Thomas Frankish was born on November 21, 1867 in Bromley, Middlesex to George Frankish, an inspector for the Inland Revenue, and Sarah Jane Frankish (née Nettleton). He was the oldest of four boys; George (b.1870), Walter (b.1874) and Henry (b.1877). His sister Alice Gertrude Frankish was born in July 1880 but died in 1882.
Thomas went to medical school at Edinburgh University graduating in 1889. He remained at university and received a Bachelor of Science in Public Health in 1893. After graduating and undergoing residencies at Bournemouth and Lewes, he moved back to live with his parents working as a Surgeon at Accrington Victoria Cottage Hospital and the Royal Infirmary, Bradford.
Royal Field Artillery
On February 9, 1898 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Lancashire Artillery Volunteers. In 1901 he married Edith Mary Jennings and on July 18, 1903 their only daughter, Freda May Frankish, was born. By 1911 they were living in Accrington with two domestic servants and Thomas was a Major in the 5th Lancashire Battery, Royal Field Artillery, 1st East Lancashire Brigade. On September 23, 1913 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and assumed command of the Brigade. In his civilian life he was working in private medical practice, in partnership with Dr. J. S. Harbinson, and had been the Honorary Surgeon at Accrington Victoria Cottage Hospital for over a decade.
The Outbreak of War
At the outbreak of war, when he was 47 years old, he closed his medical practice and sailed with the 42nd Division to Egypt in September 1914 as Officer Commanding the 1st East Lancashire Brigade, RFA. While in Egypt his worsening presbyopia meant that his eyesight deteriorated to the point where he was reported as unfit to command due to defective eyesight. To his credit, he arranged to resign his commission in the RFA, allowing the promotion of his successor, Major Arthur Birtwistle, and to be granted a new commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps, (RAMC). The War Office granted the request on condition that he accept the rank of Major, which he did, and thus he lost both seniority and tenure which he struggled to come to terms with throughout the remainder of his war service.
Royal Army Medical Corps
He was commissioned Major in the RAMC on March 9, 1915 less than a week after Major Hilton of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment died at Heliopolis, leaving them without a Medical Officer. Since there was a need for his services with the 42nd Division but no suitable vacancy, he was added to the Army’s list of RAMC officers not attached to a medical unit and rotated through various posts as and where he was needed. By his own account, he served as the Senior Medical Officer at the British Military Hospital, Khartoum and as Medical Officer for the 1/7th Manchester Regiment. The 1/7th Manchesters being based in Sudan from September 30, 1914 until they returned to Egypt in April 1915.
Gallipoli with the 9th Manchesters
Back in Egypt he was attached to the 9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment on May 5th, 1915 serving as their Medical Officer. This attachment was wired to the War Office by the G.O.C. Egypt Expeditionary Force and it turned out to be the last official communication from the field concerning him and so for the next several years, as far as the Army was concerned, he remained attached to the 9th Battalion and was presented as such on the Army List. In later years he spent much personal effort attempting to correct the record without much success.
In fact, his tenure with the 9th Manchesters lasted less than 4 months, landing with them at Cape Helles on May 9, 1915 and remaining with them until temporarily transferred by the 42nd Division Assistant Director Medical Services (ADMS) to the 1/3rd East Lancs Field Ambulance on August 31, 1915. He was belatedly struck off the strength of the Battalion on October 21st when he was permanently transferred to Divisional HQ, as Sanitation Officer.
He did not serve as Sanitation Officer long because on November 11, 1915 he was medically evacuated to the 17th General Hospital, Alexandria (ex Hospital Ship Delta) suffering from dyspepsia and dysentery, the third attack that he had endured on the peninsula. He remained at the 17th General from November 17 to December 6 when he was transferred to an Officer’s Convalescent Hospital at Luxor.
Sufficiently recovered, he reported for duty with the 42 Division’s 1/1st East Lancs Field Ambulance at Shalufa on February 13, 1916. Just over a week later he transferred to the 35th Casualty Clearing Station, on February 22nd. He was briefly made Officer Commanding RAMC Details, Sidi Bishr, Alexandria but he was not well and after constant headaches for six weeks and occasional sudden attacks of fever, made worse by exposure to the sun, he was admitted to the British Red Cross Hospital at Ginza on April 8th suffering from Pyrexia of Unknown Origin. He recovered over the next 3 weeks and no microbial infection was found but on April 22nd he was medically assessed and granted 2 months home leave to recover in a more temperate climate. Consequently, he boarded the Hospital Ship Salta at Alexandria on May 14, arriving Southampton May 26, 1916.
On May 28, 1916 he was medically assessed at the 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester where it was noted that he had recovered on the voyage home but was still not at his usual strength. They granted him 1 month’s leave and he reported for a second medical assessment on June 17 where he was passed fit for General Service. He embarked the Troop Transport Minetonka at Devonport bound for for Alexandria on July 5, 1916, arriving there on July 19.
On July 23rd he reported for duty at the 15th General Hospital, Alexandria where he remained for the remainder of 1916.
He was not happy away from the action and so by his own request he embarked a Hospital Transport ship for Salonika on April 4, 1917 arriving six days later. Here he was briefly posted to the 28th General Hospital before assuming command of the 8th Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance on May 3, 1917. They remained in Salonika until June 1st when they embarked for Egypt, arriving 3 days later.
In early October the Assistant Director Medical Services (ADMS) Yeomanry Division wrote a scathing letter to the Deputy Director Medical Services (DDMS) Desert Mounted Corps complaining of Major Frankish’s unsatisfactory performance, especially with regard to the Field Ambulance’s field sanitation standards. The DDMS concurred and used Major Frankish’s own 3-page, detailed riposte to the charges as evidence that he would be better suited to a support, rather than a field, position. GHQ concurred and transferred Major Frankish to the RAMC Base Depot, Mustapha where he assumed command on November 3, 1917. This position carried the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and he assumed this rank from this date forward, although it took almost two years for the Army to recognize it.
On February 21, 1918 he was granted 3 weeks home leave and embarked the Indarra en-route to England. In England his leave expired without receiving orders to return and so on April 15, 1918 he wrote to the War Office reporting this fact. Two weeks later, upon receiving orders to return to Egypt, he wrote another letter to the War Office requesting that he be allowed to not return to Egypt due to health reasons exacerbated by the hot climate. He received a one sentence reply denying his request. This was rather unfortunate because he then boarded the Troop Transport Omrah, bound for Alexandria via Marseilles. On May 12, 1918 the Omrah was torpedoed by UB52, 40 miles S.W. of Cape Spartivento, Sicily and sunk. But remarkably there was only one reported casualty, which was fortunately not him, and he arrived relatively unscathed at Alexandria on the Malwa, 5 days later.
During his adventure in the Mediterranean, on May 11, 1918, he was awarded the Territorial Decoration for long service with the Territorial Force.
He remained in command of the RAMC Base Depot, now at Kantara, but after the war had ended he was sometimes deployed for temporary duty on board Hospital Ships sailing between Egypt and Beirut.
Demobilisation in 1919
On March 28, 1919 he relinquished command of the RAMC Base Depot and was assigned to the Convalescent Depot at Boulaq, Cairo. Consequently, when he became unwell on April 4, 1919, he was admitted to the Citadel Hospital in Cairo. Whilst being treated, he wrote to the Ministry of National Service, in England, requesting a “speedy demobilisation” citing a litany of reasons but primarily his deteriorating health in Egypt’s hot climate. He also wrote to his former medical partner, Dr. J. S. Harbinson, who had already been demobilised, requesting him to contact the War Office on his behalf, which he duly did.
He was medically assessed in Cairo on April 20th and they recommended two months rest in the UK. He boarded the Hospital Ship Carisbrooke Castle at Alexandria on May 6, 1919 arriving Southampton 10 days later. Here he was admitted to the Endsleigh Palace Hospital for Officers, London for treatment. The War Office notified him that he would be demobilised when fit and instructed the hospital to schedule a medical assessment for June 12, 1919. Remarkably, on May 24th he wrote to the War Office now requesting to remain in the Royal Army Medical Corps since he felt that he had secured a move from Egypt and claiming that there was not enough work for him in his medical practice (the opposite of what Dr. Harbinson had told them a month earlier). Needless to say, his request was summarily rejected.
He was discharged from Endsleigh on June 13 and returned home, with another medical assessment scheduled for July. On July 10, 1919 he submitted an official request for a speedy demobilisation for medical officers. The War Office must have considered starting a new department just to deal with all his correspondences. Nevertheless, he was assessed at Exeter on July 28 and granted leave until September 1st. On September 4, 1919 he was medically assessed again at Queen Mary’s Military Hospital, Whalley, Lancs and pronounced to be at fitness level ‘C1’. He was demobilised a week later on September 12, 1919.
Post War Years
On September 30, 1921 he resigned his commission with the Royal Army Medical Corps having attained the age limit and was granted the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
On October 20, 1939 he wrote to H.M. Secretary of State for War, offering his services, noting his prior service and stating that after the war he had been Chairman Pension Boards and Referee to the Ministry of Health. He indicated that he had been the Medical Officer on a troop ship for the last 4 years and was currently returning to England. He was 72 years old and his offer was very politely declined.
By this time he and his wife had moved to Quainton, near Aylesbury and in early 1946 he died there. Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Frankish, MB, TD was 78 years old and was survived by his wife and daughter.