1st Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment
Remembered on :
FRANK SELLINGS, the first child of Benjamin and Barbara Sellings, was born in Etchingham, Kent, in 1894 and his birth was registered under the area of 'Ticehurst' in March of that year. In 1901, aged 7, he lived at Uttworth Farm, Alfold Lane, in Cranleigh, where his father was the farm bailiff. His siblings were younger sisters Alice (b abt 1896) and Dora May (b1904) and brothers Albert (b abt 1899), Harold (b1904) and Walter Edwin (b 1907).
The 1914 Electoral Roll for Ewhurst notes that Frank's father, Benjamin, was a registered voter living at Mascalls, which confirms the Sellings family's tie with the parish of Ewhurst. On 18th January 1911, at the age of 17 years, Frank joined the army Reserves, becoming Private 5606 of the 3rd Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. He served with the Reserve until 3rd July 1912, when he attested for service with the Regular Army, becoming Private 10189, of the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, aged 18 years and 6 months. His term of service was as a soldier of the line for 7 years Army Service followed by 5 years in the Reserve.
Frank joined 2nd Battalion The Queen's RWSR at Warley in Essex, where he remained before the battalion moved to Bordon in preparation for transfer to South Africa. He was examined and found fit for service in South Africa on 27th November 1913.
the time that the First World War commenced, and the L prefix to his service number indicates that he was a Regular soldier of a Home Counties regiment. According to his medal index card, he arrived in France on 12th August 1914, which indicates that he served with the 1st Battalion, Queen's (RWSR), who arrived, along with Private William Rose, in France on this day.
TO FRANCE WITH THE B.E.F, 1914
At the time of the declaration of war, the 1st Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment were based at Bordon Camp in Hampshire. They had been participating in a training camp at Rushmoor, near Aldershot when, on 1st August 1914, they suddenly received orders to return to Bordon. The order for General Mobilization arrived on the 4th, and the battalion began to receive Reserve soldiers, like William Rose of Ewhurst, the following day. The battalion was part of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division of the British Expeditionary Force, which also included the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers, with whom Frederick Aylwin of Ewhurst served, other mobilized Reserve soldier.
Over the 5th and 6th August, the battalion received 580 reservists, and the mobilization was complete by the 7th August. The 8th and the 9th were spent preparing the reservists on the rifle range and practising attacks, and on the 12th the battalion paraded in two companies for the journey to France. They left Bordon by train, bound for Southampton, and embarked, 27 officers and 971 other ranks, on the S.S. Braemar Castle, which sailed at 8.15pm. They landed at Le Havre at 9am on 13th August 1914. The battalion was to remain on the Western Front for the duration of the war. William Rose and Frank Sellings were therefore the first Ewhurst men to arrive to take part in the conflict.
On arrival in France the battalion first came under fire on the 24th August 1914, and on the same day engaged a small German cavalry group which approached their trenches. The remainder of the year saw the battalion taking part in the following actions;
Battle of Mons. 23-24 Aug 1914,
By the start of 1915 the 1st Queen's were able to muster two of the normal four companies, 27 officers and 418 other ranks. Many of the men arriving to increase the strength of the battalion had previously been wounded, and of one draft it was deemed that 70 per cent were unfit for service, and returned to England.
In January Frank and the battalion moved to Béthune and then into the front line near Givenchy. The waterlogged and treacherous part of the line near Givenchy Redoubt was to be his first experience of the living conditions under enemy fire. May 1915 brought the battles of Neuve Chapelle and Festubert, the latter of which the battalion, still under-strength, acted as a reserve, and it was not until June that it reached its full compliment of men.
On the 25th July 1915 the 1st Bn Queen's joined the 5th Brigade of the 2nd Division, and preparations began for action on the Loos plain in late September.
On 25th September 1915, the battalion was destined to form part of the first wave in action on the first day of the Battle of Loos. Their frontage was to be to the north of the Lens/ La Bassee Canal, in front of the village of Givenchy. The Battalion War Diary details how in the lead up to the attack, the battalion had moved, on 22nd September, from billets near Essars to a section of trench referred to as B2 in front of Givenchy. They relieved the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry and remained in the line until 5pm the following day, when the Highlanders once again took the line and the Queen's retired to Le Quesnoy to prepare for the forthcoming attack. This short period had cost the battalion 2 men killed and 6 wounded.
Just 24 hours later, at 5pm on 24th, the battalion had reoccupied a reduced frontage in the B2 sector in readiness for the attack and also received a draft of 40 men. One can only imagine the thoughts of these young replacements as they joined their new battalion from England on the eve of a full scale attack.
THE BATTLE OF LOOS, 25TH SEPTEMBER 1915
The morning of 25th September 1915 dawned with light and variable winds, which hampered the deployment of gas by the British forces to the south of the Queen's (its first offensive use by7 British forces) and the smoke screen that the Queen's were planning to advance behind. At this stage, the battalion included the following men from Ewhurst:
Second Lieutenant RC Joynson-Hicks (Wounded in Action), Private Victor Baker (Wounded in Action), Private Thomas William Denyer, Private Albert Killick (Killed in Action), Private Frank Sellings (Wounded in Action)Private Victor Lawrence (Killed in Action),
The War Diary reports:
At 3.30pm the following day the battalion was relieved by the Highland Light Infantry and retired to billets in Le Preol.
Frank and the men of the battalion had therefore advanced well into the German lines before being forced to retire to their starting positions. Over the following weeks news of the battle and its casualties was to gradually filter back to Ewhurst, and with it the information that Frank had been wounded in action. An article in the Surrey Advertiser on 2nd October 1915 reported that:
Frank was discharged from hospital, and sent home pending his discharge as unfit for military service on 26th April 1917, following a medical board at the 5th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth. On discharge Frank gave his address as The Mascalls, Ewhurst, Surrey. He was finally discharged from the Army on 17th May 1917 and his medal record card indicates that he was awarded a Silver Wounds Badge.
His younger brother, Albert Sellings, would have been eligible for service from mid summer, 1917 however the Ewhurst Book of Remembrance reports that he "died of illness in Ewhurst on thirtieth of May 1917". It is likely, therefore, that whilst he had received his call up or volunteered for service, he had barely commenced his basic training before falling ill.
Suffering from the wounds that he had incurred at Loos, Frank finally died on 4th October 1919 in Ewhurst. He had already been awarded the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. William Rose, the fellow Ewhurst man who had arrived in France on the same day as Frank in August 1914, had been captured by the Germans early in the war, returned to Ewhurst after the war, and was now also suffering from deteriorating health as a result of his time in captivity. William finally succumbed to his illnesses in 1920.
Because Frank and William died of illness and injuries having left the Army, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission hold no record of their death's in their register.
Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey