My great uncle, Francis John Maskell was born in 1898, growing up, going to school and working as a farm labourer in the small village of West Ilsley in Berkshire, England.

In June 1916, he left the village for the first time in his life, travelling to the nearby town of Wantage to enlist in the army, joining the Royal Berkshire Regiment. After basic training, he served in France with both the 2nd & 6th Battalions.


At the end of January 1917, the 6th Battalion had 2 men killed and 13 wounded when an enemy shell landed on their dug-out entrance while they were exchanging positions with the 1st Bedfords near Martinsart on the Somme. Uncle Frank was one of the 13 wounded and he died of his wounds on 6th February 1917, aged just 19.


In March 2008 I visited the Commonwealth War Graves Commission 'Blighty Valley Cemetery' at Authuile Wood with my father and brother. The cemetery is typical of the very many small cemeteries on the Somme and now contains 1,027 burials and commemorations, with 536 of the burials being unidentified.


After the war it was calculated that during the Battle of the Somme 419,654 British and 204,253 French were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner; and of the 623,907 total casualties, 146,431 were either killed or missing. What a tragic waste; they were all heroes!


  • Mark Mansfield PRO 6y

    Great photo and accompanying text - these things should never be forgotten.
  • excellentzebu1050 PRO 6y

    Very special story ! Indeed these things should never
    be forgotten !!!!
    That is a fact !!! well done steve
  • Lesley 6y

    Thank you for posting and sharing this with us - yes a tragic waste!
  • Philip Male PRO 6y

    On a lot smaller scale it is still going on , I live just out side of Wootton Bassett, where a steady stream of dead come back in from the wars :o(
    Sure makes you think !!! Well done you..
  • Fiona PRO 6y

    What a very special and personal story .... today he will be remembered by all!
  • kcc5 6y

    A great reminder of something we should never ever forget
  • atrebatus 6y

    I'm glad you were able to visit with your Dad and brother. Very moving tale.
  • Lisa PRO 4y

    It's tragic to see the scale of those lost in battle so that we could be free. I fear that unless attitudes change, little will protect the future of human existence.
  • Katie-Rose PRO 4y

    How lucky you are to know all this information and have been able to visit the cemetary.
    I too lost a Great Uncle in WW1 but don't know anything about him.
  • Fiona Kent-Ledger PRO 4y

    thankyou for sharing - So nice that you got the chance to go there and tribute to him.
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Taken on March 25, 2008
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