Claude Francis was the eldest son of Henry W. Francis, a carpenter and joiner living in Castle Street. Claude was born on 30th September 1896, and was therefore just under 18 years old when the war broke out. The attached family tree shows his mother, Lucy Evelyn Hugo, died in childbirth when Claude was only 4, a common enough event in the Winkleigh of those days. Lucy’s sister, Millice Alberta from St.Mellion, Cornwall, moved in to take care of the three children, Claude, Cecil two years younger and the baby Edward, as shown in the 1901 census. Lucy had originally come to work in Devon and in 1891 was working as a housemaid in Ilfracombe. With the expansion of the railways, Ilfracombe was being developed as a holiday destination and would have been a good place to visit from Winkleigh.
Cecil, who started adult life as a Winkleigh postman, joined the navy in 1915, lying about his age but anxious to see service. His records have survived and the story of his war is included on this web-site. Sadly, Claude’s military records were among the vast majority of those destroyed in the London blitz, but we do have his medal card which gives us his army number and the award of the British and Victory medals which shows that he did not serve in France or Flanders before 1915. His number 21347 seems to indicate serving in a regular Devonshire Regiment battalion, because if he had been a Territorial he would have received a new number, 6 figures long, on March 1st 1917.
Attached is a summary of the Devonshire battalions during the war.
We would greatly welcome any further information on Claude from family descendants.
10th February 2014