Frank Preston of the Royal Engineers
and the Experimental Bridge Building Division 1914 - 1918
Earlier this month, Mrs Lyn Brookes of Pelsall, shared with me the fascinating story of what her Grandfather did during WWI. The following article is written in the words of Mrs Lyn Brookes.
319422 Sapper F Preston R.E. 2 Coy
Frank Preston was born in July 1896 and lived in Old Birchills.
Frank married Ada Louise Lyons, seen above in 1918 and they had two sons, Ronald in 1920 and Geoffrey in 1926.
Prior to 1914, Frank had undertook many soldering jobs and when he joined the army in 1914 he was spotted for his unique engineering skills and was swiftly transferred to the Experimental Bridge Building Division to design machines to produce links to form bridges capable of taking tanks across water. He remained with the unit throughout the rest of the war.
The article below was kept by Frank in his 1911 Field Engineering Manual with the description of what he did written by hand and taped to the reverse of the article.
The images below show a tank rolling across a newly built bridge.
Frank can be seen in the middle row, extreme right of the photograph above with the Experimental Bridge Building Division
After the war Frank went back to his previous job, but in 1926 began working at Jackson's in Hospital Street, Walsall where he worked until he retired. He was nicknamed as a young man 'The Young Professor' as he could repair and make anything. Woodwork or metalwork, people came from all over Walsall to ask him to help out. He was a keen gardener and would always give vegetables like beans, potatoes, cabbage, carrots and tomatoes to his relatives, neighbours and friends. He loved Walsall Football Club and was proud of his town and his family. He never drank alcohol, but didn't object to others enjoying it.
I am proud that Frank contributed to a tool that potentially could have expedited the end of a long and bitter war.
Frank's younger brother Sam, as seen above, served with the British Expeditionary Force in France serving as a gunner in the 7th Siege Battery.
Frank was very close to his brother Sam.
Sam survived the war and worked for the Coventry Newspaper for the remainder of his life, a lovely gentle, kind man.
Sam can be seen in the centre of the photograph above with his wife Edith
My Grandmother's brother, William Lyons (also from Birchills) was a Sgt during the First and Second World War. I believe he was in the Special Reserves.
My Grandfather's sister, Bertha lost her husband in the war leaving her to bring up a family on her own like many women. She never re-married and adopted a young girl left on her own.
It's hard to imagine the hardship and sense of despair that the war left behind.