Frank Hill Gaskell

 

Lieutenant-Colonel; 16th (Service) Battalion [Cardiff City], The Welsh Regiment

Killed in action: 17th May 1916, France

Frank Hill Gaskell was born in Penarth in 1878 to Colonel Joseph and Emily Mary Gaskell. He attended Llandaff Cathedral School, Malvern College and the University College Cardiff, where he was studying law. He was active in the cadet corps and at the turn of the century obtained a commission in the 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion of the Welsh Regiment. He went overseas with that battalion in 1900 to serve during the Boer War.

Upon his return to Britain he completed his studies and practised as a solicitor and barrister in the Cardiff and South Wales areas. He was elected representative for Adamsdown on the Cardiff Corporation in 1906 but resigned two years later. In the 1910 election he contested the East Glamorgan constituency for the Conservative and Unionist Party but was unsuccessful and returned to practising law.

In 1909 he married Violet Charles and the following year they had a son, Reginald. The family moved to Boscobel in Station Road before war broke out. When the war did come, Frank rejoined the colours and was posted to France as a Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the Welsh Regiment. In October 1914 while serving with this battalion, he was shot in the jaw and invalided back to Britain.

Recuperating at home, he was approached by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff to help raise and subsequently lead a “Cardiff City” battalion of the Welsh Regiment (which was to become the 16th Welsh). With his connections and powerful oratory, he spent 1915 successfully raising this unit and led it back to France in December 1915 as a Lieutenant-Colonel. Alongside him was his neighbour Captain LAP Harris.

As a new battalion, the 16th Welsh spent much of early 1916 in “quiet” areas of the front to gain combat experience before the coming Somme offensive. In May 1916 they were in the line near Merville, France. Frank was inspecting his men in the forward trench when he was shot at by a German sniper. The round hit the box holding his pistol ammunition and ignited the cartridges, leaving him severely wounded. He was carried back to the nearest aid station but succumbed to his injuries soon after. He was 37 years old, the oldest man and most senior officer from Llanishen to be killed.

His death was widely reported back in Cardiff. He was buried with full military honours in Merville Cemetery, in a service attended by the officers of “his” battalion (including LAP Harris) and a memorial to him was unveiled in St John’s Church in Cardiff. His link to Llanishen also meant he was commemorated on the memorials in St Isan’s Church.