Joseph Samuel Francis (usually ‘Samuel Francis’) came from a military family; his father had joined the West Essex Militia around 1847. Joseph joined the army in 1890, married three years later, had a son and fought in the Boer War. After leaving the regular army he worked at Hoffmann’s, served as a Territorial, and was mobilized again the day after the war started. He suffered ill-health and was discharged from the army in 1917, dying at his Bishop Road home in September 1919.
Joseph was born in 1869 in Springfield, the youngest son of the Richard Bowers Francis (pictured) and Emma Francis (nee Stanes).
His father had been born c1828 in Prittlewell; his mother c1830 in Earl’s Colne. The couple had married at St. John’s Church. Moulsham on 6th October 1850 and in 1861 had been resident in Baddow Road, Great Baddow.
Joseph’s siblings, included Richard Francis (born in 1851 in Chelmsford, died 1934), Henry Francis (born in 1853 in Southchurch, Southend, died 1880), Emma Francis (1856-1938), Thomas Francis (1857-1906), Alice Mary Francis (1859-1952), Sarah Ann Francis (1861-1944), Elizabeth Francis (born in 1864), William Francis (born in 1865) Albert Francis (born circa 1868) and Mary Ann Francis (1870-1958). Those from Emma to Sarah had been born in Chelmsford; those after, in Springfield.
The 1871 census recorded Joseph, his parents and eight siblings at High Road (South Side) in Springfield (today’s Springfield Road). Joseph’s father was a gardener, and his brother Henry was a carpenter.
The 1881 census found eleven year-old Joseph, his parents and two siblings at 60 Moulsham Street, Chelmsford. His father was a journeyman gardener; his brothers, William and Albert, a grocer’s assistant and clothier’s errand boy respectively.
FRANCIS, JOSEPH SAMUEL,
Company Acting Sergeant Major Royal Army Service Corps
Joseph was mobilized on 5th August 1914 into 832 Company of the Army Service Corps in Chelmsford where he rose to become Acting Company Sergeant Major T4 211274. After two years and 257 days’ service Joseph was discharged at Woolwich Dockyard as being unfit for further military service on 18th April 1917. His final medical board on 28th March 1917 had reported:
“Origin gradual onset. Very breathless on exertion. Complains of cough. [Illegible] especially in the [illegible]. Number of [illegible] all over chest, he is very thin. General condition is unsatisfactory. Not the result but aggravated by ordinary military service. Permanent.”
His discharge papers described him as five feet six and a half inches tall, of fair complexion, grey eyes, fair hair, was of good military character, had a tattoo on his left forearm, and had a trade of timekeeper.
The 1918 register of electors listed Joseph and his wife at 63 Bishop Road, Chelmsford (today’s number 111). He died there on 30th September 1919.
On 3rd October 1919 the Essex County Chronicle carried a notice of his death:
“Francis - On Tuesday, Sept. 30th at his residence, 63 Bishops Road, Chelmsford, Mr. J. S. Francis, late C.S.M., R.A.S.C., dearly beloved husband of Annie Maud Francis, after a brave and painful illness. His end was [Illegible]. Funeral Borough Cemetery, tomorrow, Chelmsford, 2.30.”
Joseph was buried in grave A.1166 at Chelmsford Borough Cemetery on 4th October 1919. Six days later the Essex County Chronicle carried a further report on his funeral:
“The funeral of Mr. J. S. Francis, late C.S.M., R.A.S.C., took place on Saturday at the Borough Cemetery. He was the youngest son of the late Mr. Richard Francis, market inspector. The Rev. Canon Lake officiated. The mourners were - Mrs. J. S. Francis, widow: Mr. Richard Francis, son: Mr Richard Francis and Mr Albert Francis, brothers: Mrs. R. Francis, daughter-in-law: Mrs. A. Francis, sister-in-law: Mr. C. Francis, nephew: Mr. P. Pepin, nephew; Mrs. Goodberry and Mr. W. Ridgwell, friends. A contingent of the Eastern Mounted Brigade, under the command of Lieut. Goldart, was present. There were floral emblems and tributes from the following: Wife: Son and daughter; Dick and Mary; Albert, Emily and family: Alice, sister; Percy, nephew; Directors of Hoffmann’s Ltd.; Office staff at Hoffmann’s; C.O.S. steel stores, Hoffmann’s; Canon Lake’s Bible Class; neighbours of Bishops and Marconi Roads; Mrs. Goodberry and Mrs. Doe; Mr. and Mrs. Martin; Mrs. John Shannon; Mrs. Beardwell and family; Mr. W. Perry and family; Mr. and Mrs. W Perry jun; Eadie and Dick; Mr. and Mrs. A. E Coppin; old members of Eastern Mounted Brigade. The undertakers were Messrs, Beckett and Sons.”
A slightly more informative article appeared in the Essex Weekly News of the same date:
“Ex Soldier’s Funeral - The funeral of Mr. Joseph Samuel Francis, whose death occurred at his home in Bishop’s-rd. on Sept. 30, took place at the Borough Cemetery on Saturday, Canon Lake officiating. Mr Francis, who was the youngest son of the late Mr. Richard Francis, formerly market inspector at Chelmsford, served in the A.S.C. for twelve years and fought in the South African War, He was subsequently employed by the Army Ordnance Department at Shornecliffe. On returning to Chelmsford he became a member of the Territorial Force and was employed at the Hoffmann Works. On the outbreak of war he volunteered for service, and was attached to the 3rd (Chelmsford) Line of Communication, A.S.C., but was forced to give up the work after two years on account of ill-health. Mr. Francis was 50 years of age and had a period of 27 year’s military service to his credit. A number of deceased’s old comrades of the Territorials were present at the funeral; and the mourners were the widow; Mr. R. Francis, son; Messrs. Richard and Albert Francis, brothers; Mrs. A Francis, sister-in-law; Messrs Charles Francis and Percy Pepin, nephews; Mrs. Goodberry and Mr. Richell. The floral tributes included tokens from the directors of the Hoffmann Manufacturing Company, the commercial staff; and the steel stores department.”
Joseph first enlisted in the army on 2nd July 1890, served for seven years in the colours, followed by a period in the reserves including time fighting in South African War and a period working in the Army Ordnance Department at Shornecliffe.
While Joseph was away the 1891 census recorded his parents, a cousin and a border living at 5 Springfield Hill, Springfield; his father employed as a grocer.
Joseph married Annie Maud Dunn at St. John’s Church in Folkestone, Kent on 24th September 1893. She had been born in the town circa 1873. The couple had a son, Richard Frederick Francis, born in 1894 in Folkestone.
Joseph subsequently returned to Chelmsford, worked at Hoffmann’s and served as a volunteer for four years until 31st March 1908. Two days later he joined their successor, the Territorials, and remained with them until the outbreak of the war, rising from Private to Sergeant in the process.
Joseph’s mother died, aged 77, in 1907; his father died, aged 80, the following year.
In 1911 the census recorded 42 year-old Samuel living with his wife, son Richard and nephew, Charles Francis at 7 Victoria Crescent in Chelmsford. At the time he was a clerk at the Chelmsford-based ball-bearing’s company Hoffmann’s. His son and nephew also worked for the firm as steel turners.
Joseph is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford.
He is not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
His son, Richard Frederick Francis, grew up to serve in the Merchant Navy. He was one of at least 32 people on board the 12,656 ton merchant vessel S.S. Empire Star when she was sunk by the German submarine U-613 on 23rd October 1942 about 570 miles north of the Azores. He was the ship’s Chief Engineering Officer. Earlier in that year Richard had been with the same ship when she was attacked by Japanese aircraft and struck by three boms while evacuating civilians and military personnel from Singapore. 16 people were killed in that incident. Many of the crew were given honours, including Richard who was awarded the O.B.E.