Francis William Aldridge
Remembrance Sunday 1995 was a special occasion in Frampton as Great War veteran, Pip Aldridge, celebrated his 100th birthday. He was photographed proudly holding a certificate presented after the war by villagers in recognition of his service, and his telegram from Her Majesty the Queen.
Francis William Aldridge was born in Frampton on 12 November 1895 to William Aldridge (a mariner) and Rosa Kate Wilkins. His father was often away from the family's home at Splatt and Pip was not baptised until 20 May 1903, along with his elder sisters and younger brother. After leaving school, he worked as a farm labourer.
In early September 1914, Pip responded to Lord Kitchener's appeal to enlist in the Army, joining at Gloucester at the same time as William George Birch and Frederick Gilbert Alexander Cook. Pip was posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, formed at Bristol in September 1914 as part of the Third New ('Kitchener') Army; it joined the 78th Brigade of the 26th Division, moving initially to Cheltenham and in April 1915 to Longbridge Deverill in Wiltshire. It was not sent to France until 20 September 1915, and did not remain there long, being redeployed in November to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. They landed at Salonika in Greece, and moved north to strengthen Serbian resistance against Bulgarian forces. During their two and a half years in the Balkans, they would have taken part in the capture of Horseshoe Hill and the three Battles of Doiran.
In July 1918, with the weakening of the Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces opposing them, the 9th (Service) Battalion was withdrawn from Greece and moved to France. Joining the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division at a time of being re-formed after their losses in the huge German offensive of early 1918, Operation Michael, they came into the field in October for the Battle of Cambrai, followed by the Pursuit to the Selle and the offensive against the Hindenburg Line. By late September the 9th Glosters formed the Divisional Pioneers; after a week's rest they were again in action to bridge the Selle, allowing the Division to cross and the South African Brigade to capture Le Cateau in a costly engagement. This river crossing was the opening stage of the Battle of the Selle, the final advance into Germany. Following the Armistice, they were ordered to occupy the Rhine bridgeheads, and remained there until February 1919. Following demobilisation Pip was transferred to the Army Reserve.
His obituary in The Citizen indicates that he was a signalman; this implies that his role was in telephony and telegraphy. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal and his service is commemorated on the plaque in the Village Hall.
On 5 December 1920 Pip married Ethel Florence Archer at St Mary's, Cheltenham. A couple of years later they moved to the Old Coffee House, The Green, where they brought up their two children, Eric and Doreen. Pip worked at Cadbury's for over fifty years and also looked after the churchyard grass. In 1932 he helped to found the Frampton on Severn and District Angling Club; football was another abiding passion of his. Villagers remember a quiet man who loved his pipe, his food and a tot of whisky. After Ethel died, their daughter Doreen helped care for Pip at home until he moved into the Old Vicarage Nursing Home when in his late nineties. Francis William Aldridge died there on 20 June 1996 aged 100 years and 7 months, and was buried in St Mary's churchyard six days later.