PRIVATE FRANK WESTBY
SHERWOOD FORESTERS NOTTS AND DERBY REGIMENT
1ST AUGUST 1918 AGE 20
BURIED: COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY, GERMANY
Frank Westby was 20 when he died. We've become so used to the idea of boy soldiers being 17 and under that we've almost forgotten how young soldiers were at 20.
Frank Westby was born in 1898 in Long Eaton in Derbyshire. The War Graves Commission's records state: "Son of Mrs Jane Westby of Sheffield", yet in the 1901 census Frank Westby is described as the adopted son of John and Agnes Hibbs of Long Eaton. The Hibbs already had three children. Aged 14 in 1911, Frank Westby was a farm boy boarding with John and Elizabeth Middleton, also in Long Eaton. Aged 17 and 24 days on 9 October 1914, Westby enlisted in the 6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters.
Westby's medal card shows that he was not entitled to the 1914-15 Star so he didn't enter a theatre of war until 1916. Two years later he was in the front line at Noreuil on 21 March 1918 when the Germans launched their Spring Offensive. The 2nd/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters took the full force of the German onslaught with resulting very heavy casualties: on 1 March 1918 their fighting strength had been 53 officers and 883 ORs; on 1 April 1918 it was 18 officers and 364 ORs.
Westby, along with both the regiment's Commanding Officer and Second in Command, was taken prisoner. Five months later he died whilst a prisoner of war. Some sources says he died of wounds but many prisoners died of overwork, malnutrition, harsh treatment or illness. Westby would have been buried at the time wherever in Germany he had been imprisoned, but after the war prisoners' bodies were gathered up from 180 different burial grounds and reinterred in four permanent cemeteries, of which the Cologne Southern Cemetery was one.
Mr Joseph Westby, a cutlery manufacturer of Goole Green Farm, Fulwood, Sheffield, chose Frank Westby's inscription - "He was only a boy". However. not only was Westby 'only a boy' but he was also one who appears to have had no real family. Joseph Westby was definitely not his father but he could have been his uncle.