Frank Bunton was a distant cousin on my maternal grandfather’s side of the family. Frank’s 3x grandfather James Jones was my 4x great grandfather.
Frank was born in 1888 in Bognor Regis, the third child and second son of Abel and Hopestill Bunton. Abel is a bit of an enigma as he was not with his family in either the 1891 or 1901 censuses although Hopestill described herself as married on both. The family were in Bognor in 1891 but sometime in the next ten years Hopestill moved them to London. They were obviously very poor as in 1901 Hopestill, her three children and a boarder were living in one room in a house in Putney and she was working as a laundress.
By 1911 all three children had grown up and were working, all still at home and now living in the same road but occupying three rooms. Hopestill now describes herself as a widow. Abel is very elusive but I suspect his absence from the censuses and other records may be explained by a sighting of him in the Workhouse in 1911 in Wexford in Ireland. Wherever he was, it appears that Frank and his siblings effectively grew up without a father.
Frank joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles who went to France in late 1914 and remained there throughout the winter. This was one of the regular battalions of the Rifles so Frank may have already been a soldier at the outbreak of war. They saw action at The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne, at La Bassee, Messines and the First Battle of Ypres.
The second Battle of Ypres had taken place in April and May 1915 and it was in this battle that the Germans first used gas as a weapon. The Irish Rifles Roll of Honour for May 9th shows hundreds of deaths from the attack and from the gas and this continued for several weeks afterwards.
No major battles were then fought until September in this area, but daily deaths were being logged from small skirmishes and minor attacks. Presumably there were also deaths from accidents and illness.
Frank’s death was recorded as taking place on July 10th and his burial was on July 12th. The casualty list for that day as recorded in the war diary gives “1 killed and 4 wounded in trenches all of other ranks”. Presumably this one death was Frank Bunton but we will never know whether he died of wounds, an accident or illness. He may have been caught in by snipers or by a random shell thrown into a trench. Whatever his fate, he would certainly have played an important part in the warfare of the summer on 1915 in Belgium.
Back home, both his brother William and sister Alice married after the war and both had their first sons in 1924. William named his boy Frank William, while Alice named hers Henry Frank, which I think shows what a close family they must have been. They, and their mother, lived in London for the rest of their lives. By the time her son Frank was killed in 1915, Hopestill had changed her name to Fanny and her death in 1949 was registered as Fanny H Bunton.
In Memory of
Rifleman FRANK BUNTON
4966, "D" Coy. 2nd Bn., Royal Irish Rifles
who died age 27
on 10 July 1915
Son of Mrs. Fanny Bunton, of 9, Bendemere Rd., Putney, London.
Remembered with honour
SANCTUARY WOOD CEMETERY
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Members of The Great War Forum at The Long Long Trail
Bob Price for the photo of Frank’s Grave in France