Francis Harrie Crouch
Francis Harrie Crouch was born in Bathurst in 1881, the third of eight children of Henry Augustus Crouch and his wife Isabella, nee Tennant.
The Crouch family was well known and highly esteemed throughout the Orange district. In 1867 Francis’ father, Henry, aged 17, joined the Lands Department. In 1882 he became District Surveyor at Orange and, in 1902, was appointed chairman of the Orange Land Board, a position he held until his retirement in 1912.
The Crouch family lived at Melyra on the laneway between Cargo Road and Towac Park, but moved to Byng Street following the 1897 drowning deaths of Francis’ sisters Ina and Marjorie, along with their nurse. The girls had been crayfishing in a dam on the Duntryleague estate when the tragedy occurred. Orange journalist, Joe Glasson, recalled that the drowning occurred on Christmas Eve and noted:
It was a pathetic sight to see the three coffins in the funeral procession going down Summer Street on Christmas Day *
Francis was educated at Wolaroi College. After completing his school education Francis studied dentistry. He was already practising when the Dentists Act was introduced in 1901, and by 1911 had opened a practice in Tamworth.
Francis was a popular local identity who was known for his quirky sense of humour. A member of the Tamworth Musical Society, he performed in a number of the society’s productions and established a cadet’s brass band. He was also a member of the local Amateur Jockey Club.
On 8 July 1914 Francis married Frances Irene Wilson at Wellington in New Zealand. Four days after their wedding the newlyweds embarked the mail steamer Rotorua in Wellington for England.
The couple settled in Surrey, where they had two daughters. The first, Ina Irene, was born in August 1915; the second, Suzanne Isobel Marjorie, in May 1917. The girls were named after Francis’ younger sisters who had drowned in 1897.
Francis soon volunteered his services for the First World War. He enlisted in the British Army, serving as a lieutenant with the 3rd/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers.
The battalion had been formed in October 1914 as a ‘third line’ home service depot responsible for training soldiers for service abroad. In early 1917 the 3/5 was posted to the Western Front, arriving in Le Havre on 1 March. It served on the Western Front for the next eleven months in the area around Givenchy.
On the night of 9 May 1917 a party of the battalion conducted a raid on German trenches near Givenchy. The war diary entry for that day records:
At 11.23pm a party consisting of Lieut Crouch and 2 LTS Reid and Pickett with 7 NCOs and 30 men of D Company successfully raided the German front line important identification being secured…enemy retaliation very slight.
The raid resulted in Lieutenant Crouch and three other men being wounded.
In January 1918 Lieutenant Francis Crouch was awarded the Military Cross. His name appears in the 1918 New Year Honours List published in The London Gazette and The Times.
In February 1918 the 3rd/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers was disbanded and amalgamated with other units; Captain Crouch was transferred to the 2nd/7th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
On 21 March 1918 the 2/7 was engaged in the Battle of St Quentin near Templeux. Crouch was seen to fall amid heavy shelling, and the company forced to retire due to the severity of the attack. When the stretcher-bearers returned they could find no trace of Francis; he was assumed to have been killed in action.
Francis Harrie Crouch is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel 32 to 34 of the Pozieres Memorial at Somme in France.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Capt Frank Crouch MC”; it was donated by Wolaroi School. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Francis’ name appears on the Australian War Memorial Commemorative Roll. This roll records the names of men who died in service but who were not serving in the Australian Armed Forces, and therefore not eligible for inclusion on the Roll of Honour.
Francis is also commemorated on his parents’ grave at South Head Cemetery in Vaucluse: Section G, Row 5, plot 67.
To fathom all the mystery
Of withered hopes, of death, of life,
But there, with larger, clearer sight,
We shall see this – His way was right.
Francis’ sister Elsie Isabel Crouch also served in WWI, as did his brother Edwin, who was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal.
* Edwards, Elisabeth (ed) 2011, A Gentleman of the Inky Way: Orange through Joe Glasson’s Looking Glass, Elisabeth Edwards, Orange, NSW, p. 191.