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Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Soldiers of the Great War; The Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative

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Williams, Frank Chandler

Private 536236
16th Canadian Field Ambulance

Background

Frank Chandler Williams was born September 29, 1898 in Fredericton, New Brunswick to Blanche Delong and Charles Williams, living at 70 Saunders Street. According to census records Frank had four siblings that included two brothers Morris and Archie, and two sisters Violet and Eva. He was the second youngest in the family. While little is known of his upbringing in Fredericton, his service record suggests that he was educated in Fredericton schools before the war began in 1914. His attestation document reveals that at the time of his enlistment in July of 1916, Frank was a student, was unmarried and belonged to the Baptist Church. He was a slight five feet four inches tall, had a light complexion with blue eyes and light brown hair. While he indicated being 18 years of age at the time of his enlistment for service July 25, 1916 with the 16th Field Ambulance Corps in Saint John, New Brunswick it is likely that he was an underage recruit similar to another Fredericton boy David William Duffie, who would also enlist with the 16th Field Ambulance.

Wartime Experience

One year after he enlisted, on March 26, 1917, Frank was sent overseas with the 16th Field Ambulance Corps aboard the SS Missanabie, arriving in England about a week later on April 7, 1917. After arriving in England for three months Frank would be in a military hospital treating an infection before being discharged and then taken on strength again with the 16th Field Ambulance in the fall of 1917. On March 21, 1918 Frank was posted to the HMHS Llandovery Castle, a Canadian Hospital Ship. Three months later, while enroute from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool, England the ship sent out an emergency signal after being torpedoed by a German U-86. The Llandovery Castle sunk in approximately ten minutes. The ship was returning to England after having brought Canadian casualties back to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Being a Hospital Ship, it was clearly identified as such with a brightly illuminated Red Cross, was unarmed and running with full lights. On board, the crew consisted of one hundred and sixty-four men, eighty officers and men of the Canadian Medical Corps, and fourteen nursing-sisters, a total of two hundred and fifty-eight persons. According to international law, an enemy vessel had the right to stop and search a hospital ship, but not to sink it. U-86 made no attempt to search the ship, but rather torpedoed it. Furthermore, there were reports that while the crew was attempting to escape in lifeboats, the German U-86 resurfaced and tracked down those trying to flee in lifeboats, and opened machine-gun fire on all remaining passengers in an attempt to destroy evidence of the ships' sinking. Only 24 people survived what became known as the one of the most significant war atrocities and Canadian naval disasters of the Great War. On June 27, 1917 Frank's service record reported him as missing and presumed to have died as a result of drowning. In early July newspapers began reporting on the disaster and notifications being sent to families with relatives on board. On July 2, 1918 the Daily Gleaner would report that "two Fredericton and three Marysville boys" were aboard the ship with notified families "prostrated over the news". Frank would not survive, presumed to have drowned at sea along with other local boys. He was just 17 years old.

Lest We Forget

Frank Chandler Williams is memorialized and remembered with honour on the Halifax Memorial along with 274 other casualties from the First World War and 2,847 from the Second World War. It was erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to commemorate men and women of the forces of the Commonwealth who died in both world wars and have no known grave. It commemorates particularly those Canadian sailors, merchant seamen, soldiers and nursing sisters who lost their lives at sea, and also bears the names of men of the Canadian Army stationed in Canada who have no known grave.

*This biography was researched and written by Lucas Wilson, a Grade 8 student (2016-2017) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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