Sergeant Francis Abbott
36th/33rd Battalion, AIF
Service number: 3170
Born: 29 January 1893, Penrith, NSW
Died: 31 August 1918, Peronne, France
Francis Arthur Abbott was born in Penrith on 29 January 1893 to English parents, Joseph and Mary Ann (nee Mitchell) Abbott. The family lived on Jamison Road on the York estate. Abbott was the only one of the four sons to enlist. Brother Joseph was exempt from military service to keep Frank’s grocery business going and to look after their elderly parents. James and Albert Abbott worked on the railways like their father. Before enlisting, Abbott worked as a storeman for the Nepean Cooperative Stores until setting up a grocery business in March 1914. He also achieved the rank of Lieutenant in the local Citizen Military Force.
Abbott was keen to serve and joined the Instructional Unit at Liverpool in October 1915, becoming a musketry trainer and Acting Staff Sergeant Major. In October 1915, he joined the 3rd Australian Infantry Regiment as a staff instructor. Abbott enlisted in the AIF on 15 February 1917 and embarked from Sydney aboard HMAT Benalla on 10 May 1917. During the voyage he had a bout of bronchitis. Upon disembarkation at Plymouth on 19 July, he was attached to the 9th Training Battalion and attended Bayonet Fighting and Physical Training schools. By the end of December, he was in France and was taken on strength with the 36th Battalion, stationed at Ypres in Belgium. On 30 January 1918 Abbott reported sick and was shipped back to England and admitted to Middlesex War Hospital at Clacton-on-Sea Essex. He re-joined his company at Villers-Bretonneux on the Somme. Two days later the 36th Battalion moved from the Front Line to La Houssoye for a break.
When the 36th Battalion was disbanded its companies were merged with the 33rd, 34th and 35th Battalions. Abbott’s Company was transferred to the 33rd Battalion on 30 April 1918, where they rotated in and out of the trenches for the next few months. He wrote to his mother about the experience of waiting for the jump and the exhilaration of going over the top. He referred to it as being ‘in the game’. In August 1918 the Battalion was stationed along the Somme River and participated in a number of major actions. It was in the action of the 22nd that Abbott was nominated for a Distinguished Conduct Medal for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’ while his officer and platoon sergeant were wounded. No medal appears to have been awarded however, despite his heroic efforts. The Battalion moved to Curlu in preparation for the next action at the Battle of Bouchavesnes on 31st August. On 31 August 1918, just outside the town of Peronne, Abbott was killed. A letter from one of the men in his Company to his family told that he had been shot in the head and died instantly, and it is recorded that he was buried in the field though his body was never recovered.
- Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France
- Honor Roll, St Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church, Penrith
- Honor Roll, Penrith Superior Public School
- Honor Roll, Lodge Nepean, Penrith
- Honor Roll, Memory Park, Penrith