WILLS, Richard Frank
(Service number 25/368)
|First Rank||Rifleman||Last Rank||Rifleman|
|Date||16 December 1876||Place of Birth||Northamptonshire, England|
|Date||11 October 1915||Age||39 years 6 months|
|Address at Enlistment||192 Antigua Street, Christchurch|
|Previous Military Experience||South African Campaign, 10th Contingent|
|Next of Kin||William WILLS (father), 192 Antigua Street, Christchurch. Later Mr W. H. WILLS (brother), Albury, Fairlie|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Medical Information||Weight 140 lbs. Chest measurement 33-36 inches. Complexion fresh. Eyes blue. Hair light brown. Sight, hearing and colour vision all normal. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth - require attention. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. Linear scar on chin. Temporarily unfit - requires plates. Then "fit".|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||3rd Battalion, C Company|
|Date||5 February 1916|
|Embarked From||Wellington, N.Z.||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 3rd Battalion|
|Campaigns||Egyptian & Western European, 1916|
|Service Medals||British War Medal; Victory Medal; 2nd Boer War.|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
19 to 22 April 1916 - admitted to No 3 NZ field Ambulance, France, with diarrhoea.
|Date||31 May 1916||Age||41 years|
|Place of Death||Somme, France|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Cite-Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France. Linwood Cemetery, Christchurch|
|Memorial Reference||I. B. 12. Block 46, Plot 79|
|New Zealand Memorials||Memorial Wall, Timaru (as F. Willis); Waimate War Memorial (as F. Wills)|
Richard Frank Wills, known as Frank, was the son of William and Susan Mary (née King or Shirley) Wills, of Northamptonshire, England. He was born in 1875 in Northamptonshire and baptized at Badby, Northamptonshire, on 7 March 1875. William and Susan had married in 1867. Their first child, John, was baptised on 19 December 1869 at Daventry, Northamptonshire, and buried on 9 January 1870, at Daventry, aged two months. They and their infant daughter Emma were at Daventry, Nothamptonshire, in 1871. The Wills family emigrated to New Zealand and was in Waimate, New Zealand, by July 1877 when another daughter, Elizabeth, was born. Frank’s mother died on 21 March 1880, aged just 33 years and leaving four young children. She is buried in the Waimate Old Cemetery. William was in business at Waimate as a shoemaker and died in Christchurch on 2 February 1917.
In the late 1890s, a few money claims were made against Frank in court, on some of which he failed to appear. And again in 1911 there were claims, but in at least one case Frank was the successful claimant, this for damages to a crop of potatoes by another’s stock.
Private Frank Wills, service no. 9456, had served with the New Zealand Volunteers in G Squadron of the 10th Contingent to the South African War, from which he was discharged at the end of the war after 127 days of service abroad, and of very good character. He applied and was examined at the beginning of April 1902, and, because he was not one of those weeded out by the riding test, the shooting test or the medical test, he was accepted. At this time he was 28 years old, living at Waimate and working as a groom. He was 5 feet 4½ inches tall, weighed 9 stone 7 lbs, had a chest measurement of 35 inches, a ruddy complexion, bluish eyes and dark hair, and he looked his age. His next-of-kin was his father William Wills, of Waimate.
His address on enlistment for World War One in 1915 was 192 Antigua Street, Christchurch, where his widowed father was living. Prior to this Frank had been a labourer at Redcliff in the Waimate district and at Studholme Junction before moving to Christchurch and working at Methven for Mr H.L. Lock. Initially he was deemed temporarily unfit, as he required plates for his teeth. This must have been soon rectified. Richard Frank Wills and his nephew, Edward Sole, both with the Infantry, were among the “specials” who formed up in the barracks, “a good, sturdy lot, full of high spirits.” They left Christchurch for Trentham on 11 October 1915, after marching through the city streets, accompanied by bands playing lively march tunes. The Mayor wished them farewell - “. . . . I wish you good-bye and good luck. Your country needs you, and we feel proud that you have responded to the call, that you are prepared to risk everything: no man can do more than offer his life to the Empire.” And the spectators gave three hearty cheers. And so they departed at 7.45 p.m. for the port by a special train. How many, young and not so young, met the same fate as Frank and Edward?
Frank embarked at Wellington on 5 February 1916 per the “Ulimaroa” with C Coy 3rd Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade, and disembarked at Suez just over five weeks later. He left Alexandria for France on 7 April on the SS Alaunia. There, in France, suffering from diarrhoea, he was admitted to the No. 3 New Zealand Field Ambulance for a few days before rejoining his unit which was fighting in the Somme area. All too soon, on 31 May 1916, he was killed in action at the Somme, France, when a high explosive shell burst and buried him in his dugout. This happened less than two months after Frank had stepped on to French soil. The names of Rifleman Richard Frank Wills and Rifleman Edward Sole figured in Casualty List No. 335, one of the heaviest casualty lists issued since the evacuation of Gallipoli. His nephew, Edward Sole, was killed in action on the same day in the same conflict in France.
He is buried in the Cite-Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France. There is a memorial on his father’s headstone in the Linwood Cemetery, Christchurch. His name is inscribed on the Timaru Memorial Wall (as Willis F.) and on the Waimate War Memorial (as Wills F.)
Frank was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, which were sent to his brother William Henry Wills who was living in Albury in 1922 - the plaque and scroll sent to him the previous year. William, who became next-of-kin when their father died in 1917, had named one of his sons Richard Frank, a son who died in infancy.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [30 March 2015]; Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database (South African War) [23 April 2016]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5557 0123398) [02 April 2015]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5515 0006058; South African War) [20 April 2014]; CWGC [30 March 2015]; Timaru Herald, 18 February 1899, 27 October 1899, 27 September 1911, Press, 7 April 1902, 16 & 30 August 1911, 27 September 1911, 12 October 1915, 14 June 1916, Oamaru Mail, 1 March 1911, Sun, 12 October 1915, Evening Post, 13 June 1916, New Zealand Herald, 14 June 1916, Otago Daily Times, 14 June 1916, Ashburton Guardian, 14 June 1916 (Papers Past) [31 March 2015; 06 June 2015; 28 December 2015]; England Birth & Marriage registrations (FreeBDM) [30 March 2015]; Baptism records, marriage record & burial record, Northamptonshire, England (ancestry.com.au) [30 March 2015; 23 & 24 April 2016]; 1871 England census (ancestry.com.au) [30 March 2015]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs [30 March 2015; 06 June 2015]; Waimate Old Cemetery burial records transcriptions (South Canterbury Branch NZSG microfiche cemetery records; Waimate District Council online records) [31 March 2016]; Linwood Cemetery headstone transcriptions (South Canterbury Branch NZSG microfiche cemetery records) [30 March 2016]; Linwood Cemetery burial record (Christchurch City Council online records) [30 March 2016]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [06 June 2015; 23 April 2016]; NZ Wargranves Project at http://www.nzwargraves.org.nz/casualties/richard-frank-will; University of New South Wales, Canberra NZEF Project "New Zeland Anzacs in ther Great War 1914-1918" at http://nzef.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=276855; 'frank wills', http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/soldier/frank-wills, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Oct-2008; Web submission by G Blanche, 3 December 2017
- Great War Stories - Rifleman Richard Frank Wills - Timaru Herald 19 August 2017.pdf (pdf, 77.4 KB updated 15-Sep-2017)
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
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