Private Fred Frazer

Private, 4th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own). Service no. 59030.

Photo of Private Fred Frazer from the Keighley News dated 26 Jan 1918

Early life:
Fred was born in Oxenhope on 25th December 1898 and his birth was registered in 1899 in Keighley. He was the son of Bertram George and Ada Frazer. In 1901 the family were living at Uppertown in Oxenhope and his father was employed as a mill engine tenter (tender). Fred had a younger sister Eve who was aged 1 in 1901.
By 1911 Fred was living with his grandparents at 11 and 13 Uppertown, Oxenhope and he was a part time mill doffer at one of the textile mills in the village and part time at school.
Later his parents were the landlord and landlady of The Lamb Inn, Oxenhope.

Army service:
Fred joined the Army at Keighley on 24th April 1917 and entered the 6th Training Reserve Battalion. His enlistment was approved at Halifax on the same day. Fred was aged 18 years and 121 days and he was 5 feet four inches in height (about average for that time). This gives us a date of birth of 25th December 1898 although his birth may not have been reported until the New Year 1899 if the Keighley Registry Office had been closed over Christmas. Fred was employed as a painter and decorator at the time of his enlistment. During training he was tragically killed in an accident when rifle training with dummy ammunition.


Keighley News January 9, 1918 - reporting on the inquest of his death:
OXENHOPE SOLDIER KILLED AT HARTLEPOOL. A DISTRESSING AFFAIR

Private Fred Frazer, of the West Yorkshire Regiment, whose home was at 7, Ash Street, Oxenhope, was accidentally killed at West Hartlepool on Monday whilst at rifle practice.
At the inquest on Tuesday, B. J. Frazer, father of the deceased, gave evidence of identification, and stated that his son, who was 19 years of age on December 24, joined the Army in April last.
Private William Harrow Brooks, who said he had been in the Army between nine and ten months, and had known Frazer, with whom he was on friendly terms, for about six months, stated that on Monday morning they were engaged in quick-firing drill, using dummy cartridges and picking out their own target on a wall. They kept the dummy cartridges in their kit box. They were ordered to take all live cartridges out of their pouches and to put in three clips of dummies. Having discharged the whole fifteen rounds, they each collected the cartridges and refilled the clips in order to resume practice. In doing so he must have picked up a live cartridge. This might have been amongst the blankets on which they were lying. He was lying opposite Frazer, who was aiming at a target behind him. Witness's target was behind Frazer and above his head. He had fired one clip and had just put in the second, and was raising his rifle again, paying particular attention to the "pressures," when he was startled by the discharge of a rifle and by seeing that Frazer had been shot. He did not at first realize that it was his rifle that had gone off, until he examined it and found the empty case; he did not recollect feeling any recoil.

Replying to Captain Stevens, witness stated that before they fired the first rounds the cartridges and pouches were examined by Sergeant Woodman and Sergeant Young.

Mr. Newby: Were they examined before the second rounds were fired?

Witness: No.

RESEMBLED LIVE CARTRIDGES.

Captain Stevens explained that the men were not aiming at any miniature range target or anything of that sort; they were merely selecting a point on the wall to aim at. The real object of the drill was to teach the proper use of the "second pressure" on the trigger of the rifle.
Sergeant Young spoke to examining the rifles, cartridges, and pouches when the drill began.
Some of the dummy cartridges produced were metal ones, and Mr. Newby remarked upon their resemblance to live cartridges, observing, "They are too good an imitation."
Witness, being questioned as to how a live cartridge came to be amongst those that Brooks picked up after the completion of the first fifteen rounds, said the only explanation he could suggest was that it had been brought out when the men brought out their blankets to put them down to lie on.
In reply to a question by Mr. Newby, witness said Brooks and deceased were very friendly.
Sergeant Woodman, who also examined the cartridges and pouches of the squad before the drill commenced, gave similar evidence to Sergeant Young, and said he had known live cartridges brought in among the blankets, but they had always been noticed.

DEATH BY MISADVENTURE

Lieutenant A. S. Wilson, R.A.M.C., said there was a bullet wound in Frazer's jaw just below the mouth. The exit wound was in the right side of the chest.
In summing up, the Acting Coroner said that there was nothing to indicate that there had been any negligence on the part of the sergeants, but there had been some little carelessness on the part of Brooks in picking up a live cartridge without noticing it. There was, however, he would point out, a great deal of difference between carelessness of this sort and criminal negligence.

The jury returned a verdict of "Death by misadventure," and suggested that greater care should be taken to make sure there was no live cartridges amongst the dummy ammunition. There had, remarked the foreman of the jury, been several cases there somewhat similar to this, and they thought greater care might be exercised. In this case, for instance, steps should have been taken to make sure there were no live cartridges amongst the blankets when the latter were brought out.

The body was removed to Oxenhope on Thursday, and the interment took place yesterday at Oxenhope Cemetery. A number of soldiers home on leave attended and the last rites were performed by the Rev. W. H. Gunyon. A service was held at Oxenhope Church prior to the interment. Previous to joining the Army deceased was apprenticed with Mr. J. W. Thompson, painter and decorator, Oxenhope.


The Commonwealth war Graves Commission headstone for Fred in Oxenhope Cemetery.

Fred died whilst in service with the Army, so he has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone in Oxenhope Cemetery on the hillside above the village. The grave is in section II Pink, Grave 411.

Fred is remembered by name on the Oxenhope War Memorial in St. Mary the Virgin Church, Oxenhope

Source information:
Birth and Death records
1901 census
1911 census
British Army Service Records (just three sheets for Fred)
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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