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Frank Berisford (1886-)

Manchester man served as an officer with the 10th Battalion Durham Light Infantry

Frank Berisford was born on 28 May 1886 in Withington, south of Manchester, to William and Martha. William worked for the family company, S&W Berisford, and on the 1911 census is listed as the company director of a grocery wholesaler. The company had begun trading in the sugar industry at the end of the 19th Century and in 1982 acquired British Sugar. The 1911 census shows Frank living at home with his family in Alderley Edge. It also shows that he did not follow straight into the family business, instead becoming a chartered accountant.

Later in 1911, on 20 September, Frank marries Maud Mercia Julia Flohr, daughter of John Henry Flohr, a cotton merchant. The 1911 census shows the Flohr family also living in Alderley Edge.

On 21 September 1914, Frank Berisford enlisted in the army at St James Street, London, aged 28 years and 4 months. The attestation form shows that his employment was as an accountant, and that he had spent five years as an articled clerk [trainee] with Halliday, Pearson, & Company of Manchester. He had attended Uppingham School, and had been a lance corporal in the Officers Training Corps. The medical examination form described Frank as having a dark complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. His height was 5 feet 9 and a half inches, weight 12 stones 5 pounds.

Frank Berisford was initially posted as a private with the Middlesex Regiment, and by October 1914 had already been promoted up to Sergeant. In November he applied for a commission to serve with the 16th Service Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (DLI), he received his commission on 3 December 1914, but with 10 DLI. He embarked for France in August 1915, three months after the rest of the battalion.

Berisford received several temporary promotions, his rank going up and down, before being made a temporary captain on 27 July 1917. He was also wounded several times, though he was back on duty the following day which suggests they were minor injuries. In early May 1916, he contracted measles which put him out of action for over a month. He returned to duty on 19 June. At the end of 1916, Captain Berisford was a member of a court of enquiry into the accidental death of fellow 10 DLI officer, Second Lieutenant Harold Daws.

When 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, was disbanded in February 1918, Captain Berisford was posted to 8th Battalion. He was with the battalion for just over a month when he received a gunshot wound to the left arm at Eterpigny during the first battles of the Somme of 1918. This was when Germany had moved its troops from the Eastern Front to the west and carried out large scales attacks.

Frank was first sent to 3rd General Hospital at Le Treport, then transferred to 8th General Hospital at Rouen. On 6 April 1918, he left France aboard the hospital ship Guilford Castle, and arrived at 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford, the following day. His case was reviewed by a medical board on 3 July 1918 and he was considered fit for home service and instructed to join 3 DLI at South Shields on 20 August. He will not be fit enough to return France again and at some point, he is transferred to 28 DLI. This is another home service battalion, stationed at Frinton on Sea, from where he sends a letter on headed notepaper from there to the War Office, applying for a wound gratuity, on 19 October 1918. On 29 January 1919, Frank was discharged from the army, retaining his rank of captain.

The National Archives has a record that shows Maud Berisford petitioned for divorce from her husband, Frank, on 7 October 1920. She claims that Frank had been habitually committing adultery with her older sister, Violet Freda Theresa Flohr, and that for the last month, they had been ‘living and cohabiting’ in Liverpool. There is no indication in the record as to whether the petition was successful. However, Maud died in a nursing home in Llandudno, Wales, on 2 September 1924, and the subsequent probate record cites her as a single woman. In the final quarter of 1924, Frank Berisford, married Violet. They are listed together on the 1939 register, he a retired accountant.

On 2 October 1938, Captain Frank Berisford completed an application to join the Officers’ Emergency Reserve (OER). He was living in Southport, Lancashire, and stated his desire to be affiliated to the 55th West Lancashire Division of the Royal Army Service Corps. One of Frank’s references was from Lieutenant Colonel (Temporary) AG Munro of the same division, in which he calls Frank ‘…definitely of an officer type’. However, the letter goes on to say that ‘…a few years ago he was convicted of fraud in connection with his business and served 12 months in the second division [class of imprisonment]’.

A note in the file asked the War Office if the OER should contact Scotland Yard to make enquiries for proof of this allegation, as there was no evidence of a conviction in Captain Berisford’s documents. The War Office replied that if they followed up the alleged conviction they should have to consider the ‘question of deprivation of rank’ should it be correct. They thought it seemed hardly ‘a “fair do” after the lapse of time and the circumstances’. They decided that he could be rejected on the basis of insufficient qualifications without having to investigate the conviction, but if Berisford pressed the matter they would pursue the allegation further. There is no evidence in his file to suggest that he did so.

A search of the British Newspaper Archive reveals that Frank Berisford was convicted of fraud. A series of articles in the Lancashire Daily Post of January and June/July 1935, report on the initial court appearance and subsequent trial of Berisford and his secretary, Muriel Finch. By this time, he running a dried fruit business, Frank Berisford and Company, through which the fraud of around £8000 against Martins Bank was conducted. As the case went to trial at the end of June, 33 of 49 counts against Berisford were dropped as several were considered to be duplicated. The counts dropped included four conspiracy charges and 29 ‘particular charges’.

The trial lasted eight days, but it only took the jury an hour to find Berisford guilty. In his defence, he acknowledged that he had ‘practised as a chartered accountant before the war… he remembered being told by the bank that his book-keeping was hopeless, but after they had given him fresh [financial] advances he continued the same slovenly habit’.

On 4 July 1935, the newspaper reported that Frank Berisford was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for ‘conspiring to defraud Martins Bank and of fraudulently converting produce and money to his own use’. Muriel Finch was found guilty of conspiracy and aiding and abetting, and was bound over for two years. The judge implied that Berisford’s war service was a contributing factor to not receiving a longer sentence.

In 1948, Violet Berisford died in Wales. A death for Frank Berisford has not been identified.

Much of this information was derived from the officers service records, held at The National Archives, Kew, London: WO 339/54942 and WO 374/6013

Other sources:
1901 and 1911 Census (via Ancestry)
Probate and death records (via Ancestry)
1939 Register (via Find My Past)
Petition for divorce, the National Archives ref: J 77/1714/3359
The Lancashire Daily Post (via the British Newspaper Archive)

Birth date: 28-May-1886

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: Lynton, Bower Road, Hale, Cheshire (1919)
33 Rawlinson Road, Southport (1922)
60 Queens Road, Southport (1939)

Education: Uppingham School, Oakham, Leicester (1900-1904)

Religion: Church of England

Organisation membership: Institute of Chartered Accountants

Employment: Chartered Accountant
Frank Berisford and Company [dried fruit merchants]

Family: First wife: Maud Mercia Julia Berisford (nee Flohr)
Second wife: Violet Theresa Frida Berisford (nee Flohr)
Parents: William Berisford, Martha Berisford (nee Kelsall)
Siblings: Samuel Berisford Harold Berisford (1901 census)

Military service:

Uppingham School Cadet Corps
21-Sept-1914 126507, Private, Public Schools Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, promoted up to Sergeant
3-Dec-1914 Commissioned to 10 DLI
1-Aug-1915 Embarked for France
1-May-1916 To be temporary captain
19-Jun-1916 Reverted to second lieutenant
3-Aug-1916 To be temporary lieutenant
17-Oct-1916 To be captain whilst commanding a company
25-May-1917 Mentioned in despatches
18-Jun-1917 Relinquishes rank of captain on ceasing to command a company
20-Jul-1917 To be acting captain
27-Jul-1917 To be temporary captain
3-Feb-1918 Reposted to 8 DLI on disbandment of 10 DLI
23-Jan-1918 to 6-Feb-1918 on leave to UK

Medal(s): 1915 star

Gender: Male

Contributed by U McKellar | Durham County Record Office