WILLS, Richard Frank
(Service number 25/368)

Aliases Frank
First Rank Rifleman Last Rank Rifleman


Date 16 February 1875 Place of Birth Northamptonshire, England

Enlistment Information

Date 11 October 1915 Age 39 years 6 months
Address at Enlistment 192 Antigua Street, Christchurch
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience South African Campaign, 10th Contingent
Marital Status Single
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".

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 3rd Battalion, C Company
Date 5 February 1916
Transport Ulimoara
Embarked From Wellington, N.Z. Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 3rd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian & Western European 1916
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal; 2nd Boer War
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

19 to 22 April 1916 - admitted to No 3 NZ field Ambulance, France, with diarrhoea.

Post-war Occupations


Date 31 May 1916 Age 41 years
Place of Death Somme, France
Cause Killed in action
Notices Lyttelton Times, 17 June 1916
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)

Biographical Notes

Richard Frank Wills, known as Frank, was the younger son of William and Susan Mary (née King otherwise Shirley) Wills, of Northamptonshire, England. He was born on 16 February 1875 in Northamptonshire and baptized at Badby, Northamptonshire, on 7 March 1875. William and Susan had married on 16 February 1867 at Weedon Bec, Northamptonshire. Their first child, John, was baptised on 19 December 1869 at Daventry, Northamptonshire, and buried on 9 January 1870, at Daventry, aged 2 months. Emma was baptised on 25 February 1871, also at Daventry, and William (William Henry) was baptised on 1 June 1873 at Badby. William, a shoemaker, and Susan and their infant daughter Emma were at Daventry, Northamptonshire, in 1871. The Wills family was in Waimate, New Zealand, by July 1877 when another daughter, Elizabeth, was born. They probably came to New Zealand soon after Frank was born and settled at Waimate where Richard Wills, the brother of William senior, was already living. When Richard died in 1879, William challenged the granting of letters of administration to his de facto wife. 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.

Two boys named William Wills (aged nine years) and Frank Wills (aged seven years), wero brought up on 12 April 1882 at the Waimate Magistrate’s Court by Sergeant Ramsay as neglected children. “Mrs Bryant in evidence said the boys had been left with her by their father some months ago. She. was not able to clothe and support them. The children’s mother was dead, and the father had gone away, as witness believed, to Southland. An order was made that the elder boy be sent to the Burnham Industrial School for five years, and the younger to seven years.” In October 1885, William Wills was summoned for non-payment of contribution towards the support of his two children at Burnham Industrial school, a statement of the manager of the school showing that he owed over £20 “under an order of the Invercargill R.M. Court for maintenance of his two children at Burnham Industrial School. Mr Wills said that he had been out of work; that he was a bootmaker by trade, but had had to do labouring work. “He had lately got work at £1 a week and found for four weeks, but he had been previously a long time unemployed.” An order was made that he pay £4 on or before 23rd October, in default one month’s imprisonment. His case – for failing to provide for the support of his two sons in the Industrial School - was adjourned in December 1885, Wills having paid £2 on account. In January 1886 the police case against W. Wills “for failing to pay arrears for maintenance of his two boys at the Burnham School, was adjourned by the Court to the 5th of February, the defendant having stated he would pay as soon as possible after getting his wages.” The case against Wm. Wills for non-compliance with an order to contribute to the maintenance of his children in Burnham Industrial School was further adjourned for two months on 19 February 1886, the Clerk informing the Bench that defendant had paid in £8 16s since the last adjournment. Having been charged in the April following with failing to support his family, he was summoned at the Waimate Court on 14 May 1886 for neglecting to contribute to the support of his two children at the Industrial School, Invercargill, the amount then due being £42. William Wills did not appear. The Sergeant stated that “the case had been adjourned from court day to court day since October last; and that he (the Sergeant) had repeatedly told the defendant to attend the court, and the latter, who resided in the Waimate district, promised to do so, but failed to fulfil his promise, or liquidate his arrears.” Wills “had been working in the district and earning money, out of which he could, if he wished, contribute to the support of his children. Wills had paid nothing of late.” The Sergeant had met Wills a day or two earlier and “told him as the case had been so repeatedly adjourned he should attend on the present occasion, and the defendant said he would.” The Bench adjudged the defendant to pay £5 within a fortnight, or in default one month’s imprisonment. So, two young boys – Frank and William Wills - spent at least three years at Burnham Industrial School, followed by time at the Invercargill Industrial School.

Frank followed his father into the shoemaking trade. Frank and two mates were charged in the Waimate Magistrate’s Court “with creating a disturbance by beating tin cases, and ringing a bell in Manse street” at about 9 pm on 16 September 1890. On pleading guilty, they were convicted and discharged and warned “against a repetition of the offence on future occasion of a similar kind.” In the late 1890s, a few money claims were made against Frank, 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. Both his father, William Wills, and his brother, William Wills, gave evidence in his defence. In February 1909, F. Wills (Studholme) wrote to the Waimate Borough Council, complaining that he had had to pay pound fees for days after he had applied for release of the animal (a horse) impounded.

Private Frank Wills, 9456, had served with the New Zealand Volunteers and 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 at Glenavy. 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. A large number of people gathered at the Waimate station to farewell the local men as they when left for camp. In early September a large number of friends met at the station when the men arrived at Studholme by the express train and travelled from there to Waimate by branch line.

His address on enlistment 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. Initially he was deemed temporarily unfit, as he required plates (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 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 the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and disembarked at Suez just over five weeks later. He left Alexandria for France on 7 April. 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.

All too soon, on 31 May 1916, he was killed in action at the Somme, France, when a high explosive shell burst in a dug out. 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 was 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 41 years old.

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. From July 1916, the names of Frank Wills and – Sole, and in August as Henry [sic] Sole, featured regularly in the Waimate Daily Advertiser’s Roll of Honour under the heading “The Supreme Sacrifice”. In June 1916 they had been recorded, under the heading “Answered the Call”, as Frank Wells and – Sole.

Death notices for Frank and his nephew Edward Sole appeared in the Lyttelton Times of 17 June 1916. Richard Frank Wills was the dearly beloved and youngest son of W. Wills and brother of Mrs E. Sole (Emma) and Mrs E. Russell (Elizabeth) – “For the honour of his country.”. In 1917, Frank was remembered not only by his sister Emma Sole – “He fought and died for his country”, but also by his niece, Catherine (Kitty) Sole. Emma and her husband remembered again in 1918 – “God has the key of the unknown.” In 1919, a touching tribute was paid in “loving memory of our dear brother and uncle, Richard Frank Wills”, by Emma and William and their family -

“We will never forget him—we loved him too dearly

For his memory to fade from our lives like a dream.

The lips may not speak, yet the heart mourns sincerely,

And thoughts often linger where they seldom are seen.”

The 1920 In Memoriam notice inserted in the newspaper by Emma and William and their family read – “In fond memory of Edward Sole (Ted), and Frank Wills, died somewhere in France 1916; also our dear Kitty, died December, 1918.

This day brings to memory fresh, ones that have gone to rest,

And we, who think of them to-night, are those who love them best.”

Kitty Sole, who had remembered her brother and uncle in 1917, had married Rifleman Arthur Samuel Boaz in March 1918 and died of pneumonia in hospital in December 1918. Jack Sole (Francis Arthur John Sole) also remembered his dear brother Ted and his Uncle Frank who were killed in France, 1916 and his dear sister Kitty Boaz – “Some day, some time, our eyes shall see the faces sweet to memory.”

A photo of Rifleman R. F. R.[sic] Wills, Canterbury Battalion, killed in action, was printed in the Star of 17 June 1916. The Waimate War Memorial was unveiled following the Anzac Day service on 25 April 1923, the parade reforming to march to the park. Lieutenant-Colonel Newman Wilson, D.S.O., M.C., a Waimate man who served with distinction in the war, was invited to unveil the memorial. ‘Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson said that it was a matter for congratulation to the district and relations of those who are no longer with us that the splendid memorial had been erected. It was an outward expression of the high regard and esteem in which they held those who at the call of duty and danger did their job.

“We who are left behind,” he said, “feel that there is little we can do compared to those who gave their all. We must keep Anzac Day as a holy day and not as a holiday, not only must we tell them the brave story but also must we tell them of the awful cost — through the great sorrow we must learn wisdom.” In conclusion Colonel Wilson said he would repeat the last lines of Kipling’s Recessional Hymn:

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget, lest we forget.

“I unveil this memorial to the glory of God and in honourable memory to those who gave their all for us and freedom.”’ A prayer of dedication, the firing of three volleys and the sounding of the “Last Post” followed, after which many beautiful wreaths were placed at the foot of the arch by returned men and relations of the fallen. The memorial which takes the form of a beautiful arch at Victoria Park records on marble tablets the names of those from the district who died in the Great War. Above the tablets is the inscription: “The glorious dead: the names liveth forever more.” Included among the names are F. Wills and H. Sole.

Frank’s great-nephew, Eric John Sole, was killed in action in World War Two. He is remembered on the Waimate War Memorial. Another great-nephew, Raymond David Sole, may have served with the Canadian forces in World War Two. Two nephews – George William Wills and Thomas Arthur Wills – appealed or were appealed for with regard to service.


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]; South Canterbury Times, 26 November 1879, 21 December 1885, 9 January 1886, 20 February 1886, 26 September 1890, Timaru Herald, 13 April 1882, 17 October 1885, 1 & 17 May 1886, 8 April 1891, 11 November 1892, 18 February 1899, 27 October 1899, 7 April 1902, 8 September 1902, 12 February 1909, 27 September 1911, 26 April 1923, 14 October 1929, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 3 April 1902, 27 September 1911, 01, 12, 14 June 1916, 31 July 1916, 26 April 1923, 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, Lyttelton Times, 17 June 1916, 31 May 1917, 31 May 1918, 31 May 1919, 31 May 1920, Star, 17 June 1916 (Papers Past) [31 March 2015; 06 June 2015; 28 December 2015; 23 April 2016; 07 May 2022; 20, 21 & 22 June 2022]; England Birth & Marriage registrations (Free BDM) [30 March 2015]; Baptism records, marriage record & burial record, Northamptonshire, England ( [30 March 2015; 23 & 24 April 2016]; 1871 England census ( [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 ( [06 June 2015; 23 April 2016]; NZ War Graves Project at; University of New South Wales, Canberra NZEF Project "New Zealand Anzacs in the Great War 1914-1918" at; 'frank wills',, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Oct-2008; Web submission by G Blanche, 3 December 2017; Industrial Schools Nominal Rolls (NZSG records) [20 June 2022]

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