His employment sheet which is filled in by the OC of the 34th Company RE shows him as being employed as ‘Acting Division Officer
and Military Foreman of Works’ and gives his character as ‘A remarkably able Engineer. Thoroughly capable of running any building
contract. Tactful, trustworthy and a very efficient organizer. Is well up on all branches of Engineering’.
His pension is granted at 54 pence per day for life.
On his discharge sheet at this time his description is given as 48 years and 4 months old, 5ft 8 in tall, 38 inch chest, fresh
complexion, grey eyes, black hair. His conduct was exemplary and his character in accordance with Kings Regulations stated as ‘A
very exceptional man, absolutely honest, sober, reliable, very energetic and capable in engineering, very tactful and has great
power of organization and powers of command. Has great self reliance and common sense. Has been employed for the last seven
years in a very responsible position and doing the duties of an Engineer Officer in Guernsey.’
His medals were as follows:
Egypt medal with clasp for Suakin 1885
Khedives Bronze Star for campaign in 1885
Long Service & Good Conduct (Army Order of Oct. 1902)
Coronation Medal 1911 (WO 28/Coronation/204 (A.G. 2C 26/09/1911)
His discharge is approved and confirmed and Fry becomes a civilian. He gives his intended place of residence as 57, High Street,
Exeter, South Devon.
Soon after this, WW1 breaks out.. and Frank Cyril Fry, his son, appears to have enlisted in the Royal Engineers…
Service papers WO 364/1284 & WO 363/F779
Census for 1881, UK
|Frank Fry, Royal Engineers Served 1884-1914