F.G. Harley

HARLEY, Francis George
Serjeant 19384, 6th Battalion,
Machine Gun Corps (Infantry)

Mentioned twice in despatches

Born - Nelson, Glam
Enlisted - Cardiff, Glam
Residence - Nelson, Glam
Died - 22nd Sept 1918 Western Front
Died of shrapnel wounds aged 26yrs

Formerly 13409, Welsh Regt.

Son of George and Catherine Harley of 23, Springfield Terrace, Nelson, Cardiff

Buried at Brie British Cemetery, East of Amiens, Grave i.c.2


The photo on the left shows frank Harley sat on the right. His uniform and insignia show he was in the Welsh Regiment at this time. From letters sent home and other documents found, it appears that Frank was a regular soldier having been part of the early forces sent to France February 1915. In May 1917, he had been taken from the Western Front and was in Grantham, Lincolnshire, suffering with shell shock. There he began studying machine gunnery and later qualified as a machine gunner. In early 1918 he sent his mother a letter telling her that he was getting promoted to Serjeant before being sent back to the front in May 1918.

FG Harley headstone

Photo right - Francis George Harley is buried in the third row down from the wall and the second plot from the nearest end

Brie British
FG Harley Private memorial

Francis' father, George Harley died on 14th November, 1931 aged 71yrs and his mother Catherine died on 11th February, 1950 aged 85yrs. They are buried together in a grave at Llanfabon (new cemetery), Nelson. On their headstone is inscribed a special memorial to their son Francis George HARLEY. War records relate to Francis being killed on 20th September, 1918. You will note that the family memorial shows his date of death at 22nd September, 1918 whereas official military records show his death took place on 20th September. The newspaper article below shows that the family were notified that Francis died on 22nd September. Supporting this as the correct date of his death is a card that he sent home which is dated 21st September 1918. This was most likely written while he was injured and receiving medical attention for the wounds that took his life just a few hours later. The handwriting appears to be his, but it is a little untidier than other letters he wrote.

I have managed to trace some relatives of Francis, who have been able to give me some further information.

The family I have traced are daughters of his brother. Two, Marlene and Dinnize are living in Nelson only a few hundred yards from where Francis grew up at 23, Springfield Terrace, Nelson. Their sister is living in the Hampshire area.

He was one of fourteen children, all of which were girls except for Francis and one brother.
Marlene has all three of Francis' was medals and his death 'penny'. Her husband has delicately framed them along with the two recognizances of the despatches where he received honour, and a wooden flute instrument that Francis used to play. The precious memories are proudly on display.

Marlene tells me that her aunt travelled to France after the end of the war as the family representative to visit his grave. She herself wanted to visit the grave for many years but had been unable to. Several years ago, my wife and I made her wishes come true when we took her and her husband to visit her uncle’s grave in France where she was able to pay her respects.

I have also managed to find out a little more about the family at the time just before the First World War.

George Harley originally came from Radnorshire which is in mid Wales and was born there in about 1860. His wife Catherine originally came from Llansteffan in Carmarthenshire and was five years his younger.

They first set home in the Radnorshire area where their first two children, Emma in 1886 and Alice in 1888, were born.
From there, the family appear to have moved to Nelson where Francis George was born in about 1893.
In Nelson, Elizabeth and Margaret were also born in 1896 and 1899.

At this time the family had made their home at:

32, Shingrig Road, Nelson.

As Marlene has informed me, there were fourteen children in all. I am not sure of the details of the missing information at the moment.


October 5th 1918.

Killed in action.

On Saturday morning Mr George Harley, 23 Springfield Terrace, Nelson received the following telegram from the war office.
“Regret your son, Sgt F.G. Harley, 19384, 6th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps died on Sept 22nd at 47th Casualty Clearing Station, France from fractured base of skull.”

Sgt Harley is a native of Nelson. He was 26 years old and had served four years in the 5th Welsh prior to the war. When war broke out he joined the 2nd Welsh and whilst with them he was promoted to Serjeant.
He was invalided home with shell shock in May 1917 and did not return to France until last July when he was attached to the Machine Gun Corps.

[Source: Merthyr Express]

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