This story is shared by the Trust with kind permission from Maureen Davies (née Pudner), who narrated it to her daughter, Sarah Davies.
Frank was born in Blackburn, Lancashire and was an only child. He attended Blackburn Grammar School (I think with a scholarship) and then went to work in a bank where I believe he passed all of his banking exams before joining the army.
I was working in Blackburn Post Office and had been transferred to clerical duties to cover for the men who had been called up to the Forces.
One day the Head Typist asked me if I would meet her nephew as he was coming home on leave and didn’t have anyone to go out with. I was happy to agree, she brought him down to meet me and we went out that evening for a walk. While he was home we saw each other as much as we could. The day before his leave was over he called for me at my home. We went for a walk together, had a hug and a ‘goodbye’ kiss, then he walked me home. He returned to his unit the following day by train.
Maureen, aged 21 and Frank
My friend Edna worked as a telephone operator at the Post Office and, although it was strictly forbidden, she knew the telephone number of the Officers Mess where Frank was stationed and used to put me through to him two or three times every week so that we could speak together. This continued for a month or so and we talked of getting married when he returned.
Frank pictured with his comrades, taken on 30 May 1944
Sadly he never did return, I believe he died of shrapnel wounds, and he is buried in Brouay Cemetery near Caen. Even though I had not known him for long we had become very close and it took me a long time to come to terms with his death.
Press cutting reporting Frank's death in Normandy.
There are two press clippings reporting on Frank's death but this one, whilst a bit torn, shows a photo of him which I don't have.
Eventually I married a former Spitfire pilot, Fred Davies.
We had three daughters, Sarah being the youngest. Before we married, I told him for ages that I couldn't marry him as I hadn't got over Frank. Sarah said that her Dad apparently used to refer to it later as Mum keeping him "on a piece of elastic'!!"
I stayed in close touch with Frank’s parents – they both attended my wedding even though it must have been so hard for them thinking it should have been Frank there. And my husband used to go to Euston Station to meet Mrs Johnston when she came down to stay with us.
Frank's father, Francis, had worked in Manchester but then lost everything when the cotton industry in Lancashire collapsed. His mother, Maud, became a teacher to try to make ends meet - my father was friendly with the Head of Education and persuaded him to offer her a job at a school in the countryside (married women were not supposed to be working at that time). She used to knit clothes for my children when they were young, and when she later died, although she didn’t have much, she left everything she did have to be shared between myself and her niece.
Frank was a bright, intelligent young man, always dressed smartly even though his family had little money. With his blond hair and good looks I knew of many girls who were ‘after’ him! He was fun to be with, caring and thoughtful. Frank's mother was visited by one of Frank's comrades. He told her that before his men jumped off the boat in Normandy he gave each of them a drink of whisky to steady their nerves. Frank's mother then told me this story.
Frank's grave at Brouay Cemetery
The photo of Frank's grave was taken by friends of mine who had taken their young grandchildren to France in June 2009 and, knowing about Frank, they kindly took a bunch of flowers to his grave and took some photos for me.
I remember Frank with love.
(Margaret Maureen Davies, née Pudner)
Dictated Christmas 2022, aged 99 years
Army • CAPTAIN
East Lancashire Regiment
DIED 18 July 1944
SERVICE NO. 145104