Francis Willoughby Fielding was born on 8 October 1892, the son of auctioneer Harry Fielding and his wife Letitia E Fielding of Stoneleigh, Thame, Oxon.
Fielding went to Lord William’s Grammar School and Taunton School.
Prior to enlistment he was working as a motor car engineering draftsman at Coventry in the early years of the British motor trade. Having been a pre-war member of the Warwickshire Yeomanry OTC he already had military experience as a Cadet 2nd Lt.
He was called up on 4 August 1914 and his initial entrance into the Great War was on 20 September 1914 at the rank of Corporal. He then served as a motorcycle dispatch rider with The Queen’s Own Oxford Hussars.
He was wounded in November 1914 when an enemy shell exploded on the road where he was riding his motorcycle and was admitted to No 4 Cavalry Field Ambulance on 23 November 1914. Then to No 2 Clearing Hospital Bailleul and onward to No 4 General Hospital Boulogne on 28 November. Then on 29 via the hospital ship St Andrew to the UK , with a landing at Southampton and onto the ambulance train on 30 November.
He was still serving with the Battalion over a year later when at exactly 07:30am on the morning of Saturday 1 July 1916 when he was Killed in Action on the First Day of The Battle of The Somme during the famous diversionary attack at Gommercourt.
Francis’ body was initially recovered from the battlefield as an unidentified officer, but later identified and and buried at Gommecourt British Cemetery No 2 at Hebuterne.
The Thame Gazette recorded:
“It is with much regret that we have to record the death of Second Lieutenant Francis Willoughby Fielding, which occurred in action on Saturday July 1st. Lieut Fielding was the younger son of Mrs Harry Fielding and the late Mr Harry Fielding (who as for many years connected with the firm of Messrs Bond and Burrows , auctioneers of Thame). Mrs Fielding received news of her son’s death by telegram on Thursday, and later received a confirmatory letter from Major Connolly of the Territorial Force Record Office, London. Lieut Fielding, on the outbreak of hostilities joined the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, with which regiment he went to France, from whence he was invalided home and on recovering he obtained a commission in the 9th London Regiment. The deceased officer was only 23 years of age, and was very popular with his fellow officers and men, and his death is greatly regretted by them all. The sympathies of our readers will be with Mrs Fielding in her great loss.”
He was initiated into the Victoria Rifles Lodge No 822 on 26 January 1916. He was passed and raised in February and March.