January 22, 1918 – Harborough air ace’s heroics behind enemy lines end in disaster


Captain Francis Durrard

A daring pilot in the relatively new Royal Flying Corps has been officially listed as ‘killed in action’ on a foray ‘over enemy lines’.

Captain Francis Durrard had not been seen since the sortie last November but had been officially ‘missing’ until now, according to the January 22, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

Durrard, 28, who had worked in the Harborough Rubber Co offices before the war, was yet another of the young men who died shortly after returning from a home leave.

This edition of the Advertiser includes a number of war stories about local men who are injured, missing or killed and also some who have been recognised for their gallantry.

FARRIER STAFF SERGEANT PALMER A former landlord of the Talbot Hotel on the High Street, Palmer ‘was killed by a shell’  – this is just ‘a comparatively short time’ after his brother Second Lieutenant Percy R Palmer fell in action. The family were sent a letter from Captain R Tomlinson of Market Harborough, who says: “Your son was killed by a shell and six others, including the corporal and driver farriers were wounded. It will be some little satisfaction to you to know he did not suffer.”

PRIVATE FREDERICK WARD of Gladstone Street, Desborough, was killed on New Year’s Eve when ‘some ammunition was accidentally exploded’. Ward and six comrades were all killed instantaneously.  The Ward family are also suffering as his brother had also recently died from his wounds.

PRIVATE H W GRAINGER of Buzyard’s Place, Market Harborough, is reported as missing. The former Market Harborough Railway Station porter is married and his parents live in Bath Street, Little Bowden.

SERGEANT PERKS There is good news for the family of friends of Perks of Market Harborough.  Perks had been posted as ‘missing’ since November but his friends ‘have received intimation that he is a prisoner of war in Germany’. Perks used to work with his brother-in-law at the boot repairing depot in Coventry Road.


Private Herbert Waddsworth

PRIVATE HERBERT WADDSWORTH Only a short caption accompanies a photograph of Waddsworth who was serving in the Coldstream Guards. Waddsworth, of Scotland Road, Little Bowden, died on New Year’s Day of ‘wounds received in action’.

PRIVATE F H CURTIS Some of the worry for the family has been dispelled now they have been told the whereabouts of Curtis of Braybrooke Road, Desborough. He had been injured last November but it was unknown where he was being treated. News has now come through that he is a prisoner of war but is being looked after in a German hospital.

PRIVATE ALF MARLOW has been awarded the Military Medal ‘for conspicuous bravery on the field’. Marlow, who was originally a finisher in the boot and shoe trade, had emigrated to Canada before the war ‘to seek his fortune’. He has been fighting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

MAJOR O W H BRIGGS of Westfield, Kibworth, has won a promotion from the rank of captain and was mentioned in dispatches by General Allenby for ‘distinguished services’. Before the war Briggs was a partner in the Harborough Rubber Co.

There are also many snippets of letters from grateful servicemen who received a gift through the Market Harborough Territorial Christmas Fund. Corporal R H Bentley writing from Italy sums up the feelings of the many correspondents. “I cannot express sufficiently my thanks to you and all the townspeople of Market Harborough for your most generous gift which is the fourth I have received since being on active service, but I do earnestly hope that this will be the last time that these gifts are required.”

  • This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.
  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University lecturer David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.
  • Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.




One thought on “January 22, 1918 – Harborough air ace’s heroics behind enemy lines end in disaster

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s