Francis Charles FINLAYSON

Francis Charles FINLAYSON

Per his military service record (regimental no. 6251), Francis Charles Finlayson was born at Redfern, N.S.W. He gave his age as 28 years, his marital status as married, and his occupation as book keeper. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 11 inches tall, weight 140 lbs., with a fair complexion, grey eyes, and fair hair. His religious denomination was Roman Catholic. He claimed that he had no previous military service. He completed his medical on the 11th November 1915 at Parramatta, and was attested at Parramatta on 11th November 1915.

After completing the Coo-ee March he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.

On 3rd of February 1916 Private Finlayson was charged with being Absent Without Leave from the Liverpool Camp on the 1st and 2nd of February 1916. He was fined two days forfeiture of pay. On the 7th of March 1916 Private Finlayson was made an Acting Corporal.

After further training in Australia, Acting Corporal Finlayson departed Sydney on the HMAT A14 Euripides on 9th September 1916, as 20th reinforcement for the 13th Battalion. With him travelled fellow Coo-ees Acting Sergeant Thomas W. Dowd, and Acting Sergeant Stanley E. Stephens.

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was George Street, Parramatta, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his wife, Mrs. M.[May] Finlayson, 5 Trafalgar Street, Armidale [sic] (Annandale), N.S.W.

He arrived at Plymouth, England, on 26th October 1916. On 4rd November 1916 Acting Corporal Finlayson marched into the 4th Training Battalion at Codford, England.

On 16th January 1917 Acting Corporal Finlayson left Folkestone aboard the SS Princess Victoria bound for France, marching into the 4th Division Base Depot at Etaples on 17th January 1917. Upon marching into the 4th Australian Division Base Depot he reverted to his substantive rank of Private.

On 21st January 1917 Private Finlayson was taken on strength of the 13th Battalion whilst it was at Mametz, France conducting fatigue duties.

On 4th February 1917 the 13th Battalion was taking part in an attack on the German trenches in the vicinity of Guedecourt, France. During this action Private Finlayson was killed in action.

According to a letter written home from Private Charlie C. Carr, another soldier from Parramatta, dated 12th February 1917, Frank Finlayson was killed at his side. He wrote: ‘He was in the same platoon, and had only just joined us up. It was his first time in the trenches. He had a great nerve and proved himself a splendid fighter. We had just attacked and taken the German position, when they opened up terribly heavy artillery fire. Frank bravely went out to carry in a wounded German, and got in quite safely, but it was only about five or ten minutes after that he was killed by a German high explosive shell’.[1]

This night was also fellow Coo-ee Stanley E. Stephens ‘first hop-over’ and ‘baptism of fire’ raid against the German trenches, in the same company. He wrote in a letter published in The Farmer and Settler on 17th August 1917 that on the night of 4th February Finlayson was on his left just before the hop-over, and their objective was a trench ‘known as Stormy trench, in which Fritz had a strong post’. He reported that ‘a mess-tin full of rum’ was passed along, and ‘everyone took a swig, and passed it on’, and that he ’gulped down a couple of mouthfuls and handed it to Fin’. After taking the trench and some German prisoners, they returned to their own trench. Stephens reported that ‘Finlayson was separated from us in the hop-over, and entered the trench some distance on our right’, and the Germans began a bombardment ‘putting them into us’. He continued that about midnight ‘Fin. Came along the trench looking for us’, and that ‘after yarning for a minute or two he went back to fetch his web gear and rifle, etc., up to our ‘possy’. Stephens wrote that ‘he and I had been mates for a long while, back in Kiama’, and he ‘had only been gone about ten minutes when another mate named Moss Paine came to tell me that Fin. was killed’, and that he ‘went back along the trench with Moss, but Fin. had been hit in the chest with a piece of shell that exploded in the trench, and had dropped without a word’.[2]

Private Finlayson has no known grave. He left a widow and three young children.

His name is remembered on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France.

Private Finlayson's name on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France (Photograph: S. & H. Thompson 7/9/2014)

Private Finlayson’s name on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France (Photograph: S. & H. Thompson 7/9/2014)

Private Finlayson’s name is commemorated on panel 69 on the Australian War Memorial First World War Roll of Honour.

F. C. Finlayson’s name is also remembered on the Parramatta War Memorial.

[1] ‘Letters Home’, The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 21 April 1917, p. 4.

[2] ‘A baptism of fire’, The Farmer and Settler, 17 August 1917, p. 2,


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