Minister was allowed to hold services from the trenches

When the call to arms came to Methodist minister Frank Stafford, he chose to enlist not as a reverend but as a ‘ranker’ – one of the rank and file.

He joined the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infanty – a band of men from Truro skilled in clay and tin mining.

Frank Stafford and his wife Ethel

Frank Stafford and his wife Ethel

The 10th became a Pioneer Battalion – that is foot-soldiers who marched with or in advance of an army or regiment having spades, pickaxes etc, to dig trenches and clear and prepare the way for the main body.

“His Army pay book shows that he joined the ranks on June 4, 1915 and was immediately appointed Sergeant,” said his son John Stafford, of North Bay Court, North Marine Road, Scarborough.

The 10th, including the Rev Stafford, spent 15 months in training and crossed the Channel to Le Havre in June 1916 to become part of the 2nd Division.

A month later the men took part in the Battle of Delville Wood – an engagement in the Battle of the Somme and ome of the bloodiest of World War One.

John Stafford with his father Frank's medals

John Stafford with his father Frank's medals

Although he was not a chaplain, the Rev Stafford’s commanding officer allowed him to hold services – and these brought comfort to the other soldiers.

“Father also wrote home to the St Austell Quarterly Meeting urging members to write to the men on the Front,” said Mr Stafford.

The Battalion next saw duty digging trenches and establishing command posts as part of the battle of Ancre in November 1916.

It also saw action at Ypres in August 1917. Here one of the Battalion’s officers, Adjutant Lieutenant Slingsby, was killed, an officer the Rev Stafford held in such regard he honourd his son with his name. Slingsby is Mr Stafford’s second name.

The Rev Stafford was named in dispatches by Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig and was awarded the Military Medal.

The citation said: “Sergeant Stafford has been one of the most valuable and reliable NCOs in the battalion and on numerous occasions he has had to work under the most dangerous and trying conditions ... On several occasions he has shown great pluck when passing under heavy shell fire in his journeys to and from advance headquarters.”

After the armistice, the Rev Stafford was stationed in Germany and his son still has the postcards he collected from there.

A demobilisation dinner for the 10th Battalion was held in Truro – for which the Rev Stafford was asked, separately, by various officers to write their speeches.

“After the dinner, the Colonel thanked my father for the speech he had written for him and said it was wonderful how all the speeches had dove-tailed together so well. Father refrained from explaining why,” said Mr Stafford.

After the war, the Rev Stafford rejoined the ministry and worked in Lancashire, Norfolk and Derbyshire before settling with his wife Ethel and their sons in Sheffield.

Mr Stafford worked in the steel industry before coming to Scarborough 45 years ago. He and his wife Elaine ran the post office in the Wheatcroft area of Scarborough.

His father visited Scarborough regularly and particularly enjoyed the cricket festival.