Francis was born into an East Oxford family. When war broke out he had three children and was a Territorial soldier.
Son of a solicitor’s clerk
Francis John Liddell was born in 1874. His family lived in East Oxford, and he was baptised at Wesley Memorial. By 1881 his father Samson was a solicitor’s clerk, Francis was at school, and his brother Henry was 16 and a pupil teacher. Henry would later become headmaster of the Oxford Wesleyan School in New Inn Hall Street, and a Methodist local preacher.
By 1891 Samson had died. Francis was a tailor’s clerk, and in 1899 he married. By 1901 he was a wholesale clothier’s cutter, and he and his wife had taken over the house where he had been brought up. In due course they had two sons and daughter.
Company Sergeant Major
As the war started Francis was reaching 40, and he was probably already in the 4th Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, which was a Territorial unit. He may already have been a Company Sergeant Major. His battalion did not land in France until May 1916. In July the unit took part in a disastrous attack north of the Somme, when casualties were heavy and little was gained. In 1917 they were involved in pushing the German line back and following the German retreat.
Gas, smoke and thick mist
In March 1918 Francis and his men were forced into a difficult withdrawal, near Ham on the river Somme, amid gas, smoke and thick mist. Casualties were high, and it is believed that Francis was killed as the action was ending, aged 43. His body was not recovered and he is commemorated at Pozieres Cemetery. He is also remembered on the memorial at Cowley Road Methodist Church.