SERJEANT FRANCIS WILFRED HOLT DYSON
AUSTRALIAN FIELD ARTILLERY
24TH APRIL 1918 AGE 37
BURIED: BONNAY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION, FRANCE
The Eleanor on this inscription was Francis Dyson's only child and his next-of-kin, a fourteen-year-old daughter who by her father's death became an orphan. Willie was his brother, an officer in the East Yorkshire Regiment, and Uncle and Auntie were Walter and Marion Rowley of Alder Hill, Meanwood, Yorkshire, who brought the brothers up after both their parents died.
Francis, who was born in Riga then in Russia, was educated at St Edward's, Oxford. He emigrated to South Africa, where he worked as a mining engineer, married, had a child, was widowed, and served in the Boer War. However, by the time war broke out in 1914 Francis Dyson was farming in Australia. He enlisted within days of the outbreak and sailed for Egypt on 20 October. He served in Gallipoli throughout the campaign and after further service in Egypt was posted to Europe in June 1916. Having spent three years almost constantly in action, he was killed by a shell at Villers Bretonneux on 24 April 1918. A shell exploded yards from him whilst he was taking an ammunition column up to the batteries. He was hit in the chest, fell from his horse and "died one minute later".
After the war, in memory of their nephew, Walter and Marion Rowley paid for a memorial shrine to the forty-eight men of Meanwood who'd lost their lives in the war. Eleanor continued to live with the Rowleys. She married in 1927 and died at the age of 30 in 1935.
We have very little personal information about Francis Dyson but it's worth noting that his daughter's full names were Emma Winifred Eleanor, Emma having been the name of his mother who died when he was born. And, the name of his farm in Konagaderra, Victoria, was Alder Hill, the name of his uncle and aunt's house in Yorkshire. So this rolling stone, whose life took him from Riga to England, South Africa, Australia, Egypt, Gallipoli and France, remained sentimentally attached to his mother and to the home of his youth.