Francis William Courtenay Bootle was born in Moree in 1890, the eldest son of Francis James Essington and Elizabeth Margaret Sarah Bootle. He attended Forbes and Morpeth Public Schools until the family moved to Orange, where Francis’ father secured employment as a surveyor with the Orange Land Board Office. Francis attended Orange Public School followed by Sydney Grammar School and Hawkesbury Agricultural College.
Francis was working as a farmer at Larras Lake Settlement Area at Copper Hill in Molong when he enlisted on 6 February 1915. He embarked from Sydney just two weeks later, a private with the 4th Infantry Battalion 1st Australian Veterinary Corps. Private Bootle served initially in Egypt; in March 1916 he transferred to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade on the Western Front where he was promoted to Sergeant.
In December 1916 Sergeant Bootle joined the No 6 Officer Cadet Battalion at Balliol College in Oxford for further training. Less than a week later he was “seriously ill” according to his service records and admitted to hospital. He was discharged to duty later in the month; only to be readmitted in early February, again “seriously ill”. Sergeant Bootle died on 14 February 1917; his records cite “nephritis and bronchitis’ as the cause of death. He was 26 years old.
A special service of intercession was held at the Molong Church of England in March 1917, where Reverend Leavers paid tribute to Sergeant Bootle and others who had been killed in action.
In July 1917 a tree was planted at Orange Public School in Francis’ memory. It was one of 26 trees planted in honour of fallen soldiers who had attended the school.
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 “Sgt EW Bootle”, presumably Francis. It was donated by WR Campbell. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Francis is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll and on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph. He is also remembered on a commemorative plaque on his parents’ grave at Orange Cemetery, Church of England Section N, Graves 91/92.
Francis’ two younger brothers also served in WWI: Norman Austin Charles Bootle and John Carlisle Bootle, both of whom returned to Australia.
* Margot Sharpe, 2015