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Frank Elliott

(1897-1995) – Carrier pigeon driver

Frank Elliott (on left) became a shopkeeper and was turned down by the local regiment (DCLI) because of poor eyesight. Despite this, he became an army delivery driver in Britain and Ireland which included carrying baskets of carrier pigeons to railway stations. In 1919 Frank returned to Saltash and ran Elliotts store (now a heritage attraction) until 1971.

Credit: Elliotts Grocery Store, Saltash (Tamar Protection Society)

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Francis [Frank] Ede Elliott enlisted for duty on 24th June 1916, aged 18. At the time recruits were put into three medical categories ranging from A to C with B and C also graded from 1 to 3 depending on health. Frank went to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry barracks near Bodmin station for his grading. Like his twin brother, Harry, Frank suffered from poor vision and, having been placed in the lowest of the health categories, C3, he was sent home on two occasions. He wanted to be able to drive a car once the war was over so he enlisted in the A.S.C. Mechanical Transport section. As there was little time to waste, his father paid £5 for a crash course of driving lessons. This was a significant amount of money - sufficient for many families to live on for four or five weeks.

M/334293 Private Francis Ede Elliott was called up for service on 15th August 1916. He had passed his army driving test and, despite having never been on a lorry in his life, was given one to drive! With this specialist military qualification his pay was 3 shillings and 2 pence per day. It was rumoured that London bus drivers who took their vehicles to France received 6 shillings per day.

Frank went to C section 11th anti-aircraft mobile battery at Asheldham Hall, which was one of several forming the outer defences of London, in June 1917. Here he helped by handing shells to the gunner.

He was later attached to an infantry regiment posted near Ipswich where, among other duties, he delivered supplies to coastal outposts. Eventually he was posted to the Curragh in Ireland in 1918, where one important duty was taking baskets of carrier pigeons to railway stations. These pigeons were sent to other barracks from which they returned to the Curragh with messages attached. It was there on 11th November 1918 that Francis heard about the Armistice, probably before most people in Britain, as it was received by wireless in Morse code direct from the War Office.  Frank left Ireland for home on 6th August 1919. His Demobilisation Certificate says that Francis Elliott of the Royal Army Service Corp was transferred to the Army Reserve on 19th December 1919 after 3 ½ years’ service and that he received £2 advance of owed pay.

At the age of 85 Frank and Harry (who had spent the war loading trains and working for the Labour Corps of 850 Agricultural Company) went to the Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall on 13th November 1982. They attended their first Armistice Day parade in Whitehall the next day. They were possibly the only set of twins to serve in the First World War who were still alive at that time.

Credit: Elliotts Grocery Store, Saltash (Tamar Protection Society).  In the photo Frank is on the left.